As the Boxing calendar moves in the month of September, Labor Day weekend here in the United States will be headlined by what some might call a “Crossroads Battle” in Boxing’s Heavyweight division. This observer is referring to the battle between former unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz and longtime Heavyweight contender and two-time Heavyweight world title challenger Luis Ortiz. A battle that will take place on Sunday, September 4th at the historic Boxing venue in Los Angeles, CA now known as Crypto. Com Arena in the main event of a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View card here in the United States.
It is a fight that takes place in the immediate aftermath of current undefeated unified Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk’s successful first title defense of the unified portion of the World Heavyweight championship Ruiz briefly held, in his rematch with former two-time Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia two nearly two weeks to the day of this encounter. Although Usyk by all accounts might be heading towards a unification bout with undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, current holder of the WBC world championship in the division, for what would be an Undisputed world championship bout, any bout that takes place in the division could amount to an audition of sorts to fight either champion either by facing the winner of the potential bout between Fury and Usyk or as a possible next opponent for either in the event that negotiations between the two hit a snag. The circumstances in which the division finds itself has added more importance to what would be an intriguing Heavyweight fight on its own.
Time can at times move faster than it appears and it was not too long ago where Andy Ruiz was on top of the Boxing world after stopping Anthony Joshua in New York’s Madison Square Garden to win the Heavyweight championship in a fight he took on short notice. Some may say after winning the biggest fight of his life, Ruiz failed to take full advantage of his new found position as champion.
Before discussing Andy Ruiz in more detail, we will begin by looking at his opponent Luis Ortiz. Ortiz as some will recall challenged for the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) version of the World Heavyweight championship twice in being stopped by then champion Deontay Wilder in both fights in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Those setbacks for Ortiz however, were arguably two of his best performances as he was seemingly in control of both fights before Wilder was able to catch him with power punches that lead to those defeats.
Since his second loss to Wilder, Ortiz has gotten back into the ring twice and has scored knockout wins in both of those fights. It was his last outing against former IBF Heavyweight world champion Charles Martin on New Year's Day of this year that should have been a bit concerning if you are a fan of Luis Ortiz.
For five rounds, the taller and longer Martin was able to use angles to not only evade much of what Ortiz had thrown, but to also throw punches at odd angles, which took advantage of an apparent difficulty Ortiz had in maintaining his balance, which in turn also resulted in Martin being able to score two knockdowns of Ortiz with a short left hook to the head in the first round and a perfectly timed jab in round four.
While both knockdowns were what is often referred to as “Flash Knockdowns“ due to the suddenness in which they occurred a s Ortiz did not appear to be hurt by either knockdown, it did nevertheless create a scenario where he was at a significant deficit on the scorecards. Although for a significant portion of that fight Luis Ortiz did not appear to be his normal self, to his credit, he did respond in round six by scoring his own knockdown of Martin, but his knockdown came as a result of a flush left hook to the head. After Martin got up from that knockdown, Ortiz pressed forward with what can be described as an all-out assault of punches before sending Martin down to the canvas for a second time to force a stoppage of the bout.
Although Luis Ortiz was ultimately able to pull off a come from behind knockout win, most objective observers would likely say that it was not one of his better performances. Some may go as far as to say that even though he got the victory, it was a fight that left more questions than answers.
Coincidentally, Ortiz’ opponent on September 4th is also coming off of what some might call a so, so performance. After stopping Anthony Joshua in June 2019, a badly overweight and seemingly under prepared Ruiz was out boxed by Joshua in their December 2019 rematch in Saudi Arabia. In a span of six months Andy Ruiz had gone from being a world champion to former world champion.
Following the loss of his title, Ruiz hired former trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso, dropped nearly thirty pounds from the 286lbs. he entered his rematch against Joshua carrying, into a bout against longtime Heavyweight contender Chris Arreola in March of last year. An entertaining bout from the opening bell, Ruiz was not given what some would associate as a typical “Comeback Fight” in his first bout since losing his title. Although the improvement in his conditioning was obvious under the guidance of Eddy Reynoso, Arreola was not interested in cooperating in the role of opponent for the former champion.
Not only did Arreola knock Ruiz down with a flush hook to the head in the second round of that fight, he also forced the fight on Ruiz in what turned out to be a more competitive fight than perhaps some expected. In addition to the knockdown, Arreola was able to hurt Ruiz periodically throughout the fight and forced Ruiz to change tactics midway through the bout and implement a more tactical Boxing approach to earn a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision. While Ruiz did get the victory in that fight, it was not one of his best performances and that can perhaps be attributed to three factors. One he was inactive for over a year going into that fight, two, the addition of Eddy Reynoso in his corner, which there is almost always an adjustment period whenever a new trainer begins working with a seasoned fighter, and finally, three the significant drop in weight from when he lost the title back to Joshua over a year earlier.
Although the issue regarding Ruiz’ inactivity can be explained in part by the circumstances of the global COVID-19 epidemic as much of the year 2020 was one that saw many notable fighters sitting on the sidelines for both health as well as financial reasons as much of the events that took place during that year were held behind closed doors in fanless environments, which in turn meat that some fighters would make less money to compete under those conditions than others, an argument could be made that while he was able to get himself in good shape going into the Arreola fight, the inactivity did hurt Ruiz. What can also not be overlooked is Ruiz has not fought since he defeated Arreola and while that could be viewed as a good thing from the standpoint of allowing him to continue to improve his physical conditioning, as well as continuing to gel with Eddy Reynoso, the issue of his activity or lack thereof will once again be an issue going into this fight against Luis Ortiz.
What this fight boils down to in my eyes is what versions of the respective fighters will show up in this fight. At his best, Luis Ortiz is a devastating puncher that is capable of ending a fight with one punch or as was the case against Charles Martin, a brutal sudden barrage of punches. Ortiz is however forty-two years old, and it appeared obvious at least to this observer’s eyes that he was somewhat compromised by issues with balance against Martin. Whether or not that was a result of injuries or the result of wear and tear starting to catch up with a veteran of the sport remains to be seen.
While Ortiz likely has the edge in terms of punching power going into this fight, Ruiz has the edge in hand speed and is capable of catching opponents with quick combinations in the midst of exchanges of punches that the opponent will not be prepared for as they are thrown. Even though this worked to great effect for him against Chris Arreola, particularly when he made the decision to box later in the fight, Ruiz must also keep in mind that though he has shown he can hold his own going toe to toe with opponents, he was also caught more than occasionally by Arreola throughout the fight and was knocked down. Luis Ortiz could well hit harder than Arreola and with that in mind, Ruiz should proceed with caution even if it may appear that he is having success early in the fight and may even be dominating the combat.
Although neither Ruiz or Ortiz would appear to be in a position to secure another shot at a world title no matter the outcome of this fight, anything can happen in the sport of Boxing and that is especially true in regard to the Heavyweight division. One should also keep in mind as this fight approaches that the division is extremely competitive and even with a loss, neither fighter will likely be dismissed as a potential challenger. With other contenders including the soon to return former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder all looking to provide the best argument possible as to why they should get a shot at either Oleksandr Usyk or Tyson Fury, we will see what argument Andy Ruiz and Luis Ortiz are able to make as they face each other.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Ruiz vs. Ortiz takes place on Sunday, September 4th at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. The fight can be seen on a pay-per-view basis in the United States on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View for $74.99 beginning at 9PMET/6PM PT. The bout as well as it’s undercard will be available through traditional cable/satellite providers as well as through streaming by the Fox Sports streaming app across mobile, tablet, and connect streaming devices/Smart TVs, as well as through digital combat sports streaming network and pay-per-view platform FITE.
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