‘Lights Out’ Plans Black Out For Ruiz
30.03.05 - By Neil Goodman: James ‘Lights Out’ Toney is set to face John Ruiz on the 30th April, in a fight for the WBA Crown (currently held by Ruiz). This fight presents Toney with another opportunity to persuade the boxing fraternity that he is in fact a genuine heavyweight fighter, as opposed to a cruiserweight or even light-heavyweight who does not train with the requisite diligence.. Of course Toney had a long history of battling the scales, as well as his opponents, when he boxed as a Middle and then Super Middleweight champion. Since 1994, however, Toney’s fighting weight has gone up and up, barring the occasional flirtation with the light-heavyweight limit.
Article posted on 30.03.2005
Whenever the career of James Toney is mentioned or discussed at length it does not take long before the issue of his weight, or girth, comes to the fore. For such a talented fighter the detraction away from his skills is perhaps unnecessary and unwanted. This said the scales do not lie and I get the impression not even Toney’s trainers have been certain what his best fighting weight should be.
Going forward the weight debate is perhaps no longer such an issue, it seems clear Toney is determined to ply his trade in the blue ribbon division. But one or two question marks continue to hangover Toney’s career, such as; how great a fighter could Toney have been, had it not been for the weight problems? Secondly, is he really big enough to hang with current crop of heavies?
To date Toney has battled several bona fide heavyweights, most notable is the stoppage victory over Evander Holyfield. On paper this does standout as a great victory and in truth the tactics and execution on the night were exemplary. But in the cold light of day it was a badly faded Holyfield, who stumbled around the ring and folded from a ‘body’ shot of all things back in 2003.
Another highlight on the Toney CV is the cruiserweight world title defeat of Vassiliy Jirov. This fight underlined James Toney’s class and marked him out as a danger man, after a long career, stretching back to 1988.
So Toney has performed against cruiserweights and heavyweights and to date has not been beaten whilst he himself has weighed over 190 lbs. Take Evander out of the equation though and Toney has not fought a heavyweight ranked in the top ten, this is not to say he has not been prepared to step up to the plate. Toney was previously scheduled to face the behemoth Jamel McCline and one can only assume he entered into this contractual agreement in the belief he could beat the opponent who was some 10 inches taller. As it transpired the fight did not go ahead, Toney pulling out through injury. Yet for all his limitations McCline, taking into account his size alone, had to be in with a good shot of beating Toney.
Most old boxing adages have become established over the years and the fights which have taken place over this period of time in general confirm and reaffirm these boxing ‘laws’. It is often only the great fighters who are able to break free from the confines of boxing commonsense. The oldest and arguably truest logic in boxing is that a good big ‘un, always beats a good little ‘un.
In judging Toney’s chances against Ruiz, it has to be considering that not only is he up against a bigger man, but also precedence, set time and again in the boxing ring. Whilst Ruiz has grown into his heavyweight frame, his natural advantages and heavyweight world title experience should stand him in good stead.
In terms of weight alone Ruiz is likely to enter the ring a minimum of 20lbs heavier than Toney, then his additional height and reach also need to be thrown into the melting pot. The stats do seem to stack up against Toney and in addition to the physical disparities the Quiet Man in terms of world title fights is on a bit of roll.
No-one is going to herald Ruiz as one of the great heavyweights and his style, what there is of it, is none to pleasing aesthetically. But Ruiz is efficient, without being spectacular; he has been quietly getting the job done. His walk forward persistence, twinned with his mauling and spoiling has repelled the challenges of Rahman, Oquendo and most recently Golota.
Prior to this series of wins, ‘if’ you had put your money on Ruiz to win these three fights, whilst you would not be planning an earlier retirement, you would probably be set for a good night out at the very least!
In truth, Ruiz upon entering this fight could be on a hiding to nothing. If he wins, well he has done what he was expected to do and beat up on the smaller guy. On the other hand if he loses, it is a case of Ruiz losing to another small guy. Additionally the harshest critics might say he has been lucky to have hung around this long in the world title picture.
I strongly believe that the psychological demons which came to bear in the fight against Roy Jones Jnr will play a significant part in this fight. After all it is one thing to be beaten by a smaller man, but to be knocked out is another ballgame altogether! I can still recall the moment when Jones rocked Ruiz with a right hand to the jaw in the second round of their world title fight. Jones hand speed, coupled with the apparent power dented Ruiz’s confidence that night and from the second round onwards he stopped fighting like the heavyweight trying to overpower the blown up light-heavyweight.
Perhaps Ruiz had flashbacks to the moment David Tua blew him out of their contest in the first thirty seconds, who knows? But one thing is for sure Ruiz will want to get this one right, to generate interest and credibility, which may lead to a big money showdown.
In James Toney, Ruiz, is facing a very different beast to the dancing Roy Jones Jnr. Toney’s skills, whilst more orthodox, are not based heavily on movement. Sure, he can box and move, but he employs a lot of upper-body movement to avoid punches and for offences he relies on counting and hand speed. Toney is essentially a throwback, he shoots his mouth-off, but then backs it up with sweet moves and combination punching.
For Toney this world title shoot is not such a pressure situation, more a welcome relief. He has suffered disappointment with fights falling through and for to long his talent has been kept under wraps. James is a smart fighter and whilst he has been calling out Vitali Klitschko, a.k.a Chicken Kiev, he is fully aware that he would need a step ladder just get near the WBC Champions chin! In Ruiz he is facing an earnest champion, but one he knows he can get to (both psychologically and physically).
Fight strategies for both men? For Toney the real battle will be in the gym, before the fight, here he needs to get himself into shape. He will know he will need to be in condition to do 12 hard rounds and to this end will need to come in at his optimum fighting weight (whatever this maybe?!) Once the bell rings it will be time for Toney to go to work and deliver on the promise his talent deserves. If he can win the WBA World Heavyweight Crown then ‘Lights Out’ will have the platform to run his mouth off all over town and set up a grand stand finale to his long career.
The Quiet Mans preparation for this fight maybe less problematic than his opponents, but not without pitfalls. Firstly where will the Ruiz camp find a sparring partner who can effectively mimic the skills, moves and size of Toney? Then John will be faced with his own weight debate; does he come in light and try to match Toney punch for punch? Or does Ruiz bulk up and try to emphasise his size and weight advantage? In terms of delivering his own fight tactics come fight night; I can not see Ruiz trying to reinvent the style that has served him up to this point. Ruiz will jab a bit, rough house on the inside and thrown the occasional right hand into the mix. Post-Tua the Quiet Man is pre-programme for caution and against a counter-puncher of Toney’s class he will be in a state of high alert from the first bell.
To conclude I think Toney will look to start fast, Ruiz can be a bit of a plodder and Toney can definitely use this to his advantage. Toney’s variety of work, combination punching and general punch picking can catch the judge’s eye and secure him an early lead on the cards. This will not be an easy night’s work though, take away the loss to Tua and Ruiz is generally dependable in terms of making an argument out of all his fights. Can Ruiz catch Toney often enough, with clean punches to make his weight advantage count in his favour? This is crucial to the outcome of the fight and against Jones Ruiz fell someway short of the mark.
James Toney, his intensity seems to burn as strong as ever, I envisage his slick skills being enough to nullify Ruiz on the outside and if necessary on the inside. I believe he can win enough of the early rounds and finish in such a manner to clinch a close but unanimous decision. Thereafter it will be interesting if James Toney can secure a place in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
previous article: Samuel Peter: Taking a Big Step Backwards
next article: Tszyu vs. Hatton: An early analysis