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Andy Ruiz Jr. Defeats Anthony Joshua To Become Heavyweight World Champion

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's hard to resist an underdog story, and this weekend's tale from Madison Square Garden in New York City is epic. Boxer Anthony Joshua stepped into the ring the heavyweight champion of the world. There he found Andy Ruiz Jr., a relatively unknown Mexican American fighter. Now, it was supposed to be an easy win for Joshua, a huge star in the U.K. looking for his first win in America. Here's how sports channel DAZN called the weigh-in the day before the bout.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You can see the physiques. If it was a bodybuilding contest, Sergio, it would already be over. But it's a fistfight.

CORNISH: And in that fistfight, Ruiz knocked out the defending champ in the seventh round.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Oh, Joshua goes down. Andy Ruiz caught him with a sharp left hook. Joshua's hurt.

CORNISH: Now, to talk about what happened, we're bringing in boxing writer Roberto Andrade Franco. Welcome to the program.

ROBERTO ANDRADE FRANCO: Hello.

CORNISH: So where were you when this fight happened, and what was your reaction?

ANDRADE FRANCO: Well, I initially started watching it in my bedroom. My wife and daughter were sleeping next to me because I - even though I was rooting for Ruiz to win, I really - and I think the majority of people who watched did not really expect much. In the third round, when Ruiz was knocked down by Joshua, I pretty much expected that the fight would soon end.

Ruiz came back within that same round, actually stood back up and knocked down Joshua. And then he knocked down Joshua again at the end of the third round. And at that point, I went to my living room because you could feel that something had changed.

CORNISH: So as we said, this was supposed to be Anthony Joshua's big kind of U.S. debut. Can you tell us how he ended up fighting Andy Ruiz Jr. in the first place?

ANDRADE FRANCO: Well, Andy Ruiz was a late fill-in with about six weeks before the fight was scheduled to begin after the original opponent was Jarrell Miller from New York City. He failed three drug tests. And once that happened, there were - there was a couple of weeks where the promoters were looking for an opponent.

Andy Ruiz had just fought somebody else. And after the fight, he essentially asked one of the promoters from DAZN, Eddie Hearn - through his Instagram - if he could fight Joshua. He said he wanted to fight him, and not only fight him, but he wanted to beat him. And while other opponents said that would will not be ready, said that it was not enough time to prepare properly, Andy Ruiz was more than willing to take the fight.

CORNISH: You know, one of the reasons why people have talked about this is because Ruiz doesn't look like, you know, a top-of-the-line fighter. And I remember reading one article saying that he eats Snickers before a bout. So help us understand, like, what's his physique?

ANDRADE FRANCO: I guess to put it quite bluntly, he looks fat. He looks fat. And because people have this image of what a heavyweight champion should be, Anthony Joshua fits it perfectly. Another probably much more recognizable figure would be Mike Tyson, this muscle-bound person - Ruiz isn't that.

CORNISH: And he's also not some guy off the street, right? I mean, boxing is big in Mexican culture. Where does Andy Ruiz rank among those boxers?

ANDRADE FRANCO: No, he is not just some person off the streets. He's been fighting since he was 6 years old. And for a while, he fought under the Mexican national Olympic team. Ruiz, for the most part, was a recognizable figure, a recognizable person within the boxing Mexican community. But he definitely was not a popular boxer so far as having any large-scale name recognition. I would say, as of now, he ranks among the most recognizable Mexican boxers as of now - perhaps three weeks ago, or better yet, two months ago, probably not as much.

CORNISH: That's boxing writer Roberto Andrade Franco. Thank you for speaking with us.

ANDRADE FRANCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.