Ruiz-Ortiz, Wilder-Helenius & The State of the Heavyweights

THU, JAN 01, 1970

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The hard-hitting Cuban southpaw says he has every tool needed to come out on top of his heavyweight showdown versus Andy Ruiz Jr. this Sunday, September 4, in a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View from Los Angeles.

The few times I have been around Luis Ortiz he’s always been calm, cordial, polite, and seemingly unimpressed by the cameras and microphones. Always the professional, he answers one question after the other, in English and Spanish. 

Throughout the process, Ortiz’s tone and the accompanying expression never changes. He stands 6-foot-4 but his demeanor makes him seem just as big as the biggest heavyweight. He rarely laughs and you never see him goofing around. Perhaps that’s why it was especially chilling when Ortiz leaned close to the mic and uttered, “Let’s see who comes out of the cave first.” 

This Sunday, September 4, 2022, the heavy-handed Ortiz meets former unified world champion Andy "The Destroyer" Ruiz takes in an explosive, old-school heavyweight showdown at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, live on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT)

Both will carry into the ring similar records and similar motivations. The fast-punching Ruiz (34-2, 22 KOs) wants to be champion again and he knows that he must win this fight to remain in the on-deck circle. Cuban southpaw Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs) has not given up on his quest to be champion. 

Ortiz has come close before. Like Earnie Shavers when he dropped Larry Holmes back in 1979, he came within punches of dethroning Deontay Wilder during their first fight in March 2018. Holmes—like Wilder—moved, held, ducked, and survived the heavy fire until the bell rang. 

Shavers always joked that he was champ for eight seconds. Ortiz could say he was champ for a bit longer than that. Unfortunately for Ortiz, who held an interim belt in the past, Wilder hit about as hard as Shavers did but with better stamina. But, if Ortiz beats Ruiz, he will be one huge step closer to getting another chance. 

While Ruiz has recently expressed an interest in fighting Wilder or going after the belts next, Ortiz’s mind is solely on September 4th.

“Ruiz is one of the few top heavyweights who has shown any interest in fighting me,” said Ortiz before adding, “But he already has his mind on other fighters.”

Ortiz was strikingly calm when I spoke with him. He sat on the ring apron with his arms stretched across the bottom rope and spoke with the casual confidence of a man who has been through it all. He fielded question after question about Ruiz. 

He acknowledged Ruiz’ hand speed, possibly the quickest in the division. He shrugged his shoulders when told that Ruiz is having a great camp and that he looks slimmer than he has in the past. 

When all the questions about activity, inactivity, layoffs, trainers, and knockdowns were done, Ortiz said that boxing, “Is all about mental strength.” 

Come September 4, let’s see who is the first one to come out of the cave. Heavyweight Contender - Luis Ortiz

If anyone should doubt the mental strength and focus of Ortiz, remember how you felt the last time the bus was late. Then imagine trying to keep your cool while spending half a day floating on a raft from Cuba to Mexico, dealing with the delays due to rough waters and sharks. Then imagine making your way up north in a foreign country and, according to some sources, being forced to cross barefooted into the United States.  

Think also about the restraint it took for Ortiz to avoid the trappings of success that overcomes most fighters the first time they taste fame. The trappings that caused his rival, Ruiz, to lose his belts. 

In 2019, within a span of only a few months, Ruiz went from underdog to world champ in one of boxing’s greatest upsets and then, to ridiculed and disgraced former champ. After seeing photos of Ruiz throwing elaborate parties and purchasing expensive cars, actor Danny Trejo said, “I knew he was going to lose when I saw the Rolls.” 

A Mexican newspaper cautioned him publicly and warned that Ruiz was going down the same path as did former Mexican greats like Rodolfo Casanova and Victor Rabanales. Before he had even fought for the title, Casanova had already fallen into the trappings of the so-called glamourous life. When he climbed into the ring to challenge for the title, the expensive clothes, beer, and dancing all did nothing to help him in the ring. Casanova’s best days were behind him before he even got his title shot. 

Rabanales had made several six-figure pay days when he stared admiringly at the volcano which looked down on his city. He wondered why no one had built a home on that mountain, seemingly unaware that it was – like Yellowstone Park – government owned land. One day, he met a trio of lawyers with no scruples. They printed some fraudulent documents and got in a jeep and drove him to the top of the volcano, asking him where he would like to build his home. 

Rabanales was hesitant, and on the way down, the lawyers kept lowering their price. Halfway down, they threw out a number that the champ liked and had him sign the useless papers. By the time he found out that he had been duped, the lawyers were long gone. 

Ruiz, the newspaper wrote, still had a chance to turn around his fortunes. Unlike Casanova and Rabanales, he is a getting another chance. 

Ortiz has never been seen squandering his money or living to impress. He dresses neat and stylish, but he puts his family first. He doesn’t trash talk though he was critical of Ruiz when it was announced a few months ago that Ruiz was going to next face a kickboxer in Mexico. 

As wrapping up another training session, Ortiz fielded more questions on Ruiz. When it was all said and done, Ortiz leaned in closer to the mic and said, “Come September 4, let’s see who is the first one to come out of the cave.”

For a closer look at Luis Ortiz, check out his fighter page.

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An examination of today's heavyweight division ahead of Andy Ruiz's high stakes clash versus Luis Ortiz Sunday night on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View and Deontay Wilder's ring return versus Robert Helenius on October 15.

It's an all-heavyweight program this week on The PBC Podcast, beginning with a recap of this week's press conference announcing the Deontay Wilder vs. Robert Helenius main event Saturday, October 15, at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, live on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m.)

Also, a full break down of all the televised action this Sunday, September 4, as PBC Boxing heats up Labor Day Weekend with headliner featuring former unified champ Andy Ruiz Jr. taking on Luis Ortiz in an explosive showdown from Crypto.com Arena on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). Plus, hosts Kenneth Bouhairie and Michael Rosenthal go Toe to Toe over the State of the Heavyweight Division. Check it out!

The PBC Podcast is a weekly boxing show featuring timely analysis and interviews with the sport’s biggest figures. The show is published every Wednesday on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spreaker and other outlets. Alternatively, listeners can find The PBC Podcast on the PBC website at www.premierboxingchampions.com/podcast.

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Two sensational lightweights will be featured in separate bouts as Isaac Cruz and Jose Valenzuela highlight a stacked FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View card this Sunday, September 4 in Los Angeles.

On Sunday, September 4, fight fans will be treated to two exciting lightweight battles worth watching closely, leading up to the heavyweight headliner at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. 

In the televised opener of a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), undefeated rising star Jose "Rayo" Valenzuela (12-0, 8 KOs) duels dangerous late substitute Edwin De Los Santos (14-1, 13 KOs). 

And in the co-main event, hard-hitting Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (23-2-1, 16 KOs) takes on fellow Mexican and veteran contender Eduardo Ramirez (27-2-3, 12 KOs) in a 12-round WBC Lightweight Title Eliminator. 

While Valenzuela and Cruz appear to be on two different trajectories, with victories in Los Angeles, both are poised to take a step closer to their common goal: A strap around their waist. 

Looking For Redemption

A win over Ramirez puts Cruz back at the front of the line for a world title shot. The 24-year-old Mexican slugger had his first title bout in this same venue—back in December 2021 when he lost a competitive decision to unbeaten three-division champion and boxing superstar, Gervonta “Tank” Davis. 

Cruz won over the Angelenos in attendance that evening. But he didn’t win over the judges as Davis retained his title.  

“In the end, I learned that night what's most important is to not let the judges make any decisions to take the fight out of your hands,” Cruz said. “That fight provided me a new level of experience. It made me more mature, and I can carry that forward now and into the future. 

“It was a quality leap where I was able to gain a lot of different things that go beyond just what can be technical or tactical. The crowd embraced me that night and that was priceless.”

Last April, Cruz proved that his performance against the elite Davis was no fluke as he delivered an emphatic knockout win over former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa. The spectacular conquest put Cruz right back into the title picture. 

While the fight was a five-round, one-sided assault, Cruz still gained valuable experience. 

“Gamboa didn’t crumble after the first time he fell,” said Cruz. “It was about breaking him mentally, as well as physically. He kept getting up and I had to keep going without losing focus and get the knockout. I learned the value of patience in that fight.” 

For the Mexico City native, boxing is a family affair. Isaac got into the sport because both his father and grandfather were boxers. Today, they are both a constant presence, working with him and others in his gym.

“It hasn’t been about their influence as much as it was about me wanting to follow in their footsteps, their lineage,” Cruz remarked. “I’m my own man. But I’m very proud to be part of the Cruz dynasty, one of the best boxing families in Mexico, and I hope I can continue to move that forward.” 

I’m very proud to be ... one of the best boxing families in Mexico, and I hope I can continue to move that forward.” Lightweight Contender - Isaac Cruz

The task on September 4 won’t be easy as he’s facing a surging fighter in Ramirez. The 29-year-old southpaw is riding a five-fight win streak and has been vocal that Cruz won’t be able to outbox him or knock him out. 

The stocky, 5-foot-4 Cruz takes the trash-talk in stride. 

“Each fighter provides different challenges and styles where you have to adapt,” Cruz said. “But I focus on me and what I have to do in order to be successful. There really isn’t that much difference working against a lefty or righty. In the end, it’s about what I do inside the ring.

“On September 4, I’m going to show the fans that I’m for real. I’m really hungry to win. I’m starving. I want to be able to bring a lot more happiness to both my wife and my kids.” 

Looking Up the Ranks

Riding his undefeated 12-0 record into the pay-per-view opener, Valenzuela is looking to make another statement on a high-profile card. In his last fight, he scored an impressive first-round knockout of Francisco Vargas, helping get fans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas frothing for the headliner between Errol Spence Jr. and Yordenis Ugas. 

In fact, the 5-foot-10 fighter from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, has won seven of his last eight fights by KO or TKO. As a training stablemate of unbeaten two-time world champion David Benavidez, he’s learned power punching from one of the best. 

While Valenzuela is focused on the fight in front of him, he’s trying to move up the 135-pound ranks quickly. 

“I’m extremely motivated for this fight,” Valenzuela said. “This is the kind of challenge that I’ve been asking for. I’m going to come into this fight extremely prepared to make another statement and give the fans a great show.”

As for looking past September 4, Valenzuela believes another impressive conquest will move him the rankings considerably. 

“I think a win in this fight will open doors and give me leverage to get the big fights,” Valenzuela said. “People are going to have to take me seriously as a top fighter at lightweight.”

In fact, Valenzuela has already lined up Cruz as a potential future opponent. The two have fought on several cards together, so they’re familiar with each other. 

“I think a fight against Isaac would be a great matchup,” Cruz said. “I’ve been asking to fight him since before he fought Gervonta Davis. I know me and my team are down to do it, so I hope he and his team are too.”

Even so, assuming both emerge victorious on Sunday night, a showdown in their next bout is unlikely. Cruz will have earned a title fight next, while Valenzuela is still climbing the ranks.  But if they both keep winning, there’s a good chance the two could square off in the near future in what would be an epic battle between elite lightweights.

For a closer look at Isaac Cruz, check out his fighter page.

For a closer look at Jose Valenzuela, check out his fighter page.

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The accomplished three-division champ discusses his time away and reasons for returning to the ring to face the dangerous Miguel Flores in a lightweight battle Sunday, September 4 on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View.

Abner Mares doesn’t have to fight again.

He’s one of the most accomplished little warriors in the business, with major titles in three divisions, victories over an impressive list of elite opponents and the universal respect that goes along with that kind of resume. He could be headed to the Hall of Fame.

And he already is well into a second career as television analyst for SHOWTIME. Money isn’t a problem.

So why is Mares returning after a four-year break to face Miguel Flores in a lightweight bout on the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Luis Ortiz card Sunday, September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m, ET/6 p.m. PT)

Because he can.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Mares told PBC. “I’m not trying to accomplish anything, not focused on titles right now. It’s more of a satisfaction type of comeback, going out on my shield, going out on my terms.

“It’s that type of comeback for me.”

Mares’ career has been hampered by two detached retinas, the first of which occurred in his left eye in 2008. He didn’t fight again for 10-plus months, after which he recorded some of his greatest victories.

Then, in January 2019, he pulled out of bout against rising star Gervonta “Tank” Davis scheduled for that March 5 because of the same injury in his right eye. He had it repaired in surgery but, already in his early thirties, he thought he might be finished as an active boxer.

And he was OK with that. He had done enough his career to look back without regrets.

However, his mind set evolved. First, his surgeon gave him the OK to resume his career if that’s what he wanted. And, second, he had an epiphany while working the fight between Davis and Mario Barrios in June of last year as an analyst.

He suddenly realized at ringside, watching the man he was supposed to fight make his ring walk to the deafening cheers of his fans, that he needed to be inside the ropes at least one more time.

“That’s when I got the itch,” Mares said.

The process wasn’t easy after being away for so long, particularly for a fighter in the later stages of his career.

Your timing is off. Your speed and reflexes, attributes that helped lift you to elite status, aren’t how you remember them. And getting punched in the face or body by a trained boxer feels like you’ve been hit by a car.

I took a break for four years, my body is rested. I’m good. Three-Division World Champion - Abner Mares

Mares remembers his first sparring session after the Davis-Barrios fight as a harrowing experience, one that caused him to have second thoughts about his comeback plans. “I felt like sh--,” he said.

That gradually changed. The more time he spent in the gym, the more he began to feel like the dominating fighter he once was. Now, after a long training camp, he feels transformed.

“I wanted to quit,” Mares said of that first sparring session. “I thought, ‘Man, what am I doing back?’ The second day, whatever. The third day. Then you understand that everything is a process. It takes time to get relaxed, get your timing, your footwork, your hand speed, even pulling the trigger. I couldn’t let my hands go. Then, when you see the progression from Day 3 to Day 4 to a month to two months, you see the progress and everything falls into place.

“Yesterday (last Thursday) I did 10 rounds with an 18-year-old kid, a 140-pounder. For me to perform, to look how I looked, that takes you to another level mentally. I’m where I want to be.”

Still there are going to be doubters, those who point to his eye injuries, his age and his time away from the sport and suggest he’s making a terrible mistake.

Mares’ reaction to that way of thinking? He rolls his eyes.

As he said, he’s coming back because he loves to box and doesn’t want his last boxing memory to be a fight that was canceled because of an injury. If things go well against Flores, he’ll undoubtedly fight again. If he falls on his face, he has made it crystal clear that he’ll walk away and not look back.

Either way, he stressed, it’s only a fight.

“I don’t listen to people,” Mares said. “’Why are you coming back? You have a bad eye. You’re old.’ Why does it matter? I’m coming back. I know I’m capable of doing it. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Don’t take it personally. Some people take it more personally than I do.

“A lot of fighters are older than I am. Luis Ortiz is [43], [Erislandy] Lara. A lot of fighters older than me are still fighting. I took a break for four years, my body is rested. I’m good. Be happy for a man.”

For a closer look at Abner Mares, check out his fighter page. 

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The former unified heavyweight champion has made significant changes to his approach to the ring ahead of a bombs-away clash versus the hard-hitting Luis Ortiz Sunday, September 4 on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View.

His boxing nickname is simple and to the point: “Destroyer.”

And perhaps that moniker was never more apropos than on December 7, 2019, when then-unified world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. put up his four newly minted title belts in a rematch with Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia.

Just six months after shocking the boxing world by handing England’s Joshua his first defeat on short notice to become the first heavyweight titlist of Mexican descent – instantly making him a hot property – Ruiz had an epic fail in his first defense. He again stunned the boxing world, but not in a good way, showing up badly out of shape and 15-20 pounds overweight, handing the titles right back to Joshua by unanimous decision and suffering untold embarrassment as well in his second career loss.

Many among the massive Mexican and Mexican-American fan base of the affable, rotund Ruiz felt that the Destroyer, who got his name from destroying things as a kid, had taken a giant step toward destroying his burgeoning boxing career. The Imperial, California, native even considered retirement after letting down his family, friends, fans and mostly, himself. Ruiz became depressed, stopped training and started eating. He told Men’s Health magazine the only running he did during that time was to the grocery store or for fast food.

Fortunately, Ruiz got past the depression and thought better of abandoning the sport he had been working at since he was six years old. Nineteen months after his devastating loss, “Destroyer” fought again. Despite being knocked down by 40-year-old Chris Arreola early in their May 2021 fight, Ruiz won a unanimous decision to put his career back on track.

That track leads to Sept. 4 – Labor Day Sunday – when Andres Ponce Ruiz Jr. (34-2, 22 KOs) makes his long-awaited return to the ring to face hard-hitting Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs) at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The 12-round headliner bout will be televised on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p/m. PT)

Ruiz, 32, returns with a new trainer, his third in his last three fights. Mexican Alfredo Osuna takes over those duties from trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso, who’s made his name coaching Canelo Alvarez. Previously Ruiz was trained by Manny Robles through the second Joshua fight. The fighter has his reasons for the latest change. 

“(Osuna) has a lot of experience fighting lefties and when we do mitts, he switches to orthodox, too … and that’s exactly what Ortiz does, so we wanted to take advantage of the opportunities,” Ruiz said in a recent interview. “We got a lot of time with (Osuna) and he’s 100 percent dedicated to me. That’s what we want because this is going to be a tough fight.”

Ruiz will have been in intensive training for about four months by the time he steps into the ring with Ortiz.

“It’s difficult coming back from a long layoff, but that’s why we’ve had a long training camp,” Ruiz says.  “And since my last fight against Arreola, I’ve had surgery on my knee. There’s a lot of things I should have done before that fight but I took it too lightly, and I did my best. 

“I got dropped, got back up and had to figure out a way to win that fight. What helps me is I’ve been boxing since I was six so that muscle memory always stays with you. As long as you stay busy and dedicated for so many months and with the sparring we’ve been having, we shouldn’t have an issue.”

The lengthy training camp is particularly helpful to the heavyweight known for his quick hands and explosive combination punching power. “We’re fighting a different style so we have to be careful on our feet, and where we drag our feet because Ortiz is a southpaw,” Ruiz explains. “So we gotta be throwing the combinations different, we gotta keep moving to the left and right, a lot of little things that (Osuna) is giving me pointers on that are working in sparring and in the gym.”

Ruiz and Reynoso parted on good terms, and there’s a chance they may work together in the future. “Down the line I’m pretty sure that for other fights, I’m going to have him come to my gym and help me out as a team,” Ruiz said. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me, and he knows it. This is why I wanted to create my own gym (in El Cajon, Calif., east of San Diego) so I could be more dedicated in this sport and not depend on other gyms.”

This is a big fight for me to climb back up the ladder. Former Unified Heavyweight World Champion - Andy Ruiz Jr.

Ruiz comes into the Ortiz fight “feeling strong and not focusing on losing weight. 

“I’m just trying to be myself, as I was (for the first Joshua fight) and carry a little bit of weight to have that power because Ortiz is a big guy. Of course, I don’t want to be too thin or anything like that; I want to carry my weight well. I feel comfortable in the 260s, I feel that’s my type of weight; I hit harder and feel more explosive at that weight.”

One fan who unquestionably remains with Ruiz through all the training and ups and downs is his 10-year-old son AJ, the second of Andy’s five children with his wife Julie.

“He’s a big motivation. I always have him around me. I want him to see what his Daddy is trying to do, trying to build a big legacy for him and his future,” Ruiz explained. “And I want to show him what hard work means. I tell him ‘Son, you don’t have to fight. Let me do the fighting so you don’t have to struggle and get hurt, because this is a hurt business. I just want you to worry about school, worry about your education and just be smart.’ ”

The son wants to become a boxer, too, but for now, “he’s focused on just being around the boxing game,” Ruiz said. “What I would love for him to do is be a part of ARJ Promotions and help me create young fighters and try to turn them into champions. That’s what we’re doing for the three fighters I have, helping them out so they can … make their dreams come true by giving them the opportunities.”

Ruiz has a special relationship with his faithful Mexican fans, who, “without them there wouldn’t be a real Andy Ruiz. They inspire me a lot because my first goal was to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion and thanks to God we made that history,” he says. “We made my dreams come true and it feels so good to have them open up their arms and receive me as a true Mexican warrior … It means a lot because even when I was fighting for my country, fighting for Mexico in the Olympic trials and all that, I was representing my country. I’m a Mexican at heart and I’m doing this for my people.”

Ruiz expects to slug it out with Ortiz on September 4th. 

“God willing, it will be (a slugfest), but as Mike Tyson said, we all have a plan until we get hit. My plan is just to go in there and do what we’ve been working on, throwing combinations, and we have to pressure him, try to get him out of there, and wear him out by going a lot to the body.

“I know he’s going to try to go for the knockout, so we’re prepared for that. I feel Ortiz is most dangerous for the first six rounds, and the main thing for me is just to be cautious and break him down and throw combinations. We gotta be smart, be careful and pick our shots.”

Should he get past Ortiz -- far from a certainty -- Ruiz eyes a wide-open heavyweight division. 

“(Deontay) Wilder has started training already, he’s coming out of retirement, and that fight could be easily made because we’re both signed with Al Haymon,” Ruiz explained. “I would really like to fight Joshua again because we’re one and one against each other. That’s why I chose Ortiz because, just in case (Oleksandr) Usyk wins their rematch (which he did on August 20 to sweep both meetings) at least I have a resume that I fought a lefty and I can do good with a lefty. I know Usyk is an awkward style as well, but I’m going to show people I can adapt.”

But make no mistake, it is King Kong who totally occupies the Destroyer’s psyche right now. And he knows nothing less than his future in the sport is at stake.

“This is a big fight for me to climb back up the ladder.”

For a closer look at Andy Ruiz Jr, check out his fighter page. 

LIVE NOW: Ruiz vs Ortiz

TONIGHT: Ruiz vs Ortiz

TOMORROW: Ruiz vs Ortiz

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THU, JAN 01, 1970

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