29.04.05 – By Darrell La Montre: We are one day away from the WBA Heavyweight championship fight between Ann Arbor, Michigan native James “Lights Out” Toney (68-4-2 43 ko’s) and Chelsea, Massachusetts native John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz (41-5-1 28 ko’s). Ruiz is the first man of Puerto Rican decent to hold a version of the heavyweight title.. He also holds the distinction of being the fighter who has made the most amount of money with the least amount of talent. No fighter in history has even come close to Ruiz in terms of consistently earning seven figure purses while possessing a limited amount of pugilistic prowess, not to mention the most non-aesthetically pleasing style in recent memory.
But is he really that bad? Surely he must have some skill in order for him to have made it this far, right? Yes and no. Historically speaking, the current state of the heavyweight division is arguably at its anemic peak.
Mike Tyson (a heavily respected boxing historian) recently referred to the current top ten heavyweights as (paraphrasing) “The worst in boxing history”. If you consider the fact that John L. Sullivan (the first Heavyweight Champ ever) became champion in 1882, that’s going back 123 years!! That is truly amazing. If you think about it, Tyson might be right.
If you look at the four current champions (V. Klitschko, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, and Lamon Brewster) how can you argue with him? Klitschko is perhaps the best of the bunch, but as Dennis Miller once said (when referring to our justice system being the best), “Isn’t that like being the valedictorian of summer school?”
Byrd is a former Olympic Super Middleweight who turned pro at 169lbs!! Ruiz is a guy who was annihilated in 19 seconds by David Tua. Brewster not only couldn’t drop china chinned Clifford Etienne, but couldn’t beat him either. He also should have lost his fight with Kali Meehan. Vitali Klitschko appears to be the best heavyweight for now, but he has a lot to prove. Calvin Brock and Samuel Peter appear to be decent prospects, but who knows if they will live up to the hype. At any rate, the division sucks.
The upcoming fight between former Middleweight, Super Middleweight, and Cruiserweight champion James Toney and two-time Heavyweight Champion, John Ruiz should be very interesting. Toney weighed in at a career high of 233lbs. Ruiz equaled his career high, coming in at 241lbs. When you consider the disparity in talent, it’s easy to pick Toney by decision. Upon further analysis, that might not be the right choice. The intangibles are what make this a difficult fight to handicap. Toney has only trained 5 weeks for this fight. At only 5’10, he’s coming in at 233lbs and not exactly built like Mike Tyson. He’s coming off a 7 month layoff, having last fought in September ’04 against Cruiserweight no-name Rydell Booker. He’s had surgery twice in the past year, one for a torn Achilles, and the other for a torn biceps. To top it all off, Toney will be turning 37 in a few months.
Ruiz is 33 years old, and last fought 5 months ago narrowly defeating Andrew Golata in a fight many thought he lost. Before that he defeated Hassim Rahman, Fres Oquendo, and went 1-1-1 with Evander Holyfield (two legit top 10 fighters and two former world champions). Say what you want about Ruiz, but he has somehow managed to fill his resume with some impressive victories. In March of ’03 he was completely outclassed and dominated by ring legend/ all time great Roy Jones Jr. Jones became only the second former Middleweight Champion to hold a piece of the heavyweight title, and Toney is looking to become the third. How humiliating it would be for Ruiz to have lost to not one, but two former Middleweights!!
Jones was able to beat Ruiz with his dazzling hand speed and quickness, along with his amazing footwork and lateral movement. Toney has quick hands and excellent defense, but he’s not a mover like Jones. He will be standing right in front of Ruiz looking to counterpunch his ponderous and awkward opponent. Toney will not be as quick as normal because of the added blubber. Should the fight go into the later rounds, his stamina will almost certainly be a factor considering his brief five week training camp, the 9 month layoff, and the added weight.
Toney is in denial about the fact that he is not a big puncher at heavyweight, and wasn’t at Cruiserweight either. The nickname “Lights Out” was coined back when James was fighting at Middleweight, which was 73lbs ago!! When you hear Toney talk about “knocking guys out” and “destroying” them, you wonder whether he’s having an identity crisis. For Christ sake, the guy thinks he’s a young Mike Tyson!! Even the current Tyson hits twice as hard as Toney. Given the fact that Toney doesn’t have the power to hurt Ruiz (unless he hurts him to the body ala Holyfield), he will have to go the full 12 rounds to be victorious. Ruiz will be throwing his famous jab, sneaky right hand, and hug combo. The super-sized Toney, who doesn’t look like he’s missed a combo in a while will be on the receiving end, looking to dodge and counterpunch.
What happens if Ruiz is able to extend the fight into the later rounds without getting hurt to the body? How will Toney deal with being smothered, frustrated, and fatigued? If Toney gets as tired as I think he will in the later rounds, he could get stopped. It was moronic for Toney to come in this heavy. Jones came in at 193lbs against Ruiz and retained much of his speed and mobility that he enjoyed as a Light-Heavyweight for years. It’s obvious that Toney has no respect for Ruiz, and although Ruiz is the most untalented two-time Heavyweight Champion in history, he’s no Butterbean. Toney’s got tons of talent a very good chin, but talent and a good chin are no match for fatigue. Toney’s biggest victory at Heavyweight was over an ancient Holyfield, and he’s 16 lbs heavier for this fight than he was for that one.
In order for Ruiz to be victorious, he has to jab the smaller, shorter Toney and fire his sneaky right hand when Toney is plodding inside. Ruiz will have to smother Toney on the inside and frustrate him. Ruiz was able to land a couple of flush right hands on the ultra fast Jones, so hitting the elusive Toney with one isn’t out of the question. For Toney to win he must fight at a measured pace and not punch himself out. He’s not in tip- top shape for this fight by any stretch of the imagination. He must be careful he doesn’t get nailed by one of Ruiz’ sneaky right hands. If he tries to knock Ruiz out, he will surely get fatigued because it takes much more out of you to throw hard punches than it does to throw lighter ones. If you miss while throwing a hard punch it really takes a lot out of you. This is not to say that Ruiz is an elusive target, but you can’t land all your punches.
Considering their styles, this fight has all the makings for a dirty fight. Unless Toney is able to hurt Ruiz to the body early and/or handle the weight a lot better than I think he can, he gets stopped inside the distance. I wouldn’t be shocked if Toney won a close decision, but I’m going with Ruiz by late rounds TKO. Either way, it will be ugly.