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Andy Ruiz is ‘Destroyer’ and Disrupter in Boxing, Fatphobia

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]n the night of June 1, 2019, Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz Jr. became the first boxer of Mexican descent to capture the heavyweight championship of the world after defeating Nigerian-English fighter Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York. He is the second Latino heavyweight champion, the first being Puerto Rican boxer John Ruiz, who defeated Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield for the World Boxing Association Heavyweight title back in 2001.

Most of the news headlines and Instagram posts are calling Andy’s victory a major upset. It is and it isn’t.

Born in Imperial, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Andy Ruiz Jr.’s experience in and out of the ring is a classic underdog story. But seen another way, Ruiz’s disruption of the boxing industry’s sometimes scripted championship narratives is more than anything a result of careful training and grit to overcome massive odds.

 

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Mexican Heavyweight Champion 🇲🇽

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The boxing bosses did not plan on having Andy Ruiz Jr. hold in his arms the title belts for the the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Organization, and International Boxing Federation. And the plan was not for Andy to be the first boxer of Mexican descent to become heavyweight champion of the world.

The original plan, in fact, was for Anthony Joshua to make his United States debut by fighting against Brooklyn’s Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller. That fight was called off in April, when it was revealed that Miller had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

The show must go on, as they say, and so unranked Andy Ruiz Jr. was announced as a replacement, with less than two month’s notice. A window of opportunity had opened, one that consisted of the potential disruption that a Ruiz victory would mean for the plans of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.

Before the fight even started, it was clear that Ruiz was being treated as little more than an afterthought and stepping stone for Joshua. After Ruiz entered the arena to Nipsey Hussle’s “Grindin All my Life,” he was left in the ring with his team waiting for Joshua to make his entrance. Minutes passed and Joshua was barely making his way out of his locker room.

To make your opponent wait in the ring is part of the psychological warfare of boxing. But it wouldn’t work in this case. Joshua fell a barrage of Ruiz’s overhand and straight rights and left hooks and hit the deck in Round 7. Referee Michael Griffin stopped the fight and declared a TKO victory for Ruiz.

Watch the following highlight reel from the start of Round 7:

Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing is Anthony Joshua’s promoter, which also has a huge deal with sports streaming service DAZN to stream his fights. The plan for the last couple of years has been to set up a Hollywood-level USA vs. England international match between Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Andy Ruiz’s Saturday night victory puts a temporary hold on the potential of that mega-fight from taking place.

However, the powers that be in boxing always have a back-up plan.

RELATED: Where Julio Cesar Chavez and Macho Camacho Became Stars ~ How Azteca Boxing Club in Bell Became a Training Ground for Champions

After the fight, Hearn spoke about the rematch clause that is in Ruiz and Joshua’s contract. In the interest of Matchroom Boxing, Joshua is expected to redeem himself and get them back on track for a showdown with Wilder. “The rematch will be in the UK in November or December. Now we’ll see what AJ is about, this will be a big rematch, but Ruiz deserves it,” Hearns said.

If the rematch does take place, Ruiz will be in the same position, to halt the plans of boxing puppeteers.

Ruiz earned $7 million for the fight compared to the $25 million that Joshua made. Based on all sports odds, Ruiz was the betting underdog. Ruiz was a 20-1 underdog to win via Knockout and 50-1 to win between rounds 7-9. Many also had Ruiz as the underdog based on one thing alone: his looks.

The bias was blatant. The New York Times headline after the fight read: “Meet Andy Ruiz Jr. Believe It or Not, He’s the Heavyweight Champion.” In the article, it states that Ruiz doesn’t look fit and that “he also has, let’s say, something less than a six-pack in the gut.”

Stephen A. Smith from ESPN, who is a sports journalist and far from a boxing expert (let’s be honest here, Smith can love boxing all he wants, but that doesn’t make him an expert), was disgusted by Ruiz’s victory, stating: “OMG! I cannot believe this S$&@$! Anthony Joshua, holder of 3 belts, gets TKO’d by Butter Bean…. I mean some dude named Andy Ruiz JR. What a damn disgrace.”  

What the New York Times and Stephen A. Smith did was reinforce white European standards of beauty that are often used to mistakenly judge one’s ability to perform at a high athletic level. This type of thinking is rooted in a colonial logic of what it means to be beautiful, fit, and healthy. And Andy Ruiz proved them wrong.

A Champion Who Is Fat

[dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]is victory has also sparked critical conversations on social media about fatphobia. In response to a post that read “This guy beat Anthony Joshua and now I’m never going to the f*cking gym again,” Caro Vera, also known as Gorditaapplebum on Instagram, posted: “The amount of body fat on a person’s body doesn’t determine shit about their fitness level. People being fat doesn’t mean they aren’t fit. […] Miss me with your fat phobia.”

Ruiz’s victory ruptures those ugly ways of thinking. He forces the world to see that a fighter with a round body, no six pack and no chiseled muscle frame can perform and compete at a high level and with accurate punches, intelligence, and quick arms, and successfully earn the biggest crown in the sports: The world heavyweight title.

The plan was not for Andy to force the hand of Matchroom Boxing to exercise the rematch clause. The plan was not for Andy to spark critical conversations about fatphobia and the problems with white European standards of beauty, health and fitness. And the plan was not for Andy to be in a position to confidently say this at the post-fight conference: "Mom, I love you. I love you and our lives is gonna change. We don't have to struggle no more."

But Andy made all these things happen with his important victory. He is a bonafide disrupter — and the new heavyweight champion of the world. “Who would of guessed this fat kid coming from a small town would do something in his life,” Ruiz wrote on his Instagram as he prepared for the June 1 bout. “All I can say is dream big, work hard, never give up, and never listen to anyone that puts you down.”

RELATED: ‘Roma’ Actor From Mexico Gets Visa to Attend Oscars Ceremony After All

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