Boxing


Why is John Ruiz not respected?

01.04.05 - By James Allan: If any other fighter boxing today, had the win – loss record that John Ruiz currently boasts amongst what are or were considered to be amongst the top fighters in his weight category, he would be universally acclaimed as the number one in that division. Ruiz has fought and beaten Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo, Hasim Rahman and Kirk Johnson. He has also beaten solid fighters such as Tony Tucker, Jimmy Thunder and Julius Francis..

While it could be argued that Thunder and Francis are nothing more than good journeyman at best, and that Tucker was long past his sell by date, Ruiz still had to beat them. And he did, in some style to. He KO’d Francis in the 4th, Anis in the 1st and Tucker in the 11th. Amongst the so-called elite of the division, he beat Golota on points, Rahman on points; TKO’d Oquendo in the 11th and has a DQ win over Johnson.

Ruiz first gained a piece of the heavyweight championship by defeating Evander Holyfield in a rematch after losing a hotly contested decision in their first fight. He then defended it by a fighting a draw with Holyfied in the last of their trilogy of match-ups. A win and a draw with a true warrior like Holyfield you think would be enough to gain Ruiz respect amongst fight fans and journalists. But not so. Ruiz is without doubt one of the most maligned heavyweight champs in history. Of the four major titleholders, only the truly woeful Lamon Brewster is held in less regard. The vast majority of fans would fancy Chris Byrd to dish him out a boxing lesson, and for Vitali Klitschko to completely blow him away.

Doubts first surfaced about Ruiz when he was knocked out in the first round against David Tua. Tua is a hard punching, all action fighter, who on his day is a handful for anyone, and that Ruiz is not the first, nor will he be the last man, to be caught cold in the opening round of a fight against a dangerous puncher, you would think that many people would have given him the benefit of the doubt, and put this defeat down to an off day. However, in the minds of many boxing followers this defeat underpins their opinion of Ruiz. That he is a mediocre fighter, ugly to watch and extremely fortunate in some of the decisions that he has received.

His three fights with Holyfield have to be considered as possibly the dullest trilogy in boxing history. Remember, this is the same Holyfield who fought three stunning match ups with Riddick Bowe. Also, it is now universally accepted that Holyfield is nowhere near the fighter he used to be. Defeats to James Toney, a fight in which Holyfield was well and truly beaten up, and journeyman Larry Donald, have confirmed that Evander’s days as a legitimate contender are over.

That in three match-ups with him, the best Ruiz could do is come out with honours even, does not reflect well on him. Ruiz was also completely outclassed by Roy Jones Jnr. Ruiz contends that at the time of that fight he had marital problems and that his mind was not on the business at hand. He also contends that Jones Jnr refused to give him a rematch, thereby proving his claim that if they had fought again Jones Jnr knew he would be defeated. The truth is much more simple than this.

Roy Jones Jr. simply demolished Ruiz, making him look slow and clumsy. Given Roy’s recent knockout losses to Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver it is now an accepted fact that Roy does not have the best chin in the business. That a natural heavyweight like Ruiz could not, in 36 minutes of fighting, get close enough to a bulked up Jones who started his career at Middleweight, to land any punches of note tells you all about Ruiz’s perceived movement in the ring. Roy didn’t want to fight him again not because he knew Ruiz would beat him in a rematch, but because his margin of victory was so large, there was no reason for him to fight him again. If he couldn’t touch him the first time, what evidence was there to prove he could do any better the second time?

Jones wanted to fight Tyson and saw Ruiz as a stepping-stone to that match. After having gotten past him, why go back and do it again. It also did Ruiz no credit to claim that marital problems were at the route of his poor performance. A boxing ring is the last place on earth you go if you do not feel mentally right. You can get away with not having your mind on the job at hand in many walks of life, but in boxing it can get you seriously injured. Ruiz could consider himself lucky to be in against a guy who couldn’t really hurt him. A puncher, like Corrie Sanders for example, could have potentially spread him all over the ring.

Also you are short changing the fans. They are paying to see two athletes in prime condition fighting for what is still a piece of the biggest title in the world of sports. The Heavyweight Championship of the World. For a fighter to say that when they went into the ring they couldn’t give it their best because they were not mentally ready is to basically tell the fans that they didn’t really want to be there and that they were quite happy to take their money without giving them their best. Ruiz also complained that he was the champion and that he should have received the larger share of the revenue generated by the fight rather than Jones. But this is to ignore the facts. Jones was the draw.

Everybody wanted to see if Jones could become the first Middleweight since Bob Fitzsimmons to win a piece of the Heavyweight title. It is only right that he should pick up a larger purse. Those are the facts of boxing today. It is the draw fighter that picks up the big money and it doesn’t matter if he is the champion or, as in Jones’s case, the challenger. And no-one should be fooled into believing that Ruiz didn’t pick up a tidy sum for this fight. Modern fighters are also businessmen. This fight was good business for Ruiz. It raised his profile and he must have also suspected it would do well at the box office. Whatever else Ruiz’s manager Norman Stone is (more on him soon) he is not an idiot, and he would have ensured that Ruiz came out with a decent payday.

Add to this his two most recent wins over Rahman and Golota and you have many fans opinion of him confirmed. Two uglier fights it would be difficult to find. In them Ruiz did a huge amount of grabbing and holding. So much so in fact you have to wonder why he was not disqualified on both occasions. Henry Akinwande was DQ’d against Lennox Lewis for excessive holding in there title fight, why not Ruiz. The amount of holding that Akinwande perpetrated was certainly no worse than Ruiz. Yet Ruiz got away with it while Akinwande didn’t.

There is also the belief that Ruiz was beaten by both of them and that only dodgy judging decisions allowed him to hold on to his title. Throw Ruiz’s Manager and Trainer Norman Stone into the mix, and pretty much everybody has a reason to hope that Ruiz’s title reign comes to an end very shortly. Stoney (I am not sure if this nickname is purely a pun on his surname, given his performance in the Golota fight and the recent press conference with James Toney you have to wonder if he is on something) acts more like a ringmaster than a manager/trainer. He is loudmouthed, foulmouthed and seems to be perpetually wound up. While everybody likes a character, too much of them can become irritating. Stoney is now very irritating and his constant ravings only seem to show insecurity in his fighters ability to stay on top for much longer.

Ruiz goes into his April 30th matchup with James Toney as the champion on paper, but as a pretender in most people’s minds. There seems to be an almost overwhelming belief that if Ruiz is not allowed to follow his usual game plan of jabbing and grabbing that Toney will have too much for him and will become the new WBA Heavyweight champion of the world. But it wouldn’t do to dismiss Ruiz’s chances out of hand. Ruiz is tough and he is also a stiff puncher.

The suspicion still remains that Toney is a blown-up Super Middleweight and that he has not yet had to take a solid punch in the Heavyweight division. For Ruiz to gain any kind of respect amongst the fans, he really has to do a number on Toney and take him out cleanly, the earlier the better. Ruiz does have a chance, not only to win this fight but to also lay to rest some of the beliefs that surround him. He has to grab it with both hands, because if he doesn’t he will have no legacy to speak of and will be very quickly forgotten by anybody who follows the sport.

Article posted on 01.04.2005



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