Former three-division world champion Abner Mares also fought to a majority draw with Miguel Flores in Mares’ return from a four-year ring absence on the pay-per-view undercard. Lightweight Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz then stopped Eduardo Ramirez in the second round with two vicious knockdowns.
In the main event, Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) had all of the big moments while grinding out a decision over Ortiz (33-3), a two-time world title challenger. The Southern California native knocked down the 43-year-old Ortiz twice in the second round and again in the seventh, but his Cuban opponent punched more accurately during long stretches of relative inactivity for both fighters.
“I worked so hard for this fight, because I knew he’s a warrior and he hits hard,” Ruiz said. “I thought I did a beautiful job handling his pressure and also coming forward.”
The judges scored the bout 114-111, 114-111 and 113-112 for Ruiz. The Associated Press also had Ruiz 114-111, with the knockdowns making the difference.
Ruiz pulled off one of the bigger upsets in recent heavyweight history when he took Anthony Joshua’s three championship belts in 2019, only to lose them back to his British opponent six months later. Ruiz had fought just once since, but he rededicated himself to training with hopes of getting another shot at the belts.
“I do not want to be waiting,” Ruiz said. “I want to fight at least three or four times a year. I’m hungry, man. I want to be a champion again.”
After entering the ring in a blue-and-gold robe and trunks featuring the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams’ colors and helmet horns, Ruiz abruptly floored Ortiz early in the second round with a short right hand. Ortiz wobbled to his feet and soon slipped back down while trying to clinch with Ruiz, but he made it to the bell.
Neither fighter threw much or risked much in the next four rounds, and the crowd that loudly backed Ruiz grumbled its displeasure. But Ruiz connected again late in the seventh, staggering Ortiz before sending him to the canvas with a right to the top of the head.
“It was very difficult,” Ruiz said. “The ability that I have for counterpunching instead of waiting for him to load up, that was a blessing.”
Reporting by Associated Press.
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