40 Years Ago: “Razor” Ruddock Goes Pro And A Scintillating Up And Down Career Ensues

There is nothing like a huge, all-powerful puncher; especially a huge, all-powerful heavyweight puncher. Canadian terror Donovan Ruddock, better known as “Razor,” fit the bill. Ruddock, who had raw, savage power in his left hand – Razor’s celebrated weapon of choice being a hybrid left hook/left uppercut he lovingly named “The Smash” – left bodies in his wake even though he never reached the very top.

It was 40 years ago this month (March 20, 1982) when a 19-year-old Ruddock went pro. Ruddock was born in Jamaica in December of 1963 and he moved to Toronto at the age of 11. A natural athlete, Ruddock was soon attracted to boxing. Ruddock boxed at 165 pounds at amateur level and his talent, not to mention his ambition, was soon apparent. Coming off his good amateur career – the highlight later being recognized as a split points win over a certain Lennox Lewis (you remember, Lennox boxed for Canada too!) – Razor went looking for real gold.

Ruddock stopped a guy named Wes Rowe in the 4th round of a fight that was staged at the Columbus Event Centre, and his pro days had begun. Yet Ruddock’s early career failed to attract too much attention. Held to a draw by the majorly durable Phil Brown in his fifth fight, Ruddock was then beaten in his 11th fight. Tough trial-horse Dave Jaco withstood the early barrage and then made Ruddock quit on his stool after the eighth round in their April, 1985 fight.

It was discovered how Ruddock was suffering from a breathing problem and he was forced to take almost a year off. When he returned, armed with a clean bill of health the doctors had not predicted, Ruddock got busy scoring knockouts. Then, in August of 1986, Ruddock scored his biggest win to date, this being a points win over former heavyweight champ Mike Weaver.

From here on in, now boxing mostly in the US, it was up, up, and away for Razor.

Decent fighters like Larry Alexander, Ken Lakusta (in a return to Canada, for the Canadian title), Reggie Gross, and James Broad were taken care of, before Razor chopped up “Bonecrusher” Smith in July of ’89; with Razor getting up smiling from a heavy knockdown along the way to his 7th round KO win. Now a noted contender, Ruddock was about to enjoy his coming-out party.

Enter Michael Dokes and “The Smash.”

In April of 1990, fighting yet another former champ, this time at Madison Square Garden, a 26-year-old Ruddock unveiled his pet punch for the world to see. In the process, Ruddock darn near decapitated Dokes. Gil Clancy, doing commentary (and later, during the post-fight interviews, having to forcibly stop a jubilant Ruddock from snatching off his hairpiece; Gil taking it all in good spirits), stated how Ruddock was the best heavyweight prospect he had seen in years.

Razor was now hotter than fire.

A massive fight with heavyweight king Mike Tyson had been set for late 1989, only for Tyson to suffer an illness and be forced to pull out (going on to instead face Buster Douglas in his next fight), and now, in 1990, Ruddock was finding it tough to get a big name to face him. Utterly dangerous, as in lethal, Ruddock had scared off a number of potential foes. Then, in March of 1991, Tyson – by now an ex-champ – agreed to fight Ruddock. To his credit, Tyson fought one of his best fights.

Razor’s lethal weapon was no hit with Tyson, although the two put on a spirited rumble. And a controversial one. Ruddock hung tough with Tyson but he was stopped, most felt prematurely, in the 7th round. Richard Steele’s itchy trigger finger saw to it that the two power-punchers fought again.

In a hastily arranged return, Tyson, looking far less polished and interested as he had in the first fight, took some bombs, landed more, scored a couple of knockdowns, and eventually won a wide 12 round decision. Ruddock had shown a chin of steel yet he had paid a price in doing so. In his next big fight, this with Lewis, in a fight dubbed “The Fight For The Right,” as in the right to fight for the title, now held by Evander Holyfield, Razor was sensationally blunted inside two shocking rounds in London.

Lennox was the new heavyweight star.

And Ruddock had peaked; he had done all the big things he would ever do. Aside from a thrilling but losing shoot-out with Tommy Morrison in 1995 – and then a bizarre comeback in 2015, this at the age of 51 – Ruddock had made his headlines. Today, Ruddock has to be looked at as one of the best, most powerful heavyweights never to have won a world title.

Razor lit up the division for a while, and some of his KO’s still leave fans in awe today, yet he never went as far as he coulda/shoulda/woulda done.

Razor Ruddock: 40-6-1(30). Perhaps scored the most violent heavyweight KO of the 1990s.