Imperial Valley Celebrates their Heavyweight Hero Andy Ruiz, Jr.

Report and Photos by Gayle Lynn Falkenthal with Communities Digital News

World heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz, Jr. has enormous affection for his high desert hometown in the Imperial Valley. And the feeling is mutual.
Andyruiz Imperial
The City of Imperial, with a population of about 15,000 just north of the larger city of El Centro sitting a half hour drive from the Mexican border, could not be prouder to be the home of the man who pulled off a stunning upset victory over Anthony Joshua of Great Britain on June 1st. Imperial pulled out all the stops to salute its hero, starting with a news conference this past Friday and culminating Saturday morning with a parade and rally ending at Imperial High.

Imperial City Councilmember Darrell Pechtl said residents started contacting him within moments of the historic victory of Ruiz Jr. as the first Mexican and Mexican-American world heavyweight champion. “When’s the parade? We’ve got to have a parade!” said Pechtl.

“It’s a blessing man,” said Ruiz Jr. at the rally in his honor following the parade. “I’ve been on so many roller coasters in my life. So many things have happened. But I never gave up!

“I love all the Imperial Valley man, love you guys! I was born and raised here and having this celebration here means so much to me. Until this day, I’m still pinching myself to see if this is true you know. I just want to thank everyone!”

The parade kicked off around 9:30 a.m. on what passes for a mild summer day in the Imperial Valley (under triple digits). High school bands and cheerleaders, groups of kids from local boxing gyms with their own dreams, mariachis and folkloric dancers led the way, followed by fire trucks and flatbeds, one featuring Ruiz Jr.’s trainer Manny Robles and his team, all leading the guest of honor and his girlfriend riding in a shiny convertible.

Several thousand admirers watched the parade thread its way from Imperial Avenue down a residential street with neighbors sitting under trees in their front yards.

In small towns like Imperial, everyone knows everybody. People become like family, and Ruiz Jr.’s Imperial Valley family has embraced him and everything he stands for. People like Esmeralda Gonzalez of El Centro, who stood along the parade route holding an artistic poster she created featuring Ruiz Jr.’s face in the Mexican tri-color red, white and green. “I’m so proud of him, he’s one of us!” she said.

Gonzalez got the thrill of her life when Ruiz Jr. spotted her poster from his seat in a shining Rolls Royce convertible, and called her over. She handed the poster to him as a souvenir. It likely means more to him than all the formal civic honors.

Parade goers then filed into Imperial High School’s football stadium, joining more fans waiting to celebrate their most famous resident. After hearing the American and Mexican anthems, and cheering a video of fight highlights on large screens, the man of the hour stepped onto the stage.

After receiving proclamations and an impressive Key to the City, Ruiz Jr. heard a surprise message from his former principal at nearby Ben Hulse Elementary School, Madeleine Willis. Speaking via a video message from Maine, Willis said “Andy, I heard you’ve been in another fight. But this time you won? I think you won all your fights at Ben Hulse. Honestly, you were a great kid. You got picked on, and you took care of it! And now you fight and get paid. How cool is that!” she said as Ruiz Jr. and the crowd laughed. “Always remember to stay humble and put God first, love you Andy.”

“I really appreciate everybody here. Heh heh! Wooooo, yeah baby! We brought the belts back home,” said Ruiz Jr. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. And now that we got, we got it baby!”

As he frequently does, Ruiz Jr. then turned his attention to his youngest fans, many from the Sparta and La Gente Boxing Gym youth programs.

“All the kids that have big dreams, dream big. Everything is possible. All the hard work and dedication, All the kids right here that have dreams that are boxers that want to be like me, or even better. You can do it. Just train hard, Listen to the coach, stay disciplined, dream big – and always pray to God for help.”

Ruiz Jr. said he would like to establish his own youth boxing gym in Imperial County, suggesting the names ‘Andy’s Academy’ or ‘Destroyer Academy.’ The new champion believes he can nurture local talent. “This is where I grew up, this is where I was born and raised. I would love to do that, be a role model here in Imperial Valley.”

Even two decades later, he vividly remembers the name calling and bullying he received, and the solace he found in a boxing dream at age six – a dream that came true not by luck, but because Ruiz Jr. put in the hard work and kept the faith while his family stood by him despite the doubters.

“Everybody telling me that I was going to do nothing, because of the way that I look,” said Ruiz Jr. “To come this far, it means a lot. It brings tears to my eyes- but I don’t want to cry right now.”

Ruiz Jr.’s one big purchase since winning was a new car to thank his mother, Felicitas Ruiz. “I bought my mom a car, because I messed up a lot of her cars when I was growing up,” laughed Ruiz Jr.

Trainer Edgar Jasso said he and Robles will get Ruiz Jr. back into the gym next month to keep him focused while awaiting details about the anticipated rematch later this year with former champion Anthony Joshua, likely to return to the scene of Ruiz Jr.’s win at Madison Square Garden in New York. Win or lose, his Imperial Valley family will support him, and be inspired to dream their own dreams for years to come.

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Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing writer based in San Diego, California covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News. Read Gayle’s “Ringside Seat” at CommDigiNews.com or follow Gayle on Instagram and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.


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  • Again with this “Mexican” nonsense, enough is enough, its divisive and dangerous to the unity, future and cohesiveness of the United States, not to mention hypocritical and contradictory!

    Millions of Mexicans, like Ruiz’s parents, fled their miserable, dehumanizing life in corrupt indifferent Mexico as fast as they could! You’d think these so called “proud Mexicans” (living under the umbrella of rights and opportunities the United States provides) would be resentful and embarrassed instead of proud of their failed disastrous country and culture.

    If you want to benefit from everything this great country offers, assimilate and appreciate, otherwise, GET OUT!

    You can not be both, a proud Mexican and proud American, you have to choose, otherwise, your a man with NO country!

    • You are right Juan, this sh!t is purposely divisive. Be proud of the country that gave you all these opportunities and safety or GTFO. If you don’t like it then go to Mexico and enjoy all the opportunities it gives you. We are all Americans, of every paint job, respect what it gives you. If you are more proud of your home country than America and you want to dismiss this one you should’ve never left.

        • Yes, and so are 22 other country’s and dozens of islands and territories however, The United States of America is the only country with the official designation of “America” in her title thus her citizens are referred to and known worldwide as Americans.

    • Valdez, i went back and forth with you on the previous article. I have to say I’m with you on the divisive point. I don’t engage in politics but i disagreed with the things president trump said during his campaign because it caused division. I saw a video of a group of black men attacking a white man calling him a trump supporter. And it was all because he was white. So I see where statements can be interpreted the wrong way. I believe we are all one and division is not good.

      • It’s your prerogative as an American but it’s important to be informed.

        People tend to deduce, conclude or assume what they will about his statement based on their political agenda or biases.

        Also, its important to keep in mind what had transpired just weeks before he made those remarks:

        1) a major Sinaloa drug cartel cell, comprised of dozens of illegals, responsible for the importation of tons of drugs and other crimes had been been dissolved…..the fact that illegal foreigners are responsible for so much misery and crimes against Americans in OUR country IS DIVISIVE!

        2) 2 independent serial rapists, both illegals, had just been arrested within weeks of each other….the fact that illegal foreigners are responsible for such vile crimes against Americans in OUR country IS DIVISIVE!

        He’s also on record, and on camera, praising Mexico and Mexicans dozens of times over the past 30 years! Lifelong Hispanic friends and employees of Trump, Geraldo Rivera among them, came to his defense attesting to his character yet NOW he’s a “ divisive racist”?

        He’s received numerous awards and been praised dozens of times by prominent African American politicians, businessmen, civil rights leaders and organizations since the ‘70s yet NOW he’s a “divisive racist”?

    • You speak out of hatred and bigotry, I could give you many reasons to prove you wrong, but your small, dimwitted brain will not comprehend. Oh, and change your name to one that portrays who you really are…

      • Oyes culero, you saying that speaking the truth and being Latino don’t mix. Que pendejo eres buey.

    • Mexicans were here first in California before the americans. During the 1500’s, 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s ….and in 1845 Mexicans discovered Gold in Central California (aka California Gold Rush), and the US rushed in wagons, trespassed onto Mexican territory and stole California from Mexico during Mexican-American War (1846) and stole Mexico’s Gold, which is how the US became the richest country in the world by stealing Mexico’s Gold (in CA) and Oil (in Texas). And then the rest of the world followed the americans into trespassing into Mexico so they can all leech of off Mexico’s resources.

  • So much hate… Andy Ruiz will hopefully come to his senses and give thanks to God for being an American first. But let it play out before being so hostile! Also, it’s obvious that “Juan” and “Hermano” are one and the same person posting lol. Trying to come off as Latin by using these fictitious names. Get a life quit hating, if he were of Polish or German ancestors and born here and did the same guarantee wouldn’t be a peep heard from you. Get over it already.

    • James, that’s what I say. The guy is proud of his roots and he’s giving credit. That’s all. Doesn’t mean he hates this country. If you asked someone to describe me they would say “Mexican”. And I was born and raised in the U.S. I am Mexican, and am also proud of being a U.S. born citizen. Only people who have nothing better to do with their lives get upset over things like these.

      • Whetto, Why is he proud of his dysfunctional roots, why is he giving credit when NO credit is due?

        If anything, it’s a negative rather than a positive, otherwise he’d be living in Mexico closer to his “roots”!

        His personal accomplishments are HIS and HIS only, it has NOTHING to do with his “roots”, that would be stereotyping.

        He manifests his disdain for this country by his words and actions! He loves the benefits and advantages that come from being an American citizen but considers himself Mexican and loyal to Mexico, that’s a contradiction.

        So you’re proud of being a “U.S. born citizen” because of the countless benefits secured and obtained by U.S. citizenship, what do you obtain and how do you benefit by considering yourself Mexican?

        Intentional chest pounding nationalistic and ethnic showboating is profitable in boxing nowadays regardless of the destructive consequences of such displays, it’s meant to provoke and animate simple minded boxing fans into a frenzy, which isn’t difficult with todays uncritical and willing Mexican/Mexican American fanbase.

        And believe me, I do have better thing to do but defending my country and asking difficult questions is well worth 10 minutes out of my busy day.

        • Valdez, there’s no point in going back and forth. I don’t think it’s a big deal what he is doing, you do. I’ll just agree to disagree with you and move on.

          • Cool, that’s what Americans do, amicably agree to disagree.

            Only I do think that divided loyalties are divisive and a danger to the future of this country, it is a big deal to me and many others.

    • When will he come to his senses…he’s 29!

      How long do we let it play…he’s 29!

      I’m simply denoting his obvious hypocrisy, contradictions, ingratitude, disloyalty and divisiveness…it’s an observation. You intentionally confuse an observation with hate and hostility because you aren’t used to being scrutinized over such indefensible, dangerous perspectives. It must be addressed before we become Balkanized.

      And I’ve been “getting over it” for all my life, I will no longer remain silent, it’s time these pseudo-Mexicans are called out for their reckless, hostile and treasonous actions and words, it’s time to answer for their disloyalty.

  • You can be american and be proud of your mexican heritage. Before he beat Joshua you idiots on here were probably calling him some fat mexican. Now that he won you’ve jumped on the bandwagon and want to call him one of your own? You are full of it. The guy fought on the Mexican national team. Something Im sure he is grateful for. As for his accomplishments…he and his family put in the work. Yes they came here for a better life. Doesnt mean he is supposed to despise his own heritage. You are a troll.

    • Kp, there’s not point in saying what you’re saying. Regardless as to what you say, Valdez is going to find a way to twist it as it being betrayal. He’s not calling him one of their own, he’s saying he needs to get the fuck out of his (Valdez’) country and go back to Mexico if he’s calling himself Mexican. You’re wasting your time is all I’m saying.

      • I’m not twisting anybody’s words, Ruiz’s OWN words (and actions) are loud and clear and speak for themselves.

        Why would I want to call someone “my own” (i.e. friend or countryman) when that person openly sides with someone else over me or prefers to be known as Mexican over American?

        I NEVER said he should get the F out, I did say anybody who refuses to assimilate and appreciate this great country should get out, THAT is NOT unreasonable.

        I questioned why he would rather not live in the country he praises and identifies with instead of the U.S., THAT is NOT unreasonable.

        He seems like a nice enough person and no doubt a talented boxer HOWEVER I question his loyalty to the U.S. and condemn his overriding pro-Mexican posture as a betrayal of his birth country, THAT is NOT unreasonable.

        • Juan, Dude!! Relax!! You’re going to give yourself a heart attack getting worked up over a Mexican boxing champion who has no clue as to who you are and probably will never cross paths with you enough to impact your life(positive or negative). I think you’d benefit from a couple of hits of cannibus.

          • I don’t could care less if I ever cross paths with him or if he knows who I am.

            I’ve met Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, both greater heavyweights than Ruiz! I know its early in his career, but if he has a long reign as champion like both those fighters then I might change my mind. BTW both Mike and Lennox were accommodating and friendly, unlike Mini-Me (RIP) and George Lopez who were grade AAA A-holes.

            I’ve crossed paths with numerous people with Ruiz’s mindset who’ve negatively impacted my life and the lives of countless other Americans. Want to avoid those types of situations for current and future generations of Americans.

            And YOU still won’t answer one simple question: Why the heck is he living in the U.S. if he considers himself a proud Mexican?

            I’ll pass on the weed, never done any type of illegal narcotic, but I will have a shot of Titos Vodka chased by a swig of Shiner Bock beer (both made in Texas) to your health and my sanity 🙂

          • Sounds like a plan. I’ll have a couple beers myself (can’t do the strong stuff, I’m too weak for that).

          • to: Juan Valdez, to answer yout question as to why is he living in the “US” if he considers himself a Mexican, its because Mexicans were here first in California before the americans. Mexicans were here in CA during the 1500’s, 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s ….and in 1845 Mexicans discovered Gold in Central California (aka California Gold Rush), and the US rushed in wagons, trespassed onto Mexican territory and stole California from Mexico during Mexican-American War (1846) and stole Mexico’s Gold, which is how the US became the richest country in the world by stealing Mexico’s Gold (in CA) and Oil (in Texas). And then the rest of the world followed the americans into trespassing into Mexico so they can all leech of off Mexico’s resources. Basically, what Im saying, Ruiz is in his very own land.

    • What’s wrong with calling him a “fat Mexican”, he jokingly refers to himself as fat and a proud Mexican, you’re upset with people that agree with him?

      Nobody wants to own him, on the other hand, he obviously wants to be “owned” by Mexico, a country he can’t stop exhibiting his loyalty, pride and love.

      He clearly doesn’t despise the heritage his parents fled but, by his words and actions, spurns his birth-country.

      If his family came here for a better life why did he return to Mexico to choose to represent the country which gave his parents a hopeless or inferior life? That’s called ingratitude!

      And YES, someone who voluntarily and intentionally fled their birth country for another…DESPISES his or her heritage/culture/country!

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