Boxing

All Hail the Hero of Chelsea, Massachusetts - Valuev-Ruiz

13.12.05 - By Kevin Kincade: Everybody wants a hero. We need them. We need to believe there is somebody our there to look up to; a role model, an Alpha Male. It seems to be bred into our very DNA. Kings may be born; but somewhere in their lineage was a champion who conquered all others. I believe this is a trait we all share, regardless of your culture or heritage; it is a trait that binds us. In our myths and folk tales there are many such individuals: Heracles, Samson, King Arthur, William Wallace, John Henry, Batman, etc., etc. We want someone to root for, someone to admire, to aspire to emulate.

The sport of boxing lends itself to this cultural phenomenon more adequately than any other form of competition. In boxing, we have a plethora of personas with whom we can identify and for whom we can cheer. John L. Sullivan, the first Heavyweight Champion of the modern era was a national hero. He epitomized a man’s man: he drank hard and he fought hard; he rose from obscurity and conquered the world. We all want to believe we can do what John L. did; overcome all of the obstacles before us, rise up and be respected and noticed……”I AM SOMEBODY!”

Of course Sullivan does not own the market on cultural heroism. Ask any Panamanian who Roberto Duran is, ask Mexicans about Julio Caesar Chavez, go to Nicaragua and mention Alexis Arguello in passing, or visit Ghana and say the name Azumah Nelson. These men are more than fighters. They are heroes. This mentality, this emotional commitment is why Ricky Hatton has such a following in the British Isles, why Kostya Tszyu is so revered in both Russia and Australia, why so many hopes ride on the broad shoulders of Samuel Peter and why the Klitschko brothers have such passionate fans in Ukraine, Germany, and abroad.

Today, in the heavyweight division, the pickings are slim for the term “hero”. In fact, I’d say they are practically nil. Can you imagine downing a frosty brew in your favorite pub and overhearing some bar stool philosopher proclaiming, “I tell ya, they don’t make ‘em like that John Ruiz anymore! He’s Old School, a real man’s man! When God made him, He broke the mold!”?

……Well, if you do, make sure you tell him that‘s because the Almighty didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Now, while I seriously doubt your ears will ever witness such an event, in the slim case that they do, and you see a horned individual in an overcoat sitting next to him nodding in approval……get things in order for the Four Horsemen are on their way.

Now, that’s not to say John’s not a nice guy. From all accounts, he’s a real sweetheart of a fellow; but that doesn’t make him worthy of story and song. While good moral fiber is something worthy of praise, it’s not the stuff of legend……at least not by itself; actions are required. Besides, this is the Hurt-Business we’re talking about, here: Boxing. So far, John has managed to defeat an aged former champion Evander Holyfield (twice in my book), un-aspiring contender Kirk Johnson, perennial contender Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo, and current WBC titlist, Hasim Rahman; but he’s also the only Heavyweight Titlist to lose his belt not once, but twice, to former middleweight champions. And even when victorious most who witnessed were too busy catching up on some much needed sleep to appreciate the event. To endear himself to the fight public even more, he has decided to seek legal vindication against James Toney (the last middleweight to embarrass him) for all of the nasty things he said about him and for Toney’s alleged drug-enhanced “victory”, which further damaged Ruiz’s reputation and apparent marketability. What kind of sonnet can you write about those accomplishments?!

However, Fate is not without a sense of Irony. Johnny is now in the position of a biblical hero, David, facing off against a modern day Goliath, the 7-foot, 300-plus pound “Beast from the East”, Nicolai Valuev…..and nobody in “The Quiet Man’s” Homeland will be able to witness his Herculean Task. Will a win over Valuev restore Ruiz’ damaged reputation? It’s hard to say. Nobody this side of the Atlantic really knows anything about Nicolai other than the fact that he’s 42-0 and really, REALLY big. Can he fight? Well, he beat Larry Donald, Clifford Etienne, and Gerald Nobles for whatever that’s worth. One thing’s for sure, Johnny will be hard-pressed to incorporate his patented Jab-And-Clinch Style against this behemoth……not if he wants to win.

Now, I could be wrong; but Ruiz seems starving for public attention and adoration and ultimately frustrated with the opposite affect his career has had on the masses. He seems driven to impress; but woefully short on ammunition to complete the quest. Surely an impressive victory over this giant of a man from Russia will bring about some sort of praise…..if it’s an impressive victory. I suspect nothing short of a knock-out over the big man will satisfy Ruiz’s detractors. Out pointing this mysterious enigma that is Nicolai Valuev will only further fuel the fire for Johnny’s impeachment. While most would agree that Valuev is relatively untested as a fighter, even at 42-0; most would also agree a clean knock-out of a man of such huge proportions would be an extremely daunting task, especially for a fighter who has less than awesome punching power. Thus, such an achievement would be respected. Are you up to it, Johnny?

Don’t’ get me wrong. I’m not rooting for Ruiz or against Valuev. I am merely acknowledging the ONLY selling point for this match-up. Judging from ESB’s own “Slava” Koza’s interviews with Nicolai, he seems like a likable enough chap; and him winning a portion of the Heavyweight Crown would be a commendable and somewhat historic achievement. So, we know what a win would do for Nicolai; but would a win do ANYTHING for John Ruiz and his reputation as a fighter? Would he climb one step close to “hero” status…..at least in Chelsea? Would they write songs and poems about him? Okay, okay, I know! He’d have a very, VERY long way to go for that to happen; but………maybe, at least, if he wins impressively, we could honor him with a limerick, perhaps.

*Ahem*

All Hail the Hero of Chelsea, Mass

Who Knocked Goliath flat on his…….


Johnny, can you complete the lyrics? The world awaits……..well, at least Chelsea.


Questions or Comments: kevin.kincade@citcomm.com

Article posted on 13.12.2005



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