Mexican fans and fighters are one of the primary engines behind professional boxing in the U.S. Yet until recently, Mexican boxers had garnered over 200 world titles in every weight class except for the one that matters most—heavyweight.
That changed on June 1, when 29-year-old Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr. notched a seventh-round TKO over then-titleholder Anthony Joshua in an upset that shook the boxing world. The sport’s first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent will square off again with Joshua on Saturday night in Saudi Arabia.
After his jaw-dropping upset, Ruiz—or “Rocky Mexicano” as his dad proudly refers to him—the newly crowned champ exclaimed, “I just made history for Mexico. This is what I have been dreaming about since I was 6 years old,” the age at which Ruiz first entered the boxing gym. He began competing at 7.
But his triumph raised a bigger question: Why did it take so long for boxing-rich Mexico to produce a super-sized champ?