Andy Ruiz Jr. had the chance to follow up on his June upset of Anthony Joshua on Saturday. A win and Ruiz might have set himself up for the winner of the Feb. 22 bout featuring WBC titlist Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
However, Ruiz, to his own admission, failed to come in the necessary shape and lost a lopsided decision and the IBF, WBA (super) and WBO heavyweight titles in the process.
"It was his night," Ruiz said in his postfight interview. "I think I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight, but I don’t want to give no excuses. He won, he boxed me around. But if we do the third fight, I’m going to get in the f—ing best shape of my life.”
While Ruiz may clamor to right the ship and fix what cost him, there's little chance he gets another crack at Joshua next. The Englishman has to make a mandatory title defense against either Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO belt or Kubrat Pulev for the IBF strap.
Be sure of this — Ruiz isn't going to fade away and go into oblivion. He captured three pieces of the heavyweight championship, and that holds more cache than anyone who wins a belt in another weight class. He's got plenty of fights to keep him occupied, and as long as he stays dedicated, he will get an opportunity to become a two-time titleholder in the future.
The opponent who makes the most sense at this point is Dominic Breazeale. The former two-time title challenger is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Wilder in May. He's been itching to get back in the ring and recently called out fellow contender Adam Kownacki. That makes little sense considering Breazeale got starched his last time out, and Kownacki is on the rise and the cusp of securing a shot at gold.
Ruiz and Breazeale are both coming off losses but still would be high-profile considering it's Ruiz's first fight back after losing the belts. It is a very winnable fight for Ruiz. It’s one where he can show the world that he could get in the necessary shape and prove he isn't a flash in the pan like James "Buster" Douglas.
If Ruiz wants a softer opponent, to allow him to do the aforementioned things before jumping back into the shark tank, another former title challenger in Gerald Washington could be the option. After losing back-to-back contests to Wilder (fifth-round TKO loss in February 2017) and Jarrell Miller, Washington has won two of his last three, with the setback being a second-round TKO loss to Kownacki in January. Washington doesn't hit the hardest, as out of 20 victories, 13 are by stoppage, with all coming against lower-level opposition.
The chance is there for Ruiz to still right the ship. Did he give himself the best opportunity to retain on Saturday? Absolutely not. Now, it's up to the 30-year-old. He can either start taking his career more seriously and live up to the potential that allowed him to shock the boxing world six months ago or become one in another long list of boxing’s cautionary tales.