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Sport Andy Ruiz Jr. declares himself reborn, eyes redemption entering first fight since 2019 loss to Anthony Joshua

20:20  30 april  2021
20:20  30 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Trim and Disciplined, Andy Ruiz Is Ready to Return to the Top of the Heavyweight Division

  Trim and Disciplined, Andy Ruiz Is Ready to Return to the Top of the Heavyweight Division Andy Ruiz will fight Chris Arreola on FOX PPV Saturday. Andy Ruiz was broken. It was last spring, months after his lopsided decision defeat to Anthony Joshua. Ruiz, a doughy 283 pounds for his rematch with Joshua, now weighed more than 300. His confidence was gone. His spirit was shaken. “I felt empty inside,” Ruiz says. One night, Ruiz dropped to his knees. He had already apologized to his friends and family for blowing his chance to defend the heavyweight titles he took off Joshua. Now he needed to speak to God. “I was so depressed, so sad, and I started praying,” says Ruiz.

When Andy Ruiz Jr. reflects on the life-changing, rollercoaster seven-month stretch of 2019 – how he upset Anthony Joshua that June to become Mexico’s first heavyweight champion, how it all came crashing down in an embarrassing defeat that December – and then recalls how depression and shame engulfed him for much of 2020, the boxer wants no parts of comeback talk.

Saturday night, Ruiz Jr. will indeed return to the ring for the first time since that December 2019 loss in a rematch with Joshua that cost him his belts.

And this upcoming bout against Chris Arreola in a Fox Sports pay-per-view event does represent a meaningful step in Ruiz’s quest for redemption. But because Ruiz, in his words, has experienced so much change and learned so many lessons in the last 17 months, he’s not even the same man or boxer anymore.

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“I feel like the old Andy died and this is the new Andy,” the 31-year-old Ruiz told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel like this is my pro debut. It means a lot because I know inside that I’m doing the right things and progressing, going to the gym and training hard. It means a lot to me and hopefully the fans can see and say, ‘Andy could be more dangerous than he was before because he is more dedicated and more disciplined.’”

Andy Ruiz et al. posing for a picture: Andy Ruiz Jr poses before his fight with Anthony Joshua on December 6, 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. © Provided by USA TODAY Andy Ruiz Jr poses before his fight with Anthony Joshua on December 6, 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Ruiz declares himself reborn, and a victory would go a long way towards validating that claim. Ruiz wants to send that message, because he views his mission as bigger than reclaiming belts. It’s about gratitude and making good on his promise to God, regaining the respect of family, fans and opponents, and “turning unbelievers into believers.”

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Ruiz once wondered if he’d ever have this opportunity. At the point that he describes as “the lowest of the lowest,” he questioned both his own desire and ability to resurrect his career.

While trapped in the throes of depression and regret in the months after his loss to Joshua, Ruiz’s weight ballooned from 283 pounds (which was already 15 more than his championship weight thanks to months of celebratory living and half-hearted training) to 310 pounds.

He doubted his desire and ability to rebound, but part of him believed that he had no choice.

“I felt like I let God down and didn’t fulfill my purpose. … I feel like my purpose was to encourage more people and make the unbelievers into believers and let them know God was on my side,” Ruiz told USA TODAY Sports. “He helped me through all my journey and I kind of fell off track and forgot where I came from. I started doing the stuff I shouldn’t be doing, and wasn’t training like I should be training and that’s why I was overweight and wasn't disciplined and wasn’t focused on the right things. ... There was one day that I was so tired and sick of the way I was living.

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"It was just like a spaghetti bowl, going in circles and circles, and I got tired of that life so I started telling God that if he could forgive me and give me another chance to redeem myself.”

Andy Ruiz Jr. lost to Anthony Joshua in December 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia © Richard Heathcote, Getty Images Andy Ruiz Jr. lost to Anthony Joshua in December 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

Ruiz recalled falling to his knees one day in late November 2020, sobbing and prayerfully begging for redemption, and for help to get his eating and training under control.

“The next day, everything changed, bro,” he declared. The temptations that led him astray had vanished. Ruiz had a clear vision.

After convincing super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez to let him train with him and trainer Eddy Reynoso, Ruiz attacked his mission with a vengeance.

Now six months later, after training religiously and maintaining a healthy diet, he has lost 55 pounds and says he feels more explosive, more elusive and better equipped to fight at a high level.

“I feel so much better and in my body and mind,” Ruiz said. “I know that we’re putting in all the work. I know what we should be doing and shouldn’t be doing. I tell everyone, ‘I’m not where I want to be but I’m so much better than I was before.’ … Keep being disciplined, staying busy, not getting ready for a fight only when you have a fight, but make it a lifestyle. … I don’t want to go backwards like I did before.”

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When he defeated Joshua to pull off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Ruiz saw his popularity mushroom not only because he represented the classic underdog tale, or because of the significance for people of Mexican heritage, but also because with his 6-foot-2, then 268-pound burly figure, he didn’t look like the traditional heavyweight champion of the world, especially standing opposite the chiseled 6-6, 247-pound Joshua.

But while caught up in his newfound popularity, he lost sight of his goal of inspiring others and serving as an ambassador for his faith. That realization proved more painful than the actual rematch loss, Ruiz says.

But the renewed discipline, which he says came from God, and the encouragement, support and guidance from Alvarez and his camp lead Ruiz to believe that his best days await him.

He also believes that a victory Saturday could serve as a springboard for him to have a greater impact on lives than he did after winning the world title in 2019. And that is what the new Ruiz, who declares himself drastically changed both on the inside and outside, wants more than anything.

Follow USA TODAY Sports NFL columnist Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andy Ruiz Jr. declares himself reborn, eyes redemption entering first fight since 2019 loss to Anthony Joshua

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