Second time around sweeter for John Ruiz

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26.02.04 – Two-time World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John “The Quietman” Ruiz (39-5-1, 27 KOs) feels the second time around as world champion is even sweeter than the first. “The first time was a dream come true,” Ruiz said from his Las Vegas training camp, “but I didn’t realize how much the title belt really meant to me until I lost it. Winning it a second time added validity to my title. You don’t win the world heavyweight championship twice by accident. It takes hard work, sacrifices, and a great team in your corner.”

Without any high-profile connections in his corner, Ruiz stayed with longtime manager Norman “Stoney” Stone, as well as several people from the Somerville Boxing Club (MA) where he fought as an amateur, and shocked the boxing world by capturing (12-round decision) the WBA heavyweight title March 3, 2001 from former undisputed world champ and future Hall of Fame member Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield. Ruiz became the first world heavyweight champion of Latino heritage.

He retained the WBA belt by fighting a 12-round draw with Holyfield (Dec. 15, 2001) and successfully defended his crown July 27, 2002, defeating unbeaten and No. 1 contender Kirk Johnson by 10th round disqualification, which robbed John of what seemed like a sure knockout.

Ruiz, suffering from personal problems that adversely affected his performance, lost the title March 1, 2003 by 12-round decision to another future Hall of Famer, Roy Jones, Jr.

“I had a bad night,” John described his fight against Jones. “I regrouped and took advantage of an opportunity to fight (Hasim) Rahman for the Interim title. I wanted another chance against Jones, but he didn’t want to fight me, and gave up the belt. I’m happy Interim is gone and I’m the WBA heavyweight champion again.”

This past Dec. 13 Ruiz won a 12-round decision from Rahman, the No 1 contender and former WBC & IBF title-holder. Jones officially relinquished his belt February 20.

Ruiz’ head trainer for a decade, Gabe LaMarca, retired after the loss to Jones. Team Ruiz considered bringing in a “name” trainer, but John decided he wanted to keep it within his boxing family. “Stoney” was selected “Manager of the Year” for guiding Ruiz to the WBA title the first time. Despite leaving themselves open to critics if Rahman won, Stoney, also Ruiz’ cutman, added the responsibilities of head trainer against Rahman, and increased the roles of the other cornermen – Bobby Covino, (brother) Eddie Ruiz, Alex Rivera and Bryan Stone.

“John was comfortable with everybody and confident of what each brings to his corner,” Stone remarked. “He didn’t want to bring in an outsider. We have a family, a world championship family for the second time. We’re very tight. How sweet is this? John’s world champion again, it doesn’t get any batter than that. He did it with me as his manager, now as his head trainer.”

Team Ruiz has set up training camp in Las Vegas as John prepares to defend his world title April 17 against Fres Oquendo at a site TBA.