The unheralded 29-year-old from southern California, a replacement opponent dialed in on five-weeks’ notice who went off as a 11-1 underdog, came off the floor in the third round to drop Joshua twice before the end of the frame, then sent the undefeated champion crashing to the canvas for a third and fourth time in the seventh round before referee Mike Griffin put a stop to the proceedings at the 1:27 mark, the Guardian reported.
“I just feel so good, man,” said an elated Ruiz, who captured Joshua’s WBA, WBO and IBF belts in a stunner that ranks alongside Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson and James Braddock vs. Max Baer among the most seismic in the division’s centuries-spanning annals.
“This is what I have been dreaming about. This is what I have been working hard for. I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true.”
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), who was only even in a position for the life-changing upset because Joshua’s original opponent, Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller, failed three tests for different performance-enhancing drugs shortly after the matchup was announced, became the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight title in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
“It’s because of the Mexican warrior I am,” said Ruiz, an Imperial Valley native and resident who spent time growing up in the border town of Mexicali and represented Mexico at the 2012 Olympic trials.
“I have that Mexican blood in me. Talking about the Mexican fighting style, I just proved it.”
Griffin’s decision to wave it off as Joshua valiantly sought to reset himself in a neutral corner ignited pandemonium in the building, prompting roars from the announced sellout crowd of 20,201, many of whom flew in from Britain to watch Joshua’s first outing on American soil.
Joshua, 29, suggested the stoppage was premature in the aftermath, but stopped short of criticizing the referee.
“I want to fight,” said Joshua, who connected on 47 of 176 shots (27 percent) according to CompuBox’s punch statistics, compared to 56 of 206 (27 percent) for Ruiz.
“I don’t do [the referee’s] job. I am never one of those fighters to disrespect a referee like he should have done this or he should have done that. He called it off when he thought I couldn’t fight. It’s a shame. But I don’t want anyone to drown in their sorrows. It’s the long game, not the short game.”
Ruiz’s trainer, Manny Robles, said that his fighter executed their strategy to perfection.
“We had a great game plan: To stay low, not fight tall and work behind the jab,” Robles said.
“Hit the chest, hit the body. I told him to either fight inside or stay outside. I did not want him to fight at mid-range and put himself in front of the big punches.”
The extraordinary result effectively torpedoed the much-anticipated summit meeting between Joshua and Deontay Wilder, who’s held the WBC’s version of the heavyweight championship since 2015. That fight was until Saturday night the biggest that could be made in the sport today, but instead becomes a slain golden goose representing a cautionary tale for the industry on the perils of letting superfights marinate too long.
Afterward Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, said his fighter would exercise the immediate rematch clause in the fight contract.
Joshua, to his credit, was upbeat in defeat while affirming he wanted a second crack at Ruiz.
“It just wasn’t my night,” he said in the ring before skipping the post-fight press conference.
“I just have to turn it around a few notches and bring it back my way. I don’t want people to drown in their sorrows. This will show I have the power and the strength.”
"This is part of a journey I am on. This is boxing and what I have to do is reevaluate the situation," Joshua said in his post-fight news conference.
"Hunger is about life, not just boxing. That doesn't leave me. I am grinding," he said.
"I am ready to get back to work tomorrow – this is who I am."