It has been more than a year since boxing’s ‘Real-Life Rocky’ Andy Ruiz Jr was soundly beaten and dethroned of his heavyweight world titles by Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia.
We have heard precious little from the former champion since, but a comeback is now being worked on.
The 31-year-old famously captured the WBA, IBF and WBO belts when he stunned AJ in one of boxing’s greatest ever upsets at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2019.
After being floored himself, the Mexican-American recovered to his feet and decked the champion twice in the same round.
Two further knockdowns in round seven ensured Britain’s heavyweight powerhouse was finished.
Referee Mike Griffin waved off the contest and unlikely hero Ruiz Jr performed his spinning jumps of celebration.
The new champion became an overnight sensation and revelled in his 15 minutes of fame.
In truth, Ruiz Jr’s ’15 minutes’ lasted for six months and he made the most of every single day.
Supercars were acquired, new jewellery donned, a new mansion inhabited and extravagant parties thrown, littered with new celebrity friends in LA.
It was all available for the world to see, plastered across an Instagram page which arguably became more materialistic than many of the social media influencers who attended Ruiz Jr’s parties.
Some in boxing began to see the signs of a switch in focus, a distraction from the upcoming rematch and an imminent sharp downfall.
Most however decided to wait and watch how the second fight played out before making their judgements – the proof would be in the pudding, they surmised.
Ultimately, Ruiz Jr ate the pudding and the proof was on the scales instead.
The champion admittedly was never exactly skinny to begin with and weighed 268lbs first time around when he conquered AJ.
For the rematch, though, he came in more than a stone heavier as he scaled 283lbs.
In contrast, Joshua dropped almost a stone as he went from 247.8lbs to 237lbs.
There had been no new supercars for the Brit, no new jewellery, no new mansions and no extravagant parties.
Instead, he withstood masses of public criticism, recruited additional trainers to bolster his team, worked incredibly hard during a gruelling training camp and employed fresh tactics to box Ruiz Jr’s head off for a wide unanimous decision.
Joshua became a two-time heavyweight world champion and danced off into the Saudi night, deservedly enjoying the fruits of his labour.
This left a heartbroken Ruiz Jr to admit at the post-fight press conference that those who’d doubted his preparations were 100 per cent correct.
“Me and my dad and my team were talking. I should’ve listened to them, I shouldn’t have put on all this weight,” he said as he apologised to his trainer Manny Robles and father Andy Ruiz Sr.
“I tried to kinda do the training on my own, I’m sorry Manny and I’m sorry to my dad, I should’ve listened to them more, I think I got too confident in myself…
“I think we started too late. I don’t wanna say that the months of partying and celebrating affected me, but to tell you the truth it kinda did.”
Coach Manny Robles insisted he would stick by his fighter, but that sentiment wasn’t mutual.
Six weeks later it was announced that they’d split – Robles was informed by Ruiz Sr, rather than the fighter himself.
When Ruiz Jr had performed his spinning jumps on June 1 he hugged Manny Robles who span and jumped alongside him. The pair had just conquered the world together.
Few would’ve thought their relationship would be in tatters just seven months later.
Since then, Ruiz Jr has not shown all too much of himself in the public eye and has kept a low profile.
He exchanged a few choice words with Dillian Whyte who attempted to lure him into a fight earlier in the year, but the pandemic ended up putting all boxing on hold regardless.
The pair were yet to link up to begin camp, but they have now.
Ruiz Jr revealed in October his dedicated training would begin with the expert tutelage.
“Everybody tune in, I’m gonna be posting a lot at the gym with Canelo, I’m excited,” he said.
“We’ve been training a little bit [with Jorge Capetillo], but now I’m gonna start camp with Eddy and everybody there. I can’t wait, it’s gonna be real fun.
“I’m happy, I’m excited to be part of Canelo team. I’m gonna focus, focus on what I need to get. Everybody’s talking s*** that I’m not gonna do nothing.
“It’s a weight loss journey, that’s what exactly we’re calling it. Next time you see me I’m gonna have a f***ing six-pack!”
Ironically, Ruiz Jr must emulate everything Joshua gave in preparation for their rematch if he’s ever to return to the summit of world boxing.
It’s now Ruiz Jr who faces masses of public criticism, who has recruited a new trainer and who must work incredibly hard in a gruelling training camp.
And in December, as AJ basked in a successful title defence against Kubrat Pulev one year on from his win in the desert, Ruiz revealed the progress he is making in the gym.
“It’s hard, man. I’ve never lifted weights, never had a physical trainer how they’re doing it,” he explained in a video posted on Instagram, adding there is enough motivation training alongside the legendary Canelo to get him back to where he wants to be.
He claims he has already lost 20Ibs and on the right path to achieving an Adonis-like physique.
As AJ was able to recover from defeat and become a two-time heavyweight champion, it surely must be possible for the Mexican history-maker also.
Whether Ruiz Jr actually achieves this or not will inevitably depend on himself.