31.03.05 – By Tony Fondacaro: Footage of the James Toney-John Ruiz press conference is revealing in more ways than one. All the necessary players were there, each with their own flavorful patina, but you can’t say that anything of significance was really transmitted. I’ve read more than one online article stating how staged it looked, resembling the scripted action of professional wrestling. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was scripted, but I will say, perhaps someone should have handed a script to Ruiz and his trainer Norman Stone.
How bad do Ruiz and Stone look after that? When Ruiz took the podium, he couldn’t stand in one place for longer than five seconds, he couldn’t stop playing with the microphone, he couldn’t complete a thought without stuttering and going back to his stand-by, “I’m the best right now.” What exactly did John Ruiz say? Well if you kept score, he said he’s the best right now, that you should all come to the fight, and that it’s on.
It reminded me of footage of Richard Nixon debating John F. Kennedy, when Nixon couldn’t stop sweating and stammering. I’ve ever seen a fighter as nervous as John Ruiz at that moment, and it has nothing to do with being up in front of people, having to speak. If anything, he nervousness could have something to do with the way he handled being antagonized by James Toney moments before.
Or maybe it was the way he didn’t handle being antagonized. Stone, his trainer, complete with handle-bar moustache, decides to start answering back to James Toney when Toney starts directing comments towards Ruiz. Then, when Toney gets up and crosses the podium to Ruiz’s side, Stone pops up, rushes in front of Ruiz and lunges towards Toney. Now, boxing is full of instigators and mouths, and certainly James Toney is one of the highest ranking mouths in boxing currently. However, I find it hard to believe that you can be a professional boxing trainer but you cannot withstand trash-talking from another fighter. What’s going to happen in the ring when Toney starts pounding Ruiz? Is Stone going to jump in with a metal folding-chair like on Monday Night Raw and bash Toney over the head with it? I’m sure Ruiz would like that, after seeing the condition he was in at that press conference.
I especially enjoyed Norman Stone’s suggestion to James Toney that he go play with himself. Nothing says “class” and “composure” like telling someone to go masturbate. Norman, a suggestion for the future; let your fighters do their own back-talking. You don’t need to intervene, just let your fighters defend themselves. You don’t have to step in and start running your handle-bar moustache to preserve your fighter’s image. If anything, stepping in and defending Ruiz in front of Toney, and a whole room of reporters, makes Ruiz look ten times as bad as if you had said nothing, not to mentioning letting your emotions get the best of you.
If Ruiz wants to sit there on his stool with his head down, playing with a little flag, then let him because apparently that’s how he likes to respond to verbal assaults. Another thing; make sure Ruiz never again says, “I’m the best right now” because nobody in the boxing world is buying that line. Ruiz may have appeared to have had a lot of class by not getting into the worst of it at that press conference, but I chalk that up to his inability to respond to aggression. Think of it as a verbal form of clutch-and-grab. Just clam up, hold on, and hope that whoever is pounding you stops. I’m not sure what was more pathetic, that whole scene with Stone, or Ruiz’s comeback line, “This is what happens when you use drugs.”
While we’re on the subject of class, what was New York State Athletic Commissioner Ron Scott Stevens doing at the podium? He looked about as in control of that situation as a middle school principal. You can’t begin to tell me that anyone took him seriously when people began shouting back and forth at each other, and when James Toney was walking out, totally ignoring Stevens who was calling for him from the podium. Stevens: “If you guys want to have boxing in New York, you’re going to have to be sportsmen, and you’re going to have to behave… We’re not going to have boxing in New York unless we get… guys… guys… I’m very serious… I’m very serious, let me finish… We don’t have to have an event if we’re going have this.” Thank you Principal Skinner, now turn around and say that to Norman Stone, the guy who, I believe, makes the worst verbal offense with the whole “play with yourself” remark. James Toney isn’t even in the room! Turn around, look at Stone and say, “Sit down and shut up.
You’re the one trying to instigate a brawl by lunging at people. You’re the one telling people to go play with themselves. You’re the one losing your cool. If you want to be here, you can use the f-word all you want. You can trash-talk all you want. But calm down and leave those kind of references behind your dressing room door.” Imagine if someone like Bill Belichick or Phil Jackson had made that remark to an opposing team’s player, or lunged at another player like that. The media would be all over it; Stevens is lucky the media isn’t paying any attention to boxing. If they were, they would have seen a Commissioner who was not in control of the situation, and who blatantly overlooked the worst offender on that little stage, Ruiz’s trainer Norman Stone.
Stevens also mentions that New York only wants boxing if there is sportsmanship outside the ring as well as inside the ring. Then why not suspend John Ruiz’s boxing license? The man doesn’t fight, he grabs, and he’s good at grabbing, so he’s not going to stop. That’s not good boxing Commissioner Stevens; if you are going to enforce your rules then you have to take action, and your first course of action should be to not allow Ruiz to fight in New York. You could go a long way by setting precedence now and telling Ruiz that he can’t step into a ring in your state if he’s not going to box.
I’m serious. Nobody likes that style of fighting, and everyone agrees it proves nothing in the ring. Boxing is nothing if it is not a way to measure a man or woman’s skill and courage, and nobody can tell me that Ruiz’s style of fighting demonstrates either one. So if Ruiz isn’t going to fight in the ring, then he shouldn’t be allowed to be there in the first place Commissioner. Toney makes note of this in the press conference, and I quote, “Be a man, fight. Don’t hug me, fight.” Sounds like typical trash-talking, granted, however I believe there’s more to that statement, especially since Ruiz looked so frightened.
As for James Toney, he came across as the only person who looked like he knew what he was doing there, and it will be the exact same thing in the ring on April 30th. He’s the only person there who didn’t look nervous, unsettled, and rattled. Even as he was walking out of the room, he looked more composed and together than anyone on the stage. He may have been a verbal instigator, he may have crossed the line of demarcation, but he’s not the one lunging at people. He’s not the one trying to get physical. The sad part is; neither was Ruiz. If this was really on, Ruiz would have climbed over Stone and smacked Toney in the mouth. As it was, he didn’t even make eye contact. After this press conference, seeing the kind of condition Ruiz is in even before the fight happens, this thing isn’t even close. Ruiz is so unprepared mentally for this fight that he should be in therapy.