Andy Ruiz Jr was devastated but overcame early difficulties to get Chris Arreola out when he returned to the ring on Saturday night in California.
He won a unanimous decision in his first fight since conceding the World Heavyweight Championships to Anthony Joshua in their rematch in December 2019, a battle he lost after gaining weight and blaming to “party”.
Ruiz Jr appeared to be facing disaster against Arreola when in the second round he was forced to kneel after taking a forehand to the right.
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He survived, but the third round turned into a dramatic shootout with both men receiving powerful punches.
Eventually, Ruiz Jr adjusted and settled into the fight as a counter-cutter, dominating the home stretch.
The judges marked it 117-110, 118-109, 118-109.
Mexico’s very first heavyweight champion had Eddy Reynoso, the coach who is also behind Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, in his corner for the first time.
He had also lost considerable weight since his fights with Joshua.
“Chris is a veteran and a tough hitter,” said Ruiz Jr. “We did what we needed to do tonight. We got the win we wanted. I was at my lowest point and now I have to. moving up the ranks I’m grateful for the win and ready to move on to the next one.
“He got me with a good clean right hand in the second round. I was too sure of myself and let my hand drop a bit. Hats off to him.
“We just kept pushing and pushing. I changed course and started to focus on the kickback and bodywork.
“I smelled a bit of rust and I know other fighters can relate to that,” Ruiz said. “If he wants to send him back, we’ll join him with him.”
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