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Will the Andy Ruiz Jr and Eddy Reynoso partnership catch fire or flame out?

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Andy Ruiz Jr can fight, but dedication has always been the question, and never more so than now. Can any trainer “save” him from himself?

BOXING-HEAVYWEIGHT-RUIZ-JOSHUA Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

“Andy doesn’t listen to anybody. It’s easy to blame me in my position than obviously to take the blame themselves. Andy’s a great guy, man, a great fighter, but he’s gotta learn to hold himself accountable.”

Those were the words of trainer Manny Robles after he was fired by Andy Ruiz Jr’s team following last December’s disastrous rematch loss to Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia. Just six months prior, Ruiz had shocked the sports world and become the toast of boxing by upsetting Joshua in New York. He was a short-notice, chubby opponent who didn’t pass the eye test on the scales, but did in the ring. His fast hands and determination got the better of AJ.

Coming into the rematch, he failed the eye test even harder. He’d put on over 15 more pounds from the first fight, ballooning up to 283½. And he failed in the ring, too, admitting he was having trouble so much as lifting his arms to throw punches. Joshua dominated with a simple, safe game plan to use his length and reach. The Andy Ruiz of June might have been able to force Joshua’s hand. The Andy Ruiz of December did nothing, disappointed fight fans tremendously, and left with arguably lower stock than he’d had coming into the first fight when almost everyone was counting him out.

Robles held nothing back when detailing what went wrong ahead of the rematch, not out of a saltiness or anger, it seemed, but just to be honest about a fighter whose inconsistencies go back a long way.

“It was a disaster right after he won the world title, because he disappeared for three months,” Robles said. “I didn’t see him, I didn’t know anything about him. I had no idea what he was up to. I’m not his dad, I’m not his babysitter, you know what I mean? I’m here at the gym, and again, being accountable. So then he finally appeared at the gym when we had three months for preparation, but even then he was here one day, he was gone another day.”

Ruiz was once a Top Rank prospect, and Bob Arum’s company seemed to consistently hold back on pushing him up the ladder. There’s something on both sides there. Top Rank seemed to have some sort of belief that Andy Ruiz might one day show up a lean and photogenic 230 pounds, which simply wasn’t going to happen. But they, of course, had tabs on him between the fights we all saw, too. He was always said to have trouble staying motivated and dedicated, and his progression stalled.

It was easy then to blame Top Rank for not moving him faster, but given what we’ve seen now, it’s just as easy to suspect they simply thought he’d lose if they pushed too hard. He did get a world title fight in New Zealand in 2016, and was competitive at 255 pounds, losing a majority decision to Joseph Parker, a good fighter. But then he was back on the shelf, sitting out all of 2017 before returning in 2018 for wins over journeymen Devin Vargas and Kevin Johnson.

Eventually, Ruiz and Top Rank parted ways. Andy went to Premier Boxing Champions, and they gave him the green light for the Cinderella story on a Matchroom card against Joshua. He delivered, and then the clock struck 12 six months later.

Boxing Saudi Arabia - Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua Photo by Oliver Weiken/picture alliance via Getty Images

It’s not a big secret that Ruiz’s weight is a problem at a certain level, and definitely isn’t a secret now. Up to 265 or so, he can fight. At 280 or more, he is going to have serious trouble at a high level.

Ruiz’s newest trainer is Eddy Reynoso. The pair officially announced the partnership on May 5, following a lot of rumors. Ruiz has worked with a lot of name trainers over the years. In addition to Robles, he’s worked with Freddie Roach and Abel Sanchez for periods of time.

Reynoso is arguably the hottest trainer in the sport. He’s got Canelo Alvarez, of course, and also Oscar Valdez, Julio Cesar Martinez, Luis Nery, and Ryan Garcia. And Reynoso is also known to be pretty particular about things, about having a level of control. He’s threatened to part ways with Garcia if the lightweight prospect is — in Reynoso’s mind — rushed into a major fight he’s not quite ready for just yet, despite the bravado and fan following the youngster has.

To Reynoso, it’s better to be smart and deliver later instead of barreling into something too early. You might disappoint some fans in the short term, but going out and losing, and possibly damaging all the progress being made in the gym, is far more likely to disappoint fans in the longer term.

This also gives one the impression that Reynoso will accept nothing less than Ruiz’s sincere, very best efforts. Nobody should be expect Ruiz to come in weighing 240 pounds next time we see him, whenever that will be. He will never be the so-called “body beautiful,” it’s just not how he’s built and not who he is. And he can fight fat. We’ve seen it.

The short term/long term thing comes into play here, too. There would seem to be an abnormally high chance that Ruiz will fully buy in for a camp or two, look good, build his name back up some, get some wins, and find his way into another big time fight — but then, sooner than later, burn out again.

Then again, there’s probably also an abnormally high chance this partnership never sees the ring for a fight. If Ruiz doesn’t dedicate, it’s not as if Reynoso is desperate for work or trying to damage his own reputation because a fighter won’t put in the effort.

But what if it does pan out? What if Eddy’s the guy to get the best from Andy on a more consistent basis? Ruiz will always have some matchup troubles with taller, longer heavyweights, but he has a skill set that can force those guys into a closer quarters than they might want, too.

If it works, Andy Ruiz might well make his way back to the top of the division, once again against the odds most are setting.

But that’s if it works. And as Robles basically said so many times after last December, it’s all really on Andy Ruiz.