John Ruiz: Perfecting The Art Of Winning Ugly

25.04.05 - By Matthew Hurley: With his fight against James Toney fast approaching WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz is well aware of his egregious reputation among boxing fans, writers and broadcasters. But the "Quietman's" response to all the criticism leveled at him is little more than a wink and a nod. "They can say all they want, but I'm still here. I'm still winning and I plan on winning against Toney." Indeed the lack of respect Ruiz is forced to endure is a bit of a puzzle, at least on paper.. He has beaten Evander Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Fres Oquendo, Hasim Rahman and Andrew Golota but it is not his winning percentage that drives people to distraction; it's his style, a fistic clutch and grab that turns nearly every bout into an ugly dance of tedium. He may well be the most artistically unappealing heavyweight champion to watch in the history of prize fighting. But he keeps on winning.

There hasn't been a fighter in recent memory that has so alienated himself from boxing fans and Ruiz has resigned himself to the fact that he will never be accorded the adulation of the crowd. However, that very dismissive attitude towards his style and skill only fuels his desire to continue to beat fighters, like James Toney, who he is not supposed to defeat.

It's that very frustrating but bruising, deliberate approach to his profession that completely throws his opponents' game plan out the window and leaves them at a loss as to what they should do with this guy. Rounds go by and Ruiz slowly demoralizes his opponents, wearing them down and piling up points. The fans may boo and fighters like Rahman, a dangerous fighter and WBC champion Vitali Klitschko's next opponent, may look up to the heavens in complete exasperation, while Ruiz walks away with a win, good money and future big pay days that will pad his bank account.

"My main thing," he says, "is to go out there and win. That is what boxing is. You go out there and you fight and you win. It is not about looking pretty."

Still, the constant criticism does get under his skin. Instead of changing his style, however, he remains adamant in continuing to fight the way he does because it has simply proven successful. As for defending himself verbally from all the abuse he leaves that trash talking to his foul mouthed, over-the-top manager Norman Stone. In fact, if there is a personality in boxing more reviled than Ruiz it is Stone. But Stone, like his charge, couldn't care less.

"They can all hate me and they can all go to hell as far as I'm concerned," he says unapologetically. "My job is to be there for Johnny no matter what. If that means getting thrown out of a fight by a referee (as he did in the Golota bout) I will."

Stone has so incensed people that Larry Merchant opined after Ruiz's loss to Roy Jones, "At least we won't have to deal with Norman Stone anymore." Well, Merchant was wrong and the tandem of Ruiz and Stone is back and they don't plan on leaving any time soon.

"I feel like in each fight since the Jones fight, I improved myself each time," Ruiz says. "I am trying to pick up more, throw punches and stuff like that. But sometimes in the heavyweight division it is nothing new to basically try to bull the other person. Sometimes you grab them to show them you're stronger. You make them think that this guy is pretty strong. It breaks them down mentally."

James Toney is not a fighter who loses his cool inside the ring. Outside the ropes the volatile Toney sometimes seems out of control but his approach to his craft is one of tight discipline and execution. Toney will not be intimidated by Ruiz's mauling tactics. But how will he counteract them? He seems to believe that Ruiz fights as he does to compensate for a shaky chin. John dismisses this notion.

"He can say he is going to knock me out or whatever," he replies. "He is a durable guy and I am a durable guy. You're going to see a tough fight where one guy is going to end up being on the mat."

His critics are hoping that it will be Ruiz who winds up on the canvas but they may well all end shaking their heads in disbelief if once again Ruiz's gloved fist is raised in victory. He has defied expectations before and don't be surprised if he does it again. John Ruiz may not be pretty to watch, but he is damn hard to beat and if for nothing else you have to respect him for that.

Article posted on 25.04.2005

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