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Alex Garcia Might Have Gotten There Ahead of Andy Ruiz Jr.

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  • Alex Garcia Might Have Gotten There Ahead of Andy Ruiz Jr.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	alex-garcia.jpg Views:	1 Size:	37.6 KB ID:	14001

    By Bernard Fernandez

    Making history by getting there first is something that can never be taken away from Andy Ruiz Jr., who became the first Mexican or Mexican-American heavyweight champion when he shocked IBF/WBA/WBO titlist Anthony Joshua of Great Britain on a seventh-round technical knockout at Madison Square Garden on June 1. Some characterized Garcia’s victory as an upset almost on a par with Buster Douglas’ conquest of the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson in Tokyo on Feb. 11, 1990.

    Ruiz, who was born and still resides in Imperial, Calif., not far from the Mexican border, flew to Mexico City two days after stopping Joshua for a celebratory meeting with Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

    “Me becoming the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world, it’s a blessing,” gushed the 30-year-old Ruiz, who almost instantly became a national hero of that country, so rich in boxing history with such legendary champions (including those of Mexican descent) in lower weight classes as Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez, Canelo Alvarez, Ruben Olivares, Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Canto, Carlos Zarate, Erik Morales, Ricardo Lopez, Fernando Vargas and Mikey Garcia.

    The coronation of Ruiz further reduces the memory of what another Mexican-American heavyweight contender, Alex Garcia, might have accomplished nearly a quarter-century earlier. Garcia seemingly was in line for a fat, seven-figure title shot, but blew the gig because of a greedy manager who put him into a low-paying ($15,000) stay-busy bout with dangerous journeyman Mike Dixon that turned out horribly wrong. More on that in a bit.

    A lot of puzzle pieces would have to fall into place for more Mexican heavyweight history to be made, beginning with a repeat victory for Ruiz over Joshua in a contractually mandated rematch whose particulars have yet to be negotiated. If Ruiz can hang onto his bejeweled straps in the do-over, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a future defense might be arranged against another Mexican-American, longtime contender Chris Arreola, who is 0-3 in shots at the big prize but could soon find himself back in the mix. Hey, it’s boxing. Stranger things have happened.

    The 38-year-old Arreola (38-5-1, 33) insists he will retire if he loses Saturday’s Fox-televised 12-round matchup with fellow power puncher Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs) at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. But if he wins, and especially if he wins inside the distance, he thinks it just might lead to a go against Ruiz, in what would be the first all-Mexican world heavyweight title bout. Kownacki, 30, also has history on his mind, holding firm to the belief that an impressive victory over Arreola might put him in position to become the first-ever Polish heavyweight champion.

    “I was happy for him, for his family, because he deserves it,” Arreola said of Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), an acquaintance of long standing whose unexpected rout of Joshua, who was floored four times, stands in stark contrast to Arreola’s failed bids for world titles against Vitali Klitschko, Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder, all of which came on knockouts or stoppages. “I’ve known the kid since he was 17 years old and he’s always been hungry. He’s always worked hard. He’s always been a big boy, but he’s always been a big boy with skill.

    “I was elated for him. I was elated for the Mexican fans that finally had a Mexican champion. He did it, man. And honestly, a lot of pressure came off me.”

    If there are common links between Ruiz, who made Mexican boxing history, and Arreola, who for so long had wanted to, the main ones deal with their hardscrabble upbringings and apparent aversion for always showing up for fights in prime condition.

    Although Ruiz’s hometown is Imperial, he frequently has made the relatively short trip (20 miles) to Mexicali, where his grandfather in the 1960s ran a gym that was something less than splendidly furbished. Not that life on the U.S. side of the border was any easier or more privileged for the large kid with the constantly famished appetite.

    “Everyone had it tough there because it’s just a small town near the Mexican border,” Ruiz said in an interview with the New York Times. “Lots of drug smuggling. There’s gangs. Cartels. But luckily, boxing saved my life. It kept me disciplined, it kept me away from the streets.”

    Ruiz might always have been hard on the inside, but that internal grit sometimes was difficult to detect as it always came wrapped in a flabby exterior. Particularly fond of Snickers candy bars, he waddled into the ring against Joshua at a jiggly 268 pounds, his love handles lapping over the waistband of his trunks like waves during a tropical storm’s landfall. But in boxing, as in everything else, appearances sometimes can be deceiving.

    Like Ruiz, Arreola long has been viewed as a heavyweight whose potential has been blunted by a supposed lackadaisical approach to training. Several inches taller than Ruiz at 6-3, he has fought as low as 229 pounds and as high as 262¼, but he insists conditioning will not be a problem against Kownacki after three months in the gym with new trainer Joe Goossen.

    More physically imposing than either Ruiz or Arreola with his robe off was Garcia, whose Mexican-American roots made him attractive as a possible title challenger in the early to mid-1990s. Garcia had a deserved reputation as a tough customer, first as a standout middle linebacker at San Fernando (Calif.) High School and later as a gang member who served five years in various state penal institutions before shifting his pro career into high gear.

    There was talk of Garcia being in line for a $1 million payday to fight then-WBO champion George Foreman, but Garcia’s then-manager, a Los Angeles attorney, insisted the smart play was to hold off a while longer, at which point Garcia’s purse would have risen to $5 million. But Foreman was dethroned by Tommy Morrison, and Garcia was put in for chump change and a couple of vacant minor titles against Dixon, whose 16-30 career record is deceiving considering that he shared the ring at various times with the likes of Lennox Lewis, Ray Mercer, Bruce Seldon, Corrie Sanders, Herbie Hide, Oliver McCall, Michael Grant, Larry Donald, Jameel McCline, Kirk Johnson, Buster Mathis Jr. and Zeljko Mavrovic, among others. Dixon floored Garcia with a left hook to the temple in the second round, and when the favorite arose it was on wobbly legs. Dixon went right at him and was whaling away when referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight.

    It hardly seemed to matter that Garcia got some too-little, too-late revenge in the rematch with Dixon on May 24, 1994, winning a 10-round unanimous decision. The seven-figure window of opportunity that had been so conspicuously open not that long ago had just as conspicuously slammed shut.

    Might Garcia have beaten Foreman or Morrison? Probably not. But then that’s what everyone had predicted of Douglas vs. Tyson and, later on, Ruiz vs. Joshua. Garcia might have been a movie star of sorts, cast in the role of Minoso Torres in the 1992 film Diggstown, but real boxing matches do not follow scripts. There would be no visit to the Mexican presidential palace for Garcia, who did not even get the multiple failed shots at the title that went to Arreola or the successful one that went to Ruiz.

    Proving once again that boxing history is a constantly moving target.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    I'm ready to hear what Ruiz is gonna do next, and where.

    Let's hope it's not fight Chris Arreola south of the border.


    • #3
      Welcome back BF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND A GOOD ONE TO BOOT. I think it was Garcia who was involved in arguably the worst stoppage in boxing history, WARNING: Watch at your own risk.

      Last edited by Kid Blast; 08-03-2019, 01:00 PM.