In Andy Ruiz Jr.’s Underdog Win, Imperial Valley Sees ‘Rocky’ Story of Its Own

Heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and his wife Julie Ruiz wave to supporters during a parade in his honor on Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Imperial. (Credit: SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and his wife Julie Ruiz wave to supporters during a parade in his honor on Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Imperial. (Credit: SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Ringed into the southeast corner of California by mountain ranges, deserts, Baja California and the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley has historically been regarded a little like California’s appendix: mostly quiet and forgotten until it flares up to cause a hell of a pain.

Unemployment here is the worst in the Golden State. The Salton Sea, a man-made lake that became a postcard-worthy exemplar of cabana living during the 1950s, is now a much-cited case study in environmental degradation.

People who live here take pride in a kind of pugnacious, underdog spirit. But until hometown boy Andy Ruiz Jr. walloped the heavyweight champ at Madison Square Garden, this wasn’t a place you’d find as the setting for a Rocky Balboa tale.

Boxers of Mexican descent have had a storied history in the sport, but never before had one done what Ruiz, 29, accomplished: becoming the first fighter of Mexican descent to hold a belt in the sport’s prestige division. Making the victory more improbable was the stark contrast between Ruiz — big, beefy, like someone who just stepped out of a Fernando Botero painting — and his immaculately sculpted foe.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.