If you think Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk is the most exciting heavyweight fight scheduled this year, think again. While the unified heavyweight title fight comes packed with intrigue and potential for drama, Andy Ruiz Jr vs Luis Ortiz, set to go down at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, might just have it beat. The epitome of fan-friendly match-making, September’s heavyweight shootout could go down as one of the fights of the year.
Ortiz has already seen action this year. The Cuban power-puncher blasted out former IBF champion Charles Martin in six very entertaining rounds back in January. It was the 43-year-old’s first fight in just over a year, as he tries to manoeuvre himself into one last shot at the heavyweight crown. Ortiz has held the WBA interim title in the past, but is perhaps best known for his two fights with Deontay Wilder for the WBC belt.
Ortiz rocked Wilder during their first meeting, coming closer to beating ‘The Bronze Bomber’ than any fighter not named Tyson Fury has ever done. Ultimately, Ortiz succumbed to stoppage defeats in both fights. But he remains a dangerous presence, able to rally under pressure and unleash bombs on his opponents. He started similarly slowly against ‘Prince’ Charles this year, before lowering the boom on the former ‘AJ’ opponent.
Ruiz’s greatest triumph is more well-known than Ortiz’s exploits. Arguably it’s more notorious than almost any current boxers’ best win. ‘Destroyer’ knocked Joshua out in seven stunning rounds to lift the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight championships. The victory took Ruiz from a low-key tradesman who purists knew not to judge on his appearance to an international celebrity. Talk show notoriety, confectionery sponsorships and sporting heroism followed. But the whirlwind took its toll.
Ruiz showed up grossly out of shape in Saudi Arabia for his rematch with Joshua six months after his historic win. ‘AJ’ easily outboxed the struggling Californian, ending his brief but eventful reign as heavyweight king. Ruiz now fights for a place among the elite of heavyweight boxing, keen to show that his title win was more than a modern James ‘Buster’ Douglas aberration.
‘Destroyer’ has boxed just once since losing to Joshua. The pandemic did not help his rebuilding process, and 18 months had gone by before a unanimous decision win over Chris Arreola got him back on track. Ruiz hit the deck in that bout on the way to clinching the judge’s nod, either a signal that the fog of the ‘AJ’ defeat had not totally cleared, or perhaps merely a symbol of ring rust.
The two fighters both come in with something to prove. Both are on the road to redemption after losing title fights, each chasing another shot at the world crown. The division hasn’t been this hot since Messrs Tyson, Lewis and Holyfield hung up the gloves. Fury, Usyk, Joshua and Wilder lead the way. Behind them stands talent as diverse and dangerous as Daniel Dubois, Joseph Parker, Joe Joyce, Frank Sanchez and Arslanbek Makhmudov. Ruiz vs Ortiz is going to be do or die for the world title ambitions of these fighters, with the loser taking a long walk to the back of a packed queue.
The styles also look set to mesh brilliantly. Ortiz is an action fighter, as 28 knockouts from 33 wins will attest. Seeing Arreola knock Ruiz down will have given the Cuban confidence he can finish the job. Ruiz himself claimed the heavyweight championship through a sublime puncher’s performance, and he is still the only man to stop ‘AJ’. He too could look to close the show, conscious that Wilder has stopped ‘King Kong’ twice.
Proven championship pedigree. Entertaining styles. Sky-high stakes. A must-win fight. This bout really does have everything one could desire in a heavyweight boxing match. Other fights will receive more hype this year. World title fights will come and go, each professing to carry more prestige. But Andy Ruiz Jr vs Luis Ortiz looks set to have them all beat for pure, old-fashioned excitement. Strap in for the heavyweight fight of the year.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change