These days, the term underdog in sports is used to describe any team or person who wasn’t expected or favoured to win. A team can be really good and deserve to be in the finals, such as the Los Angeles Rams or St. Louis Blues, and still be considered an underdog.
But every once in a while, there’s a person or team that perfectly fits the underdog label. I’m talking about Andy Ruiz Jr. , a 268-pound Mexican heavyweight fighter who did the unthinkable and knocked down world champion Anthony Joshua not once, but four times on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.
Chances are by now you’ve at least heard of this fight, or looked up clips because of all the attention it received. The truth is not a lot of people watched, because Ruiz was thought to be a joke of a fighter, no match for Joshua. I almost didn’t watch myself for that very reason.
Not only is Ruiz a little flabby, he’s also not that tall. Well, he’s six-foot-two, still tall, but four inches shorter than Joshua, and 13 pounds heavier. In fact, Ruiz looks more like me than he does a pro boxer, let alone a world champion. The only difference between Ruiz and myself is he is Mexican. Well, that and he can punch really really hard, which last I checked I couldn’t.
True underdogs often don’t look like real athletes. Even a 16th-seed NCAA basketball team looks like a basketball team. Ruiz just looked like a heavy-set Latino man with a nicely shaped goatee.
Even the announcers calling the fight were thinking the same as everyone watching – Ruiz didn’t look like a fighter and he shouldn’t be in the ring. They made references to his weight, and said something to the effect of,“we know he’s not your typical idea of a beautiful fighter.” What’s worse — being called fat on TV with millions of people watching, or being called not beautiful?
When these things in happen in sports, a common refrain is, “If this person can do this thing, than anybody can do anything.”
I wish I had something more clever to say in this case, but I don’t. If Andy Ruiz can knockout Anthony Joshua, then I can figure out how to properly clean the inside of my windshield without leaving any streaks.
If Ruiz can tell everyone he’s the first ever Mexican heavyweight champ despite being born and raised in California, than I can tell people I’m the first Italian to be a journalist in Fort St. John. It doesn’t matter if it’s true, just do and say whatever you want, because that’s what Ruiz did.
I’m kidding, but Ruiz did do whatever he wanted. Ruiz was told he didn’t belong on this stage, but he ignored that and became the heavyweight champion of the world.
On Saturday, June 1, Andy Ruiz Jr. showed everyone everywhere that you don’t need to belong to do the unthinkable.
Dillon Giancola covers Peace Region sports for the Alaska Highway News. Email him at email@example.com.