Ahead of Saturday’s 122-pound world title rematch, Hugo Ruiz insisted he’d be more aggressive against Julio Ceja than he was in August, when he was stopped in the fifth round of a thrilling, high-action bout.
Ruiz sure wasn’t kidding.
In another crowd-pleasing—albeit swift—masterpiece of fistic violence, Hugo Ruiz dropped Julio Ceja 13 seconds after the opening bell rang and finished him off moments later to claim his Mexican rival’s world title at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
“I said I would come out and knock him out in the first round,” Ruiz said, “and I went out and did it.”
The taller man by four inches, the 5-foot-9 Ruiz leveraged his power into a straight right hand, which he blasted off Ceja’s jaw, sending him crashing to the canvas. Ceja rose, but was noticeably limping on his right leg, which twisted awkwardly underneath him during the knockdown.
“For two months, I worked very hard on that particular punch and a couple of others. I knew that that particular punch would connect,” Ruiz said. “I saw that he got hurt with the first punch and I saw his leg wobbling, so I said, ‘Let’s finish,’ and I did in that round.”
When the fight resumed, Ruiz smelled blood and unleashed a barrage of punches that the champion couldn’t answer, forcing referee Thomas Taylor to step in and protect Ceja in a shocking 51-second stoppage.
“Ceja was reacting to the feints by dropping his hands a little bit,” Ruiz said. “When he did that, I knew that the right hand was available to land.”
While Ruiz (36-3, 32 KOs) recorded his 18th career first-round KO to win the championship, Ceja (30-2, 27 KOs) saw his six-fight winning streak come to an end as he was knocked out for the first time as pro.
The mandatory challenger to Ruiz’s title is 25-year-old countryman, Rey Vargas (26-0, 21 KOs), a 5-foot-11 boxer-puncher who scored a third-round TKO against former title challenger Christian Esquivel (28-9, 21 KOs) in an earlier bout at the Honda Center.
But promoter Sampson Lewkowicz would prefer to match Ruiz against Irishman Carl Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs), who won a 122-pound title unification bout by split decision over British rival Scott Quigg (31-1-2, 23 KOs) earlier Saturday in Manchester, England.
“We would absolutely fight Vargas, but we believe that he is still too young,” Lewkowicz said. “I really believe that Frampton, if he wants to say he’s the best 122-pounder, he needs to unify with Ruiz, and we’ll do that in England, America or wherever he wants.”
Given the way the first meeting between Ceja and Ruiz played out, it wasn’t surprising that the scheduled 12-round rematch failed to come close to the finish line.
Both fighters hit the deck in August, as Ruiz scored a third-round knockdown with a counter left hook before Ceja evened the score by dropping Ruiz with the exact same punch in the fifth. Although Ruiz got to his feet, Ceja immediately unleashed an all-out assault that resulted in the fight’s conclusion.
Ruiz once again scored the first knockdown in Saturday’s rematch. Only this time, he finished the job.
“I was very prepared to knock him out, but I was also prepared to go 12 rounds tonight if I had to,” Ruiz said. “I worked before at sea level and this time, I worked at 1,500 feet in Guadalajara. That made a huge difference for me and got me in better shape.”
Ruiz was fighting for the first time without his father, Heriberto, as his trainer, having replaced him with Rafael Guzman to prepare for Ceja.
“The father was the trainer all of his life, but he could not be in the corner any more,” Lewkowicz said. “In this case, the relationship was no longer as effective as it needed to be.”
Ceja, 23, lost for the first time since dropping a majority decision to Jamie McDonnell in a 118-pound title fight in the U.K. in May 2013.
“We came in very prepared for this fight,” Ruiz said. “I was happy to knock him out in the first round. Ceja is a very good fighter and I know he’ll come back.”
For a complete look at Ceja vs Ruiz, visit our fight page.