LOS ANGELES – Andy Ruiz Jr.'s son AJ approached Luis Ortiz while he was courting the media with a special treat on Tuesday.
The 10-year-old stood behind Ortiz and offered the Cuban heavyweight contender a cookie from one of the boxed lunches nearby.
“I think it would be nice,” said AJ, who is officially named Andy Ruiz III.
Ortiz grinned from ear to ear, thanked AJ, gave him a fist bump, and gifted the sweater he was wearing to the boy as a present in return.
“He can wear it when he’s bigger,” quipped Ortiz.
After Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs) signed the sweater, he faced off with AJ’s father, and promised to beat the former heavyweight champion so that he could catapult himself to a title shot as well when they fight Sept. 4 at the Crypto.com Arena on FOX pay-per-view.
“I’m very grateful to be back in this position and fighting at the top level. I’m thankful to Andy for taking this fight and I’m truly looking forward to it,” Ortiz said through the translation of trainer Herman Caicedo.
“As of right now we’re preparing for the best Andy Ruiz. We know that he’s not just any fighter. He’s a former world champion and that doesn’t happen by luck. I’m ready for him and may the best man win.”
The 43-year-old Ortiz has twice come close to being the best man against the elite competition, but he’s twice been knocked out by Deontay Wilder while trying.
The Miami-based fighter is hoping for a different outcome against Ruiz, who is 10 years his junior.
“I’m very excited. The fans are going to see two fighters who love to battle and love to punch and punch hard. This is a dream come true and we’re not going to disappoint the fans on Sept. 4,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz kicked off 2022 with a bang by scoring a TKO win against Charles Martin on New Year's Day. The victory came with some adversity, however, as Ortiz was dropped in the first and fourth rounds before finishing the fight in the sixth.
“I got good experience from fighting Charles Martin. There were some hiccups in the fight, but I’m going to carry the lessons that I learned into this fight,” said Ortiz.
Ruiz has fought just once since dropping the heavyweight title to Anthony Joshua in 2019. He scored a unanimous decision against former heavyweight title contender Chris Arreola in May 2021.
“I don’t believe there’s any advantage to the fact that I’ve been more active than Andy. I believe in hard work and the mental makeup of a fighter. That’s what I’ve been focusing on day after day,” said Ortiz.
After once leading on the cards against Wilder at the time of the stoppage and trailing by one point heading into the championship rounds in the other, Ortiz doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself when discussing another world title shot.
“My main objective right now is to win on Sept. 4. Then after that, I’ll see who crawls out and steps up. So far there haven’t been too many [challenges] at the elite level,” said Ruiz.
“This fight is going to end in a knockout. I’m sure Andy thinks the same thing. This one isn’t going to go 12 rounds.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.