Former unified heavyweight titlist Andy Ruiz Jr. scored three knockdowns against Luis “King Kong” Ortiz and he needed every one of them.
The knockdowns allowed Ruiz to pull out a close unanimous decision in their WBC semifinal title elimination bout in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions Fox Sports pay-per-view card on Sunday night at Crypto Arena in Los Angeles.
Ruiz put Ortiz on the canvas twice in the second round and again in the seventh round and held on for the victory despite Ortiz’s late rally.
Judges Edward Hernandez Sr. and Zachary Young each scored it 114-111 and Fernando Villarreal had 113-112. Without the knockdowns, the fight would have ended in a majority draw.
The victory moved Ruiz a step closer to a shot at the WBC title held by Tyson Fury, who is negotiating an undisputed title fight with Oleksandr Usyk. Former titlist Deontay Wilder was ringside and he is scheduled to face Robert Helenius in the other WBC semifinal eliminator on Oct. 15. If Wilder, who congratulated Ruiz in the ring after the fight, beats Helenius, a Wilder-Ruiz fight is quite possible next year.
“If Deontay wins in October, me and him are with the same management and we can make this fight happen,” Ruiz said. “Let’s do it. Let’s get it on.”
That sounded good to Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs), who twice knocked out Ortiz during his title run.
“Deontay Wilder is back and I’m always looking for great exciting fights for the fans,” said Wilder, a prohibitive favorite against Helenius. “If Andy Ruiz Jr. is what’s next, then I’m ready to get it on.”
First, Ruiz had to get by Ortiz — the first southpaw he had ever faced as professional in his 13-year career — and it was no easy task. Ruiz was fighting for only the second time since losing a near-shutout decision to Anthony Joshua in their rematch that cost Ruiz the world title belts in December 2019. He was also coming off a 16-month layoff since a tougher-than-expected decision over former contender Chris Arreola, who knocked him down, and subsequent right knee surgery.
“Everyone was doubting me, but I worked so hard for this fight,” said Ruiz, who became the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title when he upset Joshua by knockout in their first fight in June 2019. “Ortiz is a warrior who hits hard. I did a beautiful job boxing him around. I showed more class than I usually do just coming forward.”
Overall it was a slow-paced fight, but whenever Ruiz let his fast hands go he gave Ortiz problems.