By Jake Donovan
Barely two weeks ago, Hugo Ruiz was forced to settle for a replacement opponent in a fight originally intended for a portion of the 126-pound title.
He now finds himself in the role of late replacement, challenging for a 130-pound title.
The 30-year from Los Mochis, Mexico—who is now based in California—has agreed to terms for a February 9 showdown with unbeaten super featherweight titlist Gervonta Davis. Ruiz takes the fight as a late replacement for Abner Mares, who was forced to withdraw after suffering an elbow injury.
“I trained for three months to fight a southpaw when I fought in January,” said Ruiz.
“When the opponent changed, it was hard to adjust in 24 hours. After the fight I immediately went back to the gym, because you never know what’s going to happen in boxing. I’m 100 percent ready to knockout Gervonta Davis.”
LA Times’ Lance Pugmire was the first to report Ruiz as the finalized replacement.
In accepting terms to move up in weight on short notice, Ruiz helps salvage the Showtime-televised card, which will play to a sold-out crowd at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
For Ruiz (39-4, 33KOs), the title challenge will come just 21 days after his last ring appearance, a 10-round shutout of Albert Guevara earlier this month in Las Vegas.
That bout came at the 11th hour, with Guevara replacing Jhack Tepora who showed up more than five pounds over the contracted 126-pound limit for an intended interim featherweight title fight.
Ruiz took the Tepora fight on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s 12-round win over Adrien Broner with hopes of becoming a two-division titlist. The former 122-pound titlist now has another opportunity to make that happen, although coming one division north just weeks after making his debut as a full-fledged featherweight.
However, the quick turnaround actually works to his advantage, as the natural weight gain following the pre-fight weigh-in can simply be maintained heading into fight night.
“Hugo returned to the gym on the Monday immediately after his win in Las Vegas,” Oswaldo Küchle, Ruiz’s promoter told BoxingScene.com of his availability on short notice. “He is ready.”
For Davis (20-0, 19KOs), it means keeping his own hopes alive of a far more active 2019 campaign than was the case a year ago.
The 24-year old southpaw from Baltimore will make the first defense of his second tour as a 130-pound titlist, having regained a portion of the crown in a 3rd round knockout of former featherweight title clalmant Jesus Cuellar last April. The bout marked his lone piece of ring activity for 2018, spending most of the year wondering aloud why Mayweather Promotions wasn’t keeping him active in the ring.
Prior to the Cuellar fight, Davis hadn’t fought since an 8th round knockout of Francisco Fonseca in their Aug. ’17 bout beneath Floyd Mayweather’s stoppage win over UFC superstar and boxing debutant Conor McGregor. Davis’ win came at a cost, as he failed to make the 130-pound limit and thus was forced to relinquish his title.
His first reign began earlier that January, a one-sided 7th round knockout of then-unbeaten Jose Pedraza in what was properly deemed a breakout performance for the young, rising star. Just one successful defense followed, a May ’17 3rd round stoppage of previously undefeated challenger Liam Walsh on the road in Hackney Park, England.
Whatever issues existed between Davis and the Mayweather Promotions brass are seemingly resolved, as he remains confident of landing at least three fights in 2019, with PBC brass targeting the knockout artist as one of its can’t miss future stars.