Where is the Love For John Ruiz?

15.12.05 - By Kevin Kincade: Whoa, whoa whoa!! Hold up before your bring out the torches and pitchforks! This is not necessarily a pro-Ruiz article, just an examination of the human verbal-piñata who holds the WBA strap at the moment. A few days ago I wrote a light-hearted piece entitled “All Hail the Hero of Chelsea, Massachusetts” and have the distinct feeling it confused some people…..especially those who know how I’ve ripped on Johnny-Boy time and time again. This article is part explanation, part examination, and part excavation. Why is John Ruiz so reviled? Why do people, such as myself, take great glee in spouting off about how much of a bum he is, etc. etc.?

When I originally sat down to write about the upcoming Ruiz-Valuev fight this weekend, I truthfully didn’t know where to begin.

Admittedly, I know no more that you and less than some of you about Nicolai Valuev. And, like 90% of you, cringe at the mere mention of the name John Ruiz. Then I got to thinking….Why is that? He’s done nothing to me personally. He’s never gone to prison or mugged little old ladies, or beaten up his girl friends or wife. What has he done to arouse such a negative response from myself and others? Then it hit me…’s about definitions. Huh? Hold on, I’ll explain.

Out of the people who hate John Ruiz, 85% or so will say it’s because of his style of fighting, which is as boring as watching grass grow, while the other 15% will say it’s his style and the “lack of class” he’s has shown on occasion. Examples would be his blaming the referee for his loss to Roy Jones Jr. and vehement denial that he did anything to contribute to his loss. Another example would be his post-fight actions towards James Toney, who had belittled him incessantly leading up to and immediately after the contest. Funny how no one chides Toney for his behavior; but most are quick to pounce on Johnny for his retaliation. Is this a “pack mentality” or something else?

Well, let’s examine the issue of his style, first. Now, I confess I’d rather douse a paper cut with lemon juice while listening to someone scrape their fingernails across a black board than sit through a John Ruiz fight; but what has my liking or disliking his style really got to do with anything? Jab and Grab, Jab and Grab, Jab and Grab……..”AHHHHHHHH!!! FIGHT FOR GAWD’S SAKE!!!” Sound familiar? Now, the question is who is right and who is wrong….is there a right and wrong? The answer is no one and no. John fights the way he fights because it works. Isn’t the name of the game, winning? Sure, being a crowd pleasing fighter will get you matches and potentially boost your purse; but if you lose every time you step into the ring, that’s not going to help much, now is it?

Many moons ago, Johnny fought another young contender named David Tua on HBO’s Boxing After Dark……for all of 19 Seconds. How many fighters can you name who could have suffered that kind of devastation and reemerge as not only a contender; but a belt-holder? I can’t think of any. For those who have never been KTFO, that takes a helluva lot of determination and grit. Anybody could have given up after an embarrassing showing like that; but not Johnny. Oh no; he went back to the drawing board, revamped his style so as to minimize his chances of being blitzed like that again, and climbed back in the ring, steadily working his way up to number 1 contender status…….that takes determination, grit, and, more importantly, intellect. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks; but Johnny forced himself to alter his style to a minimum risk approach, that gave him the advantage over his opposition. It wasn’t pretty; but it was pretty damn effective. After wins over perennial contenders Jimmy Thunder and Tony Tucker and winning the NABF Belt by stopping Mario Cawley….there he was, first in line for a shot at the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion, Lennox Lewis. Wah-laa….comeback complete.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to vindication…..Lewis abdicated the WBA belt to pursue a higher profile match with Michael Grant. As a result, Ruiz got to face off against former champ Evander Holyfield for the vacant belt and consequentially got the short end of the scorecards. Many, this writer included, felt that he got shafted and that an immediate rematch was in order. Given a second chance and Commander Vander, Ruiz left no doubt in the minds of the judges, dropping Holyfield on his way to a unanimous decision over the aging former champ. As you know, they fought one more time to be sure and the bout was scored a draw; but Ruiz was now the owner of the oldest of the three belts and had a high profile match in front of him in the person of the Great Roy Jones Jr.

The Jones fight, in particular, soured me on John Ruiz. Up until that bout I had looked at his style as annoying; but figured it wasn’t really my business how a guy chose to present himself in the ring. What torqued me specifically about that contest was the way Johnny handled himself in defeat. Maybe he was following Norman Stone’s advice regarding “how to deal with the press”, who knows; but it left a real bad taste in my mouth. Jones had just soundly outboxed him…..SOUNDLY….and the schmuck couldn’t give the smaller man, who had just re-wrote history ANY credit…NONE! THAT pissed me off! Everybody loses eventually and, in my mind, what defines a man is HOW he loses. John, to my way of thinking, handled it miserably.

What has Ruiz done since Jones? Well, for starters, his very next match was against former undisputed and current WBC Heavyweight Champion Hasim Rahman. At the time of the fight, Rock was coming off a draw with David Tua, a technical decision loss to Evander Holyfield, and a flat out KNOCK-OUT loss to Lennox Lewis. Both men were looking to fight there way back into the limelight and another shot at the big Kahuna. After everybody woke up, we found out that Ruiz had won again and was, once again, in line for a shot at the WBA title. His number 1 contender status ended up getting him his old belt on a silver platter when Jones moved back down to Light-Heavyweight; John was a champion of sorts, once again.

After Rahman, Ruiz faced and defeated Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota, who had just drawn in a fight with IBF title-holder, Chris Byrd. The Foul Pole dropped Ruiz twice in the 12-round contest; but somehow, Johnny escaped with a decision. Now, that’s not to say he didn’t earn it; but I’ve read several accounts to the contrary. Personally, I think Johnny did enough to win the fight. Following the victory over Golota, Ruiz signed to fight former Middleweight, Super-Middleweight and Cruiserweight champion, James Toney. Personally speaking, in my opinion, James Toney had not done enough to earn a shot at the belt; but the public was clamoring for such a showdown due to James’ exciting win over then-Cruiserweight Champion Vasiliy Jirov and his equally fine performance over an ancient Evander Holyfiled, in which he became only the second person to ever stop the former champ. In a nutshell, people wanted to see the fight and when there’s a buzz, you sign for the match. Johnny did and Johnny lost. That is until Toney tested positive for an illegal substance and the bout was ruled a no-contest, giving Johnny-Boy his belt back……which brings us up to speed.

People can argue all they want about the Ruiz-Valuev fight not being televised in the U.S; but the fact of the matter is….or at least my opinion is…..John Ruiz did it to himself. All of those lack-luster, uninspiring performances, post loss attitudes, and his lawsuit against Toney has contributed to John being exiled from public view. The irony is more people want to see this fight than any fight other than the Jones and Toney affairs. And the truth is, I’m right there with them, partly because I want to see John knocked out of boxing; but partly, oddly enough, because I want to see if John can rise to the occasion.

I’ve read mixed accounts of Valuev’s fistic ability; but the truth is the man is freakishly huge. In addition to his gargantuan size and undefeated record, he’s really big (no pun intended) in Germany; and this fight will be taking place in Max Schmeling Arena in Berlin. Securing a win over a fan favorite in his own backyard is no easy task; and surely no less daunting an assignment than was levied out for Lamon Brewster when he fought Luan Krasniqi a few months ago. Can John Ruiz do it? Granted, I seriously doubt Valuev is anywhere near as accomplished a boxer as Krasniqi; but Ruiz can’t punch as hard as Brewster either and from all accounts, the Giant has a chin of granite. This is far from a gimme fight.

John Ruiz has taken on all-comers, turning no one away since he first fastened that strap around his waste. Does not such commitment to taking on the best warrant our respect, regardless of what we think about how he goes about his craft? The same can not be said about many who have held the distinction of World Champion, as I’m sure you know. Like him or Hate him, John has been at the top of the division for over five years, now. How many would be prospects and potential prospects have come and gone in the same length of time? Where’s Michael Grant these days or Dominick Guinn or David Tua? Two are scraping the bottom of the barrel and the third, the one who knocked out Johnny in less than half a minute, is trying to re-establish himself at the tender age of 33. John Ruiz is tenacious, if nothing else. And, like him or not, Lennox Lewis saw some reason not to fight him when he had the chance. Lewis had just unified the Heavyweight Championship and no sooner had he put the strap on than he gave it up rather than face “The Quiet Man”. Was it just to take a bigger purse against Grant, or was there some other reason? No, I’m not suggesting John would have beaten Lewis or that Lennox was scared of Johnny; but the match didn’t happen, did it? Hypothetically speaking, Lewis could have made his “easy” mandatory against Ruiz and still picked Grant off for the big bucks…..but he didn’t’ do that; Lennox made a conscious decision not to fight John. Mike Tyson was criticized for doing that very same thing to Lewis when he won the WBC belt and gave it up, yet no one cared to chastise Lewis for doing what was done to him…..Why? These are things I think about.

The bottom line is this. Johnny’s style IS boring; but it IS effective. It works…he wins; and that is what the game is all about: WINNING. Did he beat Toney? No, Toney beat himself; but that’s not Johnny’s fault, now is it. John Ruiz has never said no to a challenger. Challengers and champions and promoters have said “No” to him. John Ruiz issued a challenge to the now retired Vitali Klitschko; but I don’t recall “Dr. Iron Fist” opening the door when Johnny came knocking. Will Ruiz be any more respected after he defeats “The Giant Russian”? In a word, no; but I imagine Johnny’s used to it by now. So keep on dissing him, keep on putting him down, bad-mouthing him. It’s easy enough to do and you’ll be in good company. Beating up on Johnny outside the ring is a sport in itself. It’s beating him up inside the ring that’s the challenge.

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Article posted on 16.12.2005

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