The Jones-Ruiz Fight and Where it Ranks Historically

by B. R. Bearden

As we all wait to see how Roy Jones Jr. will get out of fighting John Ruiz, we have to wonder at the historical significance if this fight should happen. How important a fight is it? What does it really mean for Roy's legacy? Where must it be ranked among the great clashes between light heavyweights and heavyweights? Does it rank at all or is it just rank?

Max Kellerman (who I respect but often disagree with) thinks if Roy should beat Ruiz it will put him off the scale as a light heavyweight champion, elevating him to some dizzying height never before achieved by a light heavy. I have to say, hold on there, Max, before we start worshipping golden bulls let's wait and see what Moses brings down off the mountain. It just might be Roy doesn't deserve deity-hood based on fighting John Ruiz, whether he wins or loses. What's on those stone tablets of boxing history as they relate to the light heavyweight division?

Perhaps the view is skewed because of a faulty perception of Roy's accomplishments. First off, Roy is one of the most timid light heavyweight champions of all time. He needs ten rounds to take out guys who have day jobs, for crying out loud. He has to be the poster child for underachievers world wide. His fans like to point out his immense natural talent and I agree, he is very talented. Reluctant Roy looks very impressive against his second and third tier opposition. We don't know how he'd look against Michalczewski, Jirov, or the current version of Hopkins because Roy avoids getting in the ring with them as stubbornly as the rest of us would avoid cannon-balling into a swimming pool full of piranhas. But against much lesser challengers, his skills glow like a bug-zapper running on a 10,000 volt line.

The question is, how impressed should we be with the kingdom Roy rules? It's not just a weak division, it's downright anemic when half the guys making up the various top ten listings are working day jobs. So, is tilting at windmills really an accurate measure of the fighting prowess of a knight, much less a king? Or as the old saying goes, "in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king". Pity those who think the one eyed man also has the best depth perception in the history of kings. And that's where I have to disagree completely with Max. Even if Roy beats Ruiz, so what?

Let's face it, John Ruiz will never grace anyone's Top Ten heavyweights of all time list. He also will get excluded from any Top Twenty. In fact, even should he make a Top Thirty list it is probably a typo. He's worthy of being a current top ten contender, just like a couple hundred other top ten contenders over the last 100 or so years. Ruiz is rough and tough, but he's more a hugger than a slugger, leading to clinch infested fights that would bore the hell out of house plants.

Say Roy beats him (which I'm don't think will happen in a fight I don't think will happen). But what if he does actually fight Ruiz and gets a win over a heavyweight who is dismissed from stem to stern as a non-champion. We all know the heavyweight champion of the world is Lennox Lewis, just as we know the #1 contender is Wladimir Klitschko. Anyone else called heavyweight champion of the world is just the wet dream of some ABC sanctioning body. But Roy Jones is impressed with anyone who hands out belts, whether it's the WBA, WBO, or the local county fair livestock show. And he will proudly drape himself in a tangle of belts at every opportunity, even at a time when many true champions are dumping or refusing those same belts. Even Roy fan Max Kellerman is stating every Friday night how worthless those belts have become and the only true rankings are by Ring magazine.

So, back to that perspective thing. Ruiz is ranked #5 by the only worthwhile ranking authority, Ring magazine. If Roy should win, he's still only beating the #5 contender for the real heavyweight championship. Of course, Roy will crow like one of his game cocks and try to make it more significant than Frazier beating Ali, but real boxing fans should know better. And we should be the ones to decide where such a victory places Roy. Obviously, somewhere less than the pugilistic pedestal Max Kellerman would have us believe is reserved just for Roy. A win would only give Roy the opportunity to duck and dodge legitimate challengers in two divisions. Wow wee, what a great time to be a boxing fan should that happen!

But back on planet Earth, in a quaint little town named "Reality", let's take a look at what such an achievement means. First, it's not such a great accomplishment for a light heavyweight to beat a heavyweight contender. Max the historian should know it's been done many times against better fighters than John Ruiz. For those who either don't know boxing history, or are willing to ignore it when it contradicts the theories of a flat earth and a great Roy Jones, here's a short stroll down the tunnel of time.

Tommy Loughran (career 1919-1937) beat Georges Carpentier, who was ranked high enough to get a title shot at Dempsey. He also beat Jimmy Braddock and Max Baer, two future heavyweight champions. And before someone points out how big Ruiz is compared to Roy, consider that Baer was 6' 2 ½" and 215 pounds and Braddock was 6' 3". Loughran also fought Primo Carnera, 6' 5 ½" and 270 or so pounds, though he lost the 15 round decision. Tommy Loughran was only 5' 11" and never in his career weighed more than 192 pounds.

Joe Choynski (career 1888-1904), who never topped 172 pounds and usually fought in the upper 160s, battled several top heavyweights, including Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Corbett, Tom Sharkey, and Jack Johnson. He knocked Johnson out in 3 rounds. And I'm not talking about past-prime Johnson, but the 23 year old, strong as a bull, version. Thirty-three year old Choynski was at the tail end of his career.

Maxie Rosenbloom (1923-1939) at 5' 11" beat 6' 3" future champion Jimmy Braddock. Maxie had no punch but he was a great boxer who would win most of his fights on points.

Billy Conn (1934-1948) was 6' tall and all of 169 pounds when he stepped into the ring with Joe Louis, arguably greatest of all heavyweight champions, who was 6' 1 ½", 199 pounds for the fight. Should someone point out that Ruiz is bigger than Louis, there are two responses; first, Roy is bigger than Conn and will probably step into the ring in the 190s, and two, it was Joe Louis. I'll take Louis over Ruiz any day and spot you the extra 30 pounds and ½" in height.

We have light heavyweight champion Bob Foster (1961-1978) to consider. He fought many heavyweights during one of boxing's richest heavyweight eras and beat most of them. He did lose to Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, but he didn' t lose to anyone with the limited skills of John Ruiz. At 6' 3" Foster was a tall light heavyweight, but his frame was that of a true light heavy. He came in at 188 for Frazier and 180 for Ali, who was 221 for the fight. That' s a 41 pound advantage to a fighter many consider the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. Does Roy fighting Ruiz really seem like such a great fight in comparison?

There's Harold Johnson (1946-1971), a 5' 10" light heavy who fought (and lost to) Jersey Joe Walcott before that late-bloomer became heavyweight champion. But he did manage to beat some top ranked heavyweights, including #4 ranked Clarence Henry, #1 ranked Nino Valdez, #4 ranked Jimmy Slade, and top ten ranked Eddie Machen and Doug Jones. Machen had lasted the full 12 rounds with Sonny Liston and Jones went the 10 round distance with Ali.

Of course, no light heavyweight campaigned more often or more successfully among the heavyweight than Archie Moore (1936-1963). At 5' 11" the amazing Archie took on any and all heavyweights he could coax into the ring. He lost to Marciano, Patterson, and Ali, but those were his only loses to heavyweights, a class he challenged at least 25 times. He beat Bob Dunlap twice (#6), Nino Valdez twice (#1), Clarence Henry (#4), and Bob Baker (#2) all while they were ranked as top ten contenders. As far as size differences go, Baker was 6'2" 214 pounds, Clarence Henry was 6'1", and Valdez 6'3" 210 pounds. And their records, respectively, were 34-4-1, 32-3-1, and 22-5-2 when they stepped in with Moore. Ruiz is 6'2" and will be 38-4-1 IF the Jones fight happens.

Ezzard Charles (1940-1959) was never light heavyweight champion, but he owned the division in everything but title. He beat Joey Maxim 5 times and Archie Moore 3 times before moving up to fight as a heavyweight. He would eventually become heavyweight champion, winning the title from an aging Joe Louis but losing it to Walcott in their third meeting. He fought Jersey Joe once more and lost twice to Marciano in bids to regain the crown.

There's a common thread with these great light heavyweights, too. While they also moved up to take on heavyweights as Jones claims he will do in a few months, they did so without leaving a legitimate light heavyweight contender unfought. There was no Michalczewski during the reign of Loughran, Moore, Johnson, Foster, etc. who was ranked #1 but never met in the ring.

Apologist for Roy Jones will point out that there's a bigger size gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight today, and while that may be true in some instances, the quality of heavyweights is much lower as well. And that gap has been filled by the cruiserweight division, which remains
untapped by the great Roy Jones. While his fans claim he has no tough challengers at light heavy (except Michalczewski the much avoided) they ignore the fact that Roy himself backed down from cruiser champion Jirov after calling him out. Does anyone doubt that Archie Moore would have sailed
to Germany to fight Michalczewski? He went to Australia and South America to fight men just as tough for a lot less money. Would Bob Foster or Harold Johnson have challenged Jirov and then weasled out once the cruiser champ agreed to fight? Not likely.

The other oft repeated apology for Roy is that he's not a natural light heavyweight. The assertion is he's really a super middleweight who has courageously held his own against the bigger, stronger, security guards and sanitation workers who grace the light heavy scene when they can get time off from work. Look, Roy's been fighting as a light heavyweight since 1996. His fans say he's always in shape; Roy says he walks around in the 190s, so one assumes the other. He's in shape at 190. He trains down to make the 175 limit for his "defenses" but comes into the ring in the 180s. Folks, that's a light heavyweight. To put it simpler, if a woman was size 3 in 1995, but has been buying dresses off the size 5 rack for the past 6 years, and has to diet to squeeze into them, she's a size 5. And Roy's a light heavyweight, not a super middleweight. So, Roy fans, don't panic should Roy turn to you and suddenly ask, "Do I look fat?" Take a deep breath, compose yourselves, and reply, "Not at all. You look just right for a light heavyweight."

Let's say Roy actually does fight Ruiz. That alone is a significant break from his usual habit of calling out top fighters but never actually fighting them. I believe one of his ABC belt providers will come through for Roy and demand he fight a mandatory, which he will "reluctantly" agree to do. The Ruiz fight will be put aside "for now" but it will end up filed away with the Hopkins and Jirov fights under "Ain't Never Gonna Happen".

But say they fight, and Ruiz doesn't rough Roy up enough to win the decision. Instead, Jones wins in a track meet masquerading as a boxing match. Where does that put us? Besides the insufferable bragging he'll then inflict upon us while claiming he's heavyweight champion of the world, we'll also have to hear Kellerman tell us that it places Jones "on another level", some mythical top shelf that excludes such also-rans as Foster, Moore, and Conn. After all, Jones beat a heavyweight "champion", while they all failed in their title shots. Of course they lost to Louis, Marciano, Frazier, and Ali while Roy beat Ruiz, which isn't quite like comparing apples and oranges. It's more like comparing Grade A Macintosh apples to generic brand apple sauce.

Here's the reality check; all Jones will have beaten is the #5 ranked heavyweight contender, bogus belts aside, and Foster, Moore, Loughran, Johnson, and company did that repeatedly. Sorry Roy, it's been done before against better heavyweights by more worthy light heavyweight champions.

Also, when the great light heavyweights fought contenders or pretenders to the heavyweight throne it was with an eye to a future match against the real heavyweight champion. Not so with Roy Jones; his goal is the pretender.

So let's all step back from that gold plated bovine and have Moses read off the accomplishments of light heavyweights before we place Roy "on another level". What's that commandment there say? "Thou shall not shuck and jive and chicken-strut thy way ahead of the great fighters who went before based on fighting one #5 ranked non-champion with a gaudy belt".

Can I get an Amen?


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