‘We represent both countries’: the rise of Andy Ruiz, a cross-border champion

Andy Ruiz’s improbable rise mirrors the rebound of his hometown, Imperial, a community at the heart of the debate over immigration in the United StatesThe Sparta boxing club is hard to find, tucked behind a wall of blue corrugated metal between a tire outlet and a lawnmower repair shop along what used to be US Route 80 in El Centro, the county seat of Imperial Valley. It’s already dark on a recent Wednesday afternoon when director Jorge Munoz swings open the makeshift doors for the few dozen kids who have been waiting in the gravel parking lot facing the Union Pacific railroad tracks in the rear.It’s been six months since Andy Ruiz Jr, the ramshackle gym’s most famous alumnus, became the first fighter of Mexican descent to win the world heavyweight championship in one of the biggest shocks in boxing history, stopping the undefeated Anthony Joshua in seven rounds at Madison Square Garden. If the agate-type outcome came as a surprise, the optics of the upset beggared belief. The doughy Ruiz, even at a svelte-for-him 268lbs, hardly looked the part of a world-class athlete, and never less so than next to Joshua, the chiseled 6ft 6in, 247lb champion whose advantages in height (four inches) and reach (eight inches) portended a slaughter. Continue reading…