Andy Ruiz Jr’s life altered unimaginably on a balmy evening in Manhattan back in June but you would barely know it to speak to him.
The grinning heavyweight, or as he would put it ‘chubby’ champion, still looks like something of a competition winner when stood alongside the hulking specimen of Anthony Joshua, even though it is he who now carries the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles.
Ruiz captured that trio of baubles at Madison Square Garden just under 27 weeks ago when he dropped Joshua four times before the Englishman’s world title reign was officially waved off after 1:27 of round number seven.
An hour or so later, when the Mexican-American faced the media at the post-fight press conference, Ruiz looked over to his mother as his eyes welled with tears. “Mom, we don’t have to struggle anymore.”
It is true. Those within boxing knew that Ruiz always had talent but it was sometimes hard for him to make ends meet from the often meagre fight purses he was pocketing. Rent and bills were not always covered.
Everything changed when Jarrell Miller was popped for a multitude of performance-enhancing drugs meaning that Joshua needed a suitable replacement for his June 1 date, and quickly.
Ruiz sent Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn a message on Instagram insisting he was the man to step in at short notice and the rest is history.
It is estimated Ruiz earned around €5m for his part in the first fight and he will bank close to €12m on Saturday night when he puts his belts on the line in an immediate rematch with Joshua here in Saudi Arabia.
It was the money on offer here in the Middle East which ensured the duo were unable to resist the lure of the desert.
As he does everywhere, Ruiz looks at ease in his new surroundings. He is followed everywhere by his loving family and smiles like a man genuinely living the dream. Back home in California he dropped millions of dollars on a huge mansion where they all live together. He has also been regularly shopping for cars.
“Four of them,” he says smiling broadly. “Two types of G-Wagon, the brand new Rolls Royce and a Lamborghini SUV. I also bought my mum and dad a truck. We’ve been having fun.
“Which is my favourite car? I don’t know. Probably the Lamborghini. It’s fast and spacious. I can put all my kids in there... well not all my kids because I have a lot of kids but some of my kids in there.
Being rich and famous has been going really well. It can get a little overwhelming at times but this is what I dreamed of and worked towards, this is what training so hard for since I was six years old.
"It’s great for me and my family and my kids, our whole lives changed on June 1.”
Alongside all the questions about how British boxing’s golden child Joshua will bounce back from what was the first defeat of his professional career, it is still unclear as to how Ruiz’s very own Everest moment will affect him when he gets back under the lights.
“I feel good,” Ruiz shrugs, “I am mentally and physically more prepared, we have been training and sparring a lot.
“We have been doing 12 rounds like they are nothing. We know it will not be easy, it will be hard, I am going in there for a big battle, a war, and I have to keep that mentality of being hungry and motivated.
“I started at six years old, I had my first amateur fight at seven. I’ve come a long way, I’m really blessed to be here. That is why I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate anything that comes my way.
I want to be an example for kids that shows anything is possible, if you train hard and put the work in and have the right mindset.
“I am a family man so it has not been hard to keep my motivation or focus. I have my father with me all the time, pushing me, as well as my trainer and we make a great team and there is nothing better than a team that wants the best of you and does everything it can for you.”
It is now an established fact that the ‘final press conference’ during any fight week is now largely useless for working journalists, who generally don’t get any opportunity to ask questions. Instead the promoter will tease a couple of bland quotes out of the fighters before everybody goes home again.
And it said much that while Joshua was rushed out of Wednesday’s version in Diriyah, a few hundred metres from the makeshift arena in which the pair will fight, Ruiz was happy to stand around and talk to the media caravan who have followed the fighters here to Saudi.
The carefully guarded challenger spoke only to rights-holding media and one of his security guards even told reporters hanging around for a quote that he would ‘only ask them nicely once’ to move. A few feet away, world heavyweight champion Ruiz could not have been more at ease.
He wore the blue jersey of the New York Knicks, who play their home games at Madison Square Garden. When asked whether it was a mind game for Joshua, he grinned again.
“Maybe you could call it that,” he said. “But I kinda did it for myself mainly.
“It means a lot to me because that’s where I got the first victory on June 1 and that’s why I brought it. I wore it to remind myself ‘I’m the champ’, I won 1 June and that’s exactly what we’re going to do on 7 December. But it does remind him too.”