Andy Ruiz Jr and Luis Ortiz are among the most powerful heavyweights in boxing. Together, they went into Sunday’s decider at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles with 50 knockouts in 71 starts.
However, Sunday was mostly about changes and off-speed pitches. But when Ruiz really needed that 100-mile fastball, he reached back and found it.
Both men fought a tactical, nuanced fight and there weren’t many wild or toe-to-toe slugfests. However, Ruiz threw a few more heaters than Ortiz and that led him to it a unanimous decision victory over the 43-year-old Cuban.
Ruiz scored three knockdowns with his right hand, including two in the second and one in the seventh. The knockdowns proved to be the difference in the fight. Fernando Villareal had it 113-112 for Ruiz, while both Zachary Young and Edward Hernandez Sr. had it 114-111 for Ruiz, the former unified champion. Yahoo Sports had it 115-110 for Ruiz.
The win kept Ruiz’s hopes of a mega fight alive. Former WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder entered the ring after the fight to accept Ruiz’s call after the fight. Wilder has a fight with Robert Helenius in New York on October 15. If he gets over it as he pleases, there will be an intriguing fight with Ruiz.
Ruiz has never fought in style against anyone remotely close to Wilder, who uncorks fastball after fastball and turns boxing match into attrition. Wilder isn’t the best defensive tackle, but he’s one of the hardest punchers the heavyweight division has ever seen, and he’s always ready to play his strength.
Ruiz has put up a tactical fight because of the challenges Ortiz presents. Ortiz is a left-hander who has excellent boxing skills and above-average strength himself. However, at 43, he can’t keep up a pace letting go of his hands. So he tried to walk a fine line and poke Ruiz and push him to error.
Ruiz had none of it. A younger Ruiz, especially after the two second-round losses, might have abandoned his plan after hearing the roar of the crowd and gone wild to seek the knockout.
As fun as it would have been to watch, it would have put him at unnecessary risk. Ortiz is a good counter with one-punch knockout power. Ruiz made a calculated decision that proved right that he could land more right hands than Ortiz left.
And over time, picking up just a little bit of Ortiz’s fastball probably turned out to be a wise, if not very popular, choice.
However, Ruiz won’t be able to play that type of game against Wilder, who forces almost everyone he faces into a home run contest. Wilder doesn’t just swing for the fences, he swings for the upper deck.
That’s the appeal of a potential Wilder-Ruiz fight: Wilder could unquestionably KO Ruiz, but Ruiz could also KO Wilder.
Ruiz defeated Anthony Joshua on June 1, 2019 in New York to win the unified title. Wilder had spent years watching a fight with Joshua with no luck and eventually gave up and turned his attention to Tyson Fury. That opened the door for Ruiz to enter.
Joshua is also a tougher hitter, but he doesn’t have the undeniable belief in his power that Wilder does.
If they fight, remembering that Wilder has yet to defeat Helenius for this to even be possible, he will leave Ruiz with almost no choice but to stand in the bag and act.
Ruiz has quick hands, which usually surprises opponents, especially early on because his body is big and not very muscular. However, he’s faster than he looks, and he can place punches faster than many give him credit for, especially in the early stages.
But to stay in the cover photo, Ruiz had to beat Ortiz and take no chances. He did what he had to do in that regard. The fight will not be a finalist for Fight of the Year, but Ruiz had repeatedly said prior to the fight that he was focused on winning, whether by decision or knockout.
And putting up a smart, controlled fight was the right game against Ortiz. So he remains in the mix of guys trying to position themselves as WBC champion Fury and unified champion Oleksandr Usyk getting closer to a fight for the undisputed title.
It takes some notable victories to stand a chance at the Usyk Fury winner. Ruiz put one on the bench on Sunday and said he wants to be more active and fight three or four times a year for the next few years.
Wilder also confirmed that he often wanted to fight. One of them could also attack Joshua, so there’s a lot of potentially compelling fights.
Ruiz mostly became a boxer on Sunday, although he showed he had the fastball when he needed it against Ortiz.
If Wilder is anytime soon then he will need that and a lot more than he did on Sunday.