By Kieran Breen
The United States of America – known as the land of opportunity. After Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller failed multiple drug tests ahead of his unification clash with heavyweight sensation, Anthony Joshua, opportunity found itself banging on the door of Andy Ruiz Jr. It was a gift that he wasn’t about to turn down.
California man, Ruiz (32-1), will now step into the spotlight to challenge Joshua at Madison Square Garden in June, in what will be the biggest moment of his boxing career.
The 29-year-old, of Mexican heritage, says that he always wanted this fight and that he made promoter, Eddie Hearn, aware of his ambitions before his last outing.
He said: “Right before my fight on April 20th (against Alexander Dmitrenko), I messaged Eddie Hearn on social media and asked him for the opportunity. I said that I would go out and stop my opponent and look good doing it.”
After the antics which subsequently cost Jarrell Miller a glorious chance to become unified world champion as well as a career-high payday, numerous names were in circulation as to who would replace him.
Dillian Whyte, Luis Ortiz and Michael Hunter were amongst the names mentioned, but “The Destroyer” believes he was a worthy choice in the end.
He said: “I believe I was chosen ultimately because Eddie knows my potential and my style for fights. He knows that I have a bigger heart than the other fighters mentioned. I’m here to win. Also, I could bring the Mexican fan base and make this a bigger event for the USA, Mexico and the UK.”
Ruiz has already had a taste of contesting for world honours. In 2016 he was handed his sole defeat by New Zealander, Joseph Parker, who held the WBO crown at the time. Parker went on to lose the strap to Anthony Joshua at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff last year.
But the former WBO inter-continental champion is confident going into this headline fight with “AJ” at the infamous Madison Square Garden arena, and is hoping that the pressure doesn’t show on the night.
He said: “I believe my heart and determination to fulfil my dream of becoming champion is my biggest asset. I definitely feel the pressure to perform to my absolute best. I have people behind me who would love to see me become a champion. I don’t think Joshua has to worry about that because he’s headlined big events before and I believe he’s comfortable with that amount of attention.”
A win against the British heavyweight king would no doubt open a lot of doors for Ruiz. If he impresses Eddie Hearn, a number of mega-fights across the pond in the UK may await. But it’s also the rewards that lay outside the ring that he is eyeing up.
He explained: “When I beat “AJ”, I want to test my talents against the other best fighters out there. Next, I’m coming after Nike for an endorsement deal. That’s my favourite brand by far. But win or lose I must go to the UK and experience the people and the culture and fight the best out there.”
The former NABF titleholder will surely be counting his blessings after the disgraceful behaviour displayed by Jarrell Miller, but he insists that “Big Baby” is one of the good guys in boxing.
He said: “I have no real thought on Jarrell Miller, simply because he’s a decent man and I don’t wish to speak badly about him. But performance-enhancing drugs do not belong in boxing. As fighters, we are putting out lives on the line.”