Justin Gamber, a boxing trainer in Las Vegas who once trained Ruiz, recalled seeing him for the first time in the Wild Card. “I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’” he said. “I was like, ‘I wonder if this guy could fight.’ Little did I know.”
Gamber said Ruiz had always been underestimated because of how he looked. “People think that Andy’s not in good shape because how his body looks,” he said. “That guy probably works harder than a lot of guys who look like, you know, physical specimens. Like a Roy Jones or a Ken Norton. But he’s never going to have a pretty body. It’s just not in his DNA.”
But, Gamber said, “the boxing people that knew of him, he had a dangerous reputation.”
Gamber added, “He looks goofy, like a chubby Mexican kid, but he’s a dangerous dude.”
Now that Ruiz is a champion, he has sought to make his body shape part of his star appeal.
“Most of us people can identify ourselves through Andy because of the way he looks,” said Manny Robles, his current trainer. “Prior to the fight, nobody believed in Andy. Let’s be real. The great majority of people didn’t think he could win. Look at this guy, he’s chubby, he carries that extra weight. He’s a Mexican heavyweight. There’s never been a Mexican heavyweight champion.”
Ruiz Sr. said he wanted to make a movie about his son, and the scenes and script would not be hard to imagine. Early morning runs in Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, while training with Roach. The small apartment in Hollywood where he lived in those days, his father sleeping on the couch. The border crossings, the street fights.
Imperial has planned a Mexican-themed parade and rally for Ruiz later this month. He is a big deal in a place rarely touched by fame.
Susan Paradis, the executive director of the Imperial Chamber of Commerce, noted that Cher and the Bella twins, a former World Wrestling Entertainment tag team, were born in the area. “But a world heavyweight champion?” she said. “Not in my lifetime.”