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Andy Ruiz carries his Mexican heritage into the ring against Anthony Joshua

Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Boxing

NEW YORK CITY -- Andy Ruiz Jr. understands the symbolism of fighting near the Statue of Liberty.

The once-beaten heavyweight from the U.S.-Mexico border town of Imperial, east of San Diego, could become the first fighter of Mexican descent to be heavyweight champion when he meets unbeaten champ Anthony Joshua of England (22-0, 21 knockouts) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs) knows that a shocking win on Saturday would be significant to more people than just him.

"It means a lot, especially knowing I've worked from 6 years old to get to where I'm at now," Ruiz said. "But it won't mean something only to me.

"The hard-working Mexican tries to get up here looking for opportunities because America's one of the greatest countries in the world. For me, I'm an American and I'm a Mexican. I live here. And it hurts me the way a lot of people talk about Mexicans when I know we're all about hard work and dedication.

"Each Mexican has his own dream, and I've come to believe as long as we focus, you can accomplish anything you want. So maybe by winning I can change some minds."

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Charles Martin is Ruiz's Norwalk, Calif., stablemate and a former International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion who lost his belt by second-round knockout to Joshua at London's O2 Arena three years ago this spring. Martin is aware of dismissive attitudes concerning Ruiz and insists they're flawed.

"He's good, he's ready -- he came right off an (April 20) fight into this camp with no break and he fought a (tall) guy in that (Carson, Calif., bout) just like Joshua, so he's got that look in his mind of where the sweet spot's at," Martin said of Ruiz. "He has a damn real chance at winning this fight in my opinion."

Ruiz's hand speed, defense, power and endurance are all underrated because of his frame, and Martin notes that, with Joshua's questioned stamina, there is a chance to surprise: "Trust me, anything's possible."

Ruiz wasn't even supposed to be here. On the week he disposed of 6-foot-7 Alexander Dimitrenko by stopping him after five rounds in Carson, Ruiz learned that Joshua's planned opponent, Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller, had submitted positive tests for steroids, Human Growth Hormone and EPO, scrapping his involvement.

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