Heavyweight hope Ruiz Jr faces former world champion this Saturday
By Michael J Jones
This Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona, heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz Jr faces former WBO heavyweight champion Sergei Liakhovich over ten rounds. On paper it is his toughest test to date after a laboured 2014 consisting of just two outings.
The 23-0 (17) long-time prospect must surely be ready for the bigger names of the division after nearly six years in the pro ranks. Liakhovich is a decent test at this stage though isn't in the best of form judging by the last half a decade. Heavyweight star Deontay Wilder handed him his last defeat over a year ago, the “White Wolf” not lasting out the opening session at the lethal fists of the “Bronze Bomber”. Liakhovich's sole win since came against the 5-11 Carl Davis ten months ago.
The burly Ruiz Jr turned pro way back in March 2009 after a stellar amateur career. Often ridiculed in boxing circles because of his heavy-set appearance, “Destroyer” turned pro weighing just under 300lbs but slowly reduced his poundage through his career getting down to around 250.
The 6'2” Mexican heavyweight really stepped up his competition in 2013 with four solid victories including thumping stoppage victories over the 21-0 Joe Hanks and former Prizefighter winner Tor Hamer (both in China).
This year, in comparison, has been fairly uneventful for the Jeff Grmoja-trained Ruiz Jr. Reportedly, the big-hitting contender pulled out of two fight dates citing “family reasons”. His two brief ring appearances have been impressive however.
Grizzled veteran Manuel Quezada had gone the full route with both Chris Arreola and Steve Cunningham but couldn't last even two rounds with the 25 year old puncher in their May meeting.
Five months later, Ruiz Jr would then take on Kenny Lamos in California. Lamos was an average-looking 12-8-2 but had come close to beating former champion James Toney in a recent meeting so was useful. Andy took one good early uppercut but came straight back with a sustained barrage to halt Lamos in the first.
One thing to note is Ruiz's weight for that one; at 272¾lbs it was his heaviest since he first started in the pro ranks.
Two months from the Lamos wipe-out the California-based prospect must surely be looking for another eye-catching knock-out to finish the year with.
He is most definitely the favourite over Saturday's opponent Liakhovich who has gone a disappointing 3-4 in the eight long years since becoming champion.
Liakhovich turned pro way back in 1998 (when Ruiz was just nine years old incidently) and is now 38. Sergei only lost one bout in his first eight years as a heavyweight pro. With decent wins over the likes of Ron Guerrero and Dominik Guinn banked, Sergei would receive a WBO shot at reigning champion Lamon Brewster on April 2006.
The Cleveland bout would produce an unexpected thriller. Brewster, the massive favourite going in, would suffer an eye injury early on in the contest and Liakhovich would take full advantage The fired-up challenger would eventually come off the canvas to win a unanimous decision by scores of 117-110, 115-112 and 115-113.
The new champion would make his first defence seven months later but, after building up a clear lead on all score-cards, Shannon Briggs would drop him twice to win with one second remaining in the fight (Briggs being the last world heavyweight champion from the USA).
It's been a sad career since for poor Liakhovich riddled with inactivity and defeat. Though Wilder blasted him out, the 6'4” Sergei would last much later against another prospect in Bryant Jennings the year before that. Any heavyweight is dangerous if they connect but the 26-6 (16) “White Wolf”, who's fangs aren't quite as sharp as a few years ago, looks up against it on Saturday.
Though he may appear stocky, Ruiz Jr has fast hands and can put together beautiful combination punches off the jab. He also seems to have a sturdy chin which has come through a few 'chin checks' along the way.
If one was being critical we could question how effective Ruiz Jr would be late on in a hard fight carrying that access weight...but it's doubtful Liakhovich will be the man to provide such answers.
Expect the Belarus veteran to last a little longer than the first but still be taken out with clinical efficiency by the third stanza.
The bout takes place at the Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, Arizona and features a full supporting under-card. Although Ruiz Jr currently holds the NABF and WBO Inter-Continental belts, as we went to press, neither would be on the line on Saturday.