Ruiz-Golota: One Can’t and One Won’t

04.08.04 – By Frank – Two time WBA Heavyweight Champ John Ruiz 40-5-1 (28) will defend his title against two time title challenger Andrew Golota 38-4-1 (31) on November 13th. The site where the fight will be held has yet to be determined. Golota, ranked 5th by the WBA and Ruiz are both promoted by Don King. Both last fought on April 17th at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Ruiz stopped Fres Oquendo in the 11th round, while Golota fought IBF Heavyweight Champ Chris Byrd to a draw.

The Ruiz-Golota fight features two of the top Heavyweights in the World. Both Ruiz and Golota seem like the fighters who won’t go away. It seems just when you think they’ve suffered a major set back and they’re gone, their back. When Ruiz lost his WBA title, by a lopsided decision to Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champ Roy Jones, many thought they saw the last of him. The same applies to Golota. When he quit on his stool between the second and third rounds of his fight with Mike Tyson, we all thought he was finished. Yet here they are set to fight for Ruiz’s WBA title later this year.

Ruiz and Golota also share something that they’d like to erase. They are both best known for suffering some humiliating loses in front of a National audience. When John Ruiz is mentioned, most probably think of two fights. The first one is his 19 second knockout loss to hard punching David Tua. His other memorable defeat came against Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champ Roy Jones. In his fight with Jones, Ruiz was clearly out boxed and fought over 12 rounds, winning only one round at best.

When Andrew Golota is mentioned, a few fights come to mind. He was disqualified twice for low blows against Riddick Bowe, despite leading in both fights. After the second Bowe fight, he was knocked out in the first round by Heavyweight Champ Lennox Lewis. Two years later he fought Heavyweight prospect Michael Grant. Golota had Grant down twice in the first round and was leading after 9 rounds. In the 10th round Grant put Golota down, Golota beat the count and then told the ref he didn’t want to continue. In his last infamous fight, Golota fought Mike Tyson. Tyson dropped Golota in the first round. After having a decent second round, Golota fought with his corner between the second and third round telling them he didn’t want to fight anymore, and quit.

Since their last infamous defeats, Ruiz and Golota have put their careers back on track. Ruiz decisioned Hasim Rahman to win the vacant WBA title that Jones vacated. In his last fight he stopped top ten contender Fres Oquendo in the 11th round. After the Tyson fight, Golota retired for a couple years. He then came out of his brief retirement and beat two journeyman. In his last fight he fought IBF Heavyweight Champ Chris Byrd to a draw. Against Byrd, Golota fought one of the best fights of his career and some thought he did enough to win.

Although Ruiz and Golota share some career similarities, that’s where it ends. In the ring they are completely different fighters. Ruiz is a mauler who sometimes fights leading with his chin. He wrestles and ties his opponents up during the round taking them out of sync. In a three minute round he doesn’t land a lot of clean punches, but he usually nullifies his opponent and it seems that the few shots he lands are what stood out in the round. Ruiz is not a good Boxer and only a fair puncher. However, he has a huge heart and never stops trying, and is stronger than most think. Ruiz is not a fighter that will ever be called great, but he is a little better than given credit for, and a lot more effective. Despite his success, some still insist he can’t fight.

Golota is a Boxer-Puncher with good physical skills. He throws good combinations, has a good jab, and he can hit pretty good. He is also a good Boxer and ring savvy. His Achilles is his heart and toughness, and some question his chin. He has quit in the biggest fights of his career excluding his last one versus Chris Byrd. Golota also has a little Tyson in him and doesn’t respond well when getting hit with clean punches from his opponent. Many observers have said that Golota can fight, but he won’t.

Ruiz-Golota has some interesting sub-plots. Golota has the skill and Ruiz the will. Ruiz is vulnerable to either a great Boxer or a great Puncher. Golota isn’t a great Boxer or a great puncher, but he can do both pretty good. It’s not hard to see him ramming his jab into Ruiz’s face as he tries to get inside. No doubt Ruiz will be right there in front of Golota trying to frustrate him and wear him down.

Golota could very well be vulnerable to the pressure Ruiz applies both mentally and physically. Ruiz will try and rough Golota up and try to get into his head, in the hopes of forcing him to either implode and do something illegal, or quit. Although Ruiz isn’t a puncher, if he hits Golota clean he can get into his head and break his will.

This fight will come down to if Ruiz can take Golota’s best shots as he working his way inside trying to maul him and frustrate him. On the other hand Golota held up very good emotionally versus Byrd. Some point out that Byrd is not a big puncher. However, he is a clean and accurate puncher, and he did have Golota shook once or twice in the fight. But Golota fought through it.

Ruiz and Golota have fought some of the top Heavyweights of their era. Ruiz has fought four Heavyweight Champions, (Tucker, Holyfield, Jones, and Rahman). Golota has fought five Heavyweight Champions, (Witherspoon, Bowe, Lewis, Tyson, and Byrd). Ruiz is 4-2-1 in title fights and Golota is 0-2.

As I was writing Ruiz’s record in title fights, it made me think of something. Who would have ever believed on the night that Tua knocked out Ruiz in 19 seconds, that Ruiz would go on to be a two time Champ and participate in 7 title fights. And Tua would only get one shot at the title and lose. How about four years ago when Golota quit against Tyson. Who would’ve ever believed that in 2004, Tyson would be knocked out by an unranked fighter, and Golota would get two title shots in a span of seven months?

Both Ruiz and Golota have their fair share of stern critics, like it or not they are two of the best that the current Heavyweight division has to offer. The perception by many is that Ruiz can’t fight, and Golota can, but won’t. Can’t wait until November 13th to see who brings out the worst in who?