31.03.04 – By Carlos “Stiff-Jab” Kalinchuk – This past weekend I popped in one of my favorite movies, The Count Of Monte Cristo. Like any great literary prose, Hollywood took a stab at recreating Alexandre Dumas’ epic tale with James Caviezel (The Passion Of The Christ) playing the lead role. Although I am no Roger Ebert or Larry King, I believe unlike most book adaptations, they really succeeded in bringing Dumas story to life.
After Guinn’s defeat this weekend I began to look at the upcoming schedule of up-coming heavyweight fights and like the over-done Terminator Series, I saw John Ruiz’s name again staring back at me. Perhaps it was subliminal but like the movie I was watching where Caviezel (Edmund Dantes) disappears to jail for fourteen years until he escapes, I began to think…”Who would I love to see disappear in boxing?” One name was at the forefront of my mind and that was John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz.
Why John Ruiz you ask? The answer is simple; the man has no skills. “Yes” he has recorded a win against Holyfield. “Yes” they fought 3 times but as anyone without cataracts will attest, their trilogy was the antithesis of what Gatti-Ward or Ali-Frazier was. Their series was a lesson in boredom and exhaustion for 36 very long rounds. As they would flash the time left throughout each round, I found myself saying, they have that much time left?!!! I didn’t know who was more tired after all three fights, them or me. The only fireworks in 36 rounds were when Holyfield went down momentarily in their second fight. Except for that flash knockdown, I couldn’t wait for each fight to end. It was paint-drying, grass growing, and reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible all at once; BORING. His subsequent fights have been just as bad.
His fight with Kirk Johnson was one of the worst pugilistic displays in the history of professional prize fighting. Johnson punched low at times but many times as the re-play showed, the punch was not always low. Oftentimes he fell in pain only to find out that the replay showed no low blow whatsoever. To further add insult to injury, Ruiz himself held and rabbit punched his way until Joe Cortez disqualified Johnson of all things on…you guessed it, a low blow. The last low blow was legit but so many before were not. Ruiz’s fight with Jones was not so much a display of Jones greatness in my book, but more of a case for how bad Ruiz really is. His fight with Rahman was filled with more holding than two lovers saying goodbye at the airport. It was awful. And now he’s rewarded with another fight on HBO PPV for his efforts????? Is the Heavyweight Division so weak and uninspired that this is the only opponent they could find for Oquendo? Personally, I don’t think so.
Oquendo would have brought out a crowd even though he “hot dogs it” many times in the ring and as a result, he has paid for it with two losses. One, a KO loss to Tua after beating Tua to the punch in every single round and then the most questionable cards boxing has seen in quite some time against Byrd. Questionable cards notwithstanding how could HBO PPV or anyone else for that matter try and sell this fight to fans? That answer is simple, they really didn’t. They just packaged it along with a whole bunch of other fights the public was MORE willing to pay for. Don Kings’ salesmanship didn’t seem to hurt either as some HBO executive obviously bought into this farce of co-headlining Ruiz on this otherwise seemingly interesting card. All I have to say is that someone got sold a bill of goods and just like that, he’s one of the showcased fights staring on HBO PPV on April 17. In reality, Don King and Ruiz’s Manager Norman “Stoney” Stone must be given the credit for this one. Stone didn’t even have to get beaten up in promoting this fight like he did for the Jones Jr. pre-fight press conference! But, it’s still early so don’t hold you breath! Being the showman he is, and realizing his fighter had no marketable attributes other than he’s a heavyweight with a Spanish sir name, Stone took a verbal sparring session with team Jones too far and it resulted in him being carried out on a stretcher. Ruiz couldn’t sell himself if he wanted to! Again Stone and King have taken the most un-skilled pseudo former Champion in the History of the Heavyweight division and they’ve hoodwinked and bamboozled HBO into showcasing this fighter. WOW! Now those are selling skills even the ”Don” (Trump) would admire! My suggestion to every unskilled Heavyweight Latino fighter with a blown up record is this…”sign up with King and Stone and you too, might be able to make a living off of fighting like a chump!” All they need now is a poster with King dressed up as Uncle Sam and they might be onto something.
Ruiz’s moniker is even worse. What a joke! What happened to names like; The Executioner, The Warrior, Two Guns, The Hit man, and so on? Even his moniker “The Quiet Man” decries a man with no passion for his craft. In basketball, Tim Duncan has a focus and intensity that make him quiet when he plays, but he’s one of the best there is; a champion in fact. Again focus and intensity are the key words here. In Ruiz’s case we have a man who’s quiet because he has nothing to say nor does he have the boxing skills or passion to back it up.
In fact, many people have said that Ruiz’s stock in boxing has largely depended on the fact that he’s Latino. The man doesn’t even speak Spanish and he was born in Massachusetts! Does where he was born, whether he speaks Spanish, or his stupid moniker determine his worth? NO. Not one bit. I repeat, NOT ONE BIT. But he’s being paraded in front of the Latin community as if he was one of us and I take it more as in insult. The last time he probably spoke Spanish was at the take out line at Taco Bell. I can see it now, “Yes I’ll have one of them chalupas.” No he doesn’t have speak Spanish or die on his sword like a Vargas, fight and box like a DelaHoya, or have the technical skill of Cotto but Latino boxers fight with pride whatever their style. The man fights with no passion or the fury of his predecessors or his countrymen (of which he is not.) I have never heard a person of any nationality discredit the way Latinos fight. In fact on a recent interview I did with an African American trainer and former middleweight Champion here in Houston, he said, Latinos are tough, “Every time you face one, you know you’re in for a war whether they are boxers or punchers.”
For the record, Ruiz is neither. He’s a clincher. If clinching were a style, he’s verifiably created one on his own. The man throws purposeful left jabs to his opponents’ right, hooks his glove behind his opponents’ head and then holds on in every single one of his fights. Now repeat this a thousand times and that’s exactly what he does. His other tactic is to slide to his opponents right, stick out his left and try and hold his opponents right bicep and shoulder while sliding to his opponents right and then holding. Again, this is something that anyone can see. These are not boxing skills. The man has NO SKILLS! So, nationality and whatever I think about his stupid moniker aside, let’s simply judge him on what’s he’s given us. Except for his 10 seconds with Holyfield in fight number two, we’ve been treated to 70 rounds of junk from Ruiz and HBO! So again, let’s finally give credit to where it truly lies and that’s Team Ruiz. They’ve turned Ruiz efforts into money for themselves and their fighter (if you want to call him that) and that is their job.
In closing, after his fight with Johnson, Ruiz said that he was considering quitting because he doesn’t get respect from the public and media. I wonder why? Perhaps HBO PPV wasn’t listening but the message was loud and clear-please quit, you’re no good! Now if HBO PPV were only listening, we’d have another fighter facing Oquendo. It can be said, and has been by many boxing circles that HBO controls boxing. As a result, they could have shot this fight down immediately. Too bad for boxing and the fans, when Ruiz considered leaving boxing, only he was listening to the fans. If you haven’t seen the Count of Monte Cristo, I won’t ruin it for you, but towards the end, Edmund Dantes (James Caviezel) elects to show mercy on his main antagonist. He allows him to leave unharmed when he could have killed his nemesis for the fourteen years of torture and pain he endured while in jail. The story doesn’t end there but Dantes shows mercy nonetheless. Ruiz should take a page out of this book and he should show the fight fans some mercy and quit for good. On the other hand, the message to HBO should be, Ruiz has no skills and he is not appealing to watch so stop show casing him! Then and only then, will they give the Heavyweight Division a chance to endear itself to the public since Lewis’s departure. Until that time, as Tony Soprano would say, “Fuggetabout-it!” The Promised land of the Heavyweight Division will only show marginal success until someone truly steps forward and dominates the division. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later. It could be Vitaly, but then again, until the landscape develops no one knows for sure but he looks like the anchor to keep the ship steady. Unlike many, I think it can be an exciting time in the division just as long as the fights are competitive and interesting. To this point, whether you hate Mesi or like Guinn, they have been competitive and interesting in 2004. Neither have stepped forward either so that is disheartening in itself but it’s still early. We do know however that Ruiz has no talent and for that reason alone, HBO should be embarrassed. Let’s hope Oquendo takes him out and he disappears!
Carlos “Stiff-Jab” Kalinchuk
Contributing Writer & Photographer