By Keith Idec
Gervonta Davis didn’t know Hugo Ruiz existed this time last week.
Davis did some homework, though, once Ruiz replaced Abner Mares on Wednesday as his opponent on 10 days’ notice. What the unbeaten Baltimore native learned is that Ruiz is a bigger, stronger fighter than Mares, someone who’ll press their 12-round, 130-pound title fight February 9.
At 5-feet-9½, the Mexican-born Ruiz stands five full inches taller than Mares. Ruiz also is four inches bigger than the 24-year-old Davis.
Like Mares was preparing to do, Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs) will move up from the featherweight limit of 126 pounds to the super featherweight division to challenge Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) for his WBA “super” world super featherweight title. Showtime will air their fight as the main event of a tripleheader from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“I believe that he’s stronger [than Mares], because look at his knockout ratio,” Davis said during a conference call Thursday. “He’s 39-4, with 33 knockouts. That had to play a big part. And I didn’t even know he was coming up from 126. I didn’t know that. I just knew that they gave me a new opponent. I didn’t know who he was. I’m just excited for February 9.”
The ambitious Ruiz is a throwback boxer in the sense that he is willing to take an unusually challenging fight just three weeks after his last bout. The Glendora, California, resident defeated Mexico’s Alberto Guevara (27-4, 12 KOs) by unanimous decision in a forgettable 10-rounder on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard January 19 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Guevara agreed to face Ruiz on barely 24 hours’ notice once the Philippines’ Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17 KOs) absurdly came in 5½ pounds overweight for his scheduled featherweight title fight versus Ruiz.
Now it’s the 32-year-old Ruiz’s turn to try to make the best of an unforeseen opportunity. Davis anticipates a stronger challenge from Ruiz, who has been stopped twice in a 12-year pro career, than the 33-year-old Mares might’ve given him.
“I believe that Hugo, he’s more aggressive than Abner,” Ruiz said. “I think he has more pop on his punches. I just watched a little clip of him. I haven’t studied him like that. I just watched a little a clip once I knew who I was fighting, just to be aware of what I have in front of me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.