Remember that wonderful two-week window where Andy Ruiz Jr. was a lovable underdog hero of the everyman? He was the Mexican Rocky who upset the big-business monolith, Anthony Joshua. He was the chubby, everyday guy-looking, soft-spoken hero for a boxing era desperately hungry for something and/or somebody not buried in cynicism.
And then Andy Ruiz, literally, ruined everything.
The new three-belt champ bought ridiculously expensive cars, buckets of bling, and a mega-ostentatious mansion. He threw gaudy parties and hung around with C and D-list celebs. His circle of friends and hangers-on grew. The partying increased. The training got put on the backburner. His trainer couldn’t corral him; his father couldn’t reach him.
Ruiz fell into every pathetic winner-but-loser boxing cliché. The only thing missing was an announcement that he’d be launching a hip-hop career and a fashion line (and there’s still time for all of that).
Predictably, all of this distraction and lack of discipline led to a most embarrassing one-sided defeat in his rematch with Joshua in Saudi Arabia, one where a dejected Ruiz sad-sacked his way through post-fight interviews, issuing to media a ‘no-shit’ “I should have trained harder…I should have listened to my coaches more. Maybe I shouldn’t have put on all this weight that I did.”
And now Ruiz’s road to full-on cliché is complete as he did what every other failed fighter does after claiming to accept full responsibility for an ugly loss—he fired his trainer.
"I've seen it coming, I'll be honest with you," Ruiz’s now-former trainer Manny Robles told ESPN. "I've seen it coming during camp. I saw it coming, Andy was just doing whatever the hell he wanted to do. The dad, obviously with him being the manager, he just had no control over his son. None of us had control of him, for that matter.
"So I just saw it coming, it wasn't going to work because he wasn't listening. He's not listening to me, he's not listening to his dad, he's not listening to anybody. He said it himself after the press conference. He apologized to me, to the dad, because he fucked up. So I figured, 'OK, it's only a matter of time before I get the call.'”
Robles’ rise to prominence last June, culminating in the unthinkable upset of Joshua, was nearly as much of a feel-good story as Ruiz’s. From illegal immigrant to trainer of the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent, the native of Guadalajara has had the rug pulled out from underneath his boxing dream several times. From the death of his boxing mentor father (which cost him his spot working at his father’s gym) to the politics-based mass exodus of high-profile fighters under his watch, everything seemed to be conspiring to push Robles from the sport he loved. At some point, he even took up carpentry as a way to make a living as the boxing dream began to fade.
And then Ruiz came into his life. The Mexican-American had just suffered his first career loss, was going nowhere under a contract with promotor Top Rank, and was having trouble making a living. The duo of castoffs clicked, rattled off an impressive three-fight win streak, and had the Anthony Joshua fight fall into their laps when original Joshua foe, Jarrell Miller, tested positive for banned substances.
"A year ago Andy was down on his luck and unable to provide for his family,” Robles told The Guardian shortly after the first Joshua fight. “He was ready to throw in the towel. He was at a dark stage but I sat down with him and said: ‘Hey kid, don’t give up. A year from now everything is going to be different. I had a dream you fought Joshua for the world title. I know exactly what punch you’ll knock him out with.’"
Robles watched over Ruiz, made sure he got to the gym and avoided all of the up-and-down motivational issues that had plagued the talented, but frequently unfocused fighter throughout his career. And it all paid off when Ruiz stopped the heavily-favored defending champ in Madison Square Garden. Robles would even break down in tears post-fight from the emotion of having come back from so far down to be part of that history-making victory.
And, now, just about seven months later, Robles is out—not because of anything he did, but because of Ruiz’s own personal weaknesses.
According to Robles, Ruiz didn’t even have the decency to do the firing face-to face. Instead, he sent his father/manager, who, in turn, blamed Ruiz advisor Al Haymon for the decision to cut him.
Maybe there is something to parting ways with Robles. If a trainer can’t reach his fighter anymore, then it’s time to move on. But Ruiz’s history shows that trainers generally can’t reach him-- not for long, anyway. Jeff Grmoja, Freddie Roach, Abel Sanchez, and now Manny Robles all tried and eventually failed at turning Ruiz away from sloth and gluttony. All of this suggests that the problem is with Ruiz, himself, and not with the trainer hoping to spark some sort of continued fire in his gut.
“I'm absolutely grateful and blessed to have been able to experience everything that I was able to experience in 2019," Robles told ESPN. "I mean, we made history, and I have to be thankful for that. I have to be thankful to Andy and his dad for giving me the opportunity to be part of something special, to have made history -- for him to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.
"I really believed coming into the second fight that we were going to be able to do it again. But obviously you can't do that if the fighter isn't there, if the fighter doesn't want it. I did everything I could as a coach, as a teacher, as a friend, but again, as I said, if the fighter's not there, what can I do?"
Robles got a couple of really good paydays out of his relationship with Ruiz and bumped up his name value as a trainer, but things, obviously, didn’t turn out the way he would’ve liked.
None of this is about painting Andy Ruiz as some sort of black-hearted villain. By all accounts, he’s a good guy with, generally, a big heart. He’s just weak in a way so many other fighters have been weak.
Ruiz came face to face with the prizefighter cliché of being a big, dumb lunkhead with too much money, not enough sense, and a penchant for self-destruction. And, rather than push his way past this tired, old bag, he jumped right in.
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