30.04.05 – By Lee Hayes Tomorrow nights fight between James “Lights Out” Toney and John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz is not as exciting or as eagerly anticipated as it might have been a few years ago. Mainly because Roy Jones Jr has already shown us that a smaller man with more talent, could expose John Ruiz as untalented – even if steadfast and consistent- a title holder the heavyweight division has ever seen. It’s never as exciting to see a trick done twice. It will never be “amazing”, until a new generation of fight fans witness a similar spectacle 20-30 years down the road. Still, this fight could turn out to be better than the Jones jr. vs Ruiz fight of March 2003. That’s because Roy Jones danced around the flat footed Ruiz (who by even his usual slow footwork, was having a very off night) and out boxed him from the outside.
James Toney is as talented as Roy Jones was, however, he does not move nearly as quickly on his feet, and team Ruiz knows this. There will be more action in this fight.
I am selecting James Toney to win this fight by decision. I think it would be naive to select a unanimous decision considering Ruiz’s success at winning against relatively good heavyweight competition. (If something positive can be said about Ruiz, it would be that he ducks nobody, and that he does his best in every fight), so this fight could easily be a split decision. I would not be highly surprised if it turned out to be a majority draw, or a draw outright. Still, I believe it will end with a decision and Toney as the new WBA heavyweight champion. My reasons are as follows:
1. James Toney has shown that he has one of the best chins of his generation, never being KO’d in the ring, and only suffering one flash, off-balance knock down in his career against a prime Roy Jones Jr. He has also faced some of the best body punchers in every weight division he has contended, and has yet to show that he is vulnerable to the mid-section. In fact the way he defends himself makes it very difficult to land solid body shots on him.
2. Not only does Toney have an all-time great chin, he has all-time great timing and agility. He is able to bend his spine in ways most fighters could only dream of, in order to avoid punches. He also has natural reflexes and knows how to roll with punches probably better than any active fighter, with the possible exception of Bernard Hopkins. After his fight with an aged Holyfield, Evander was quoted as saying “I found myself thinking more than fighting”, (Evander explained that Toney did not have great one punch power, but went on to say, in the context of a compliment, If Toney hit harder…) “…he hit me so many times, I’d be torn apart. He stood in front of me. I thought it was impossible for a person to be right there and get away with it. But he did what he said he was going to do.”
3. Ruiz has shown a decent beard since being KO’d inside one round by a prime David Tua. He’s taken the best shots of Evander Holyfield (over 36 of the most forgettable rounds in boxing history), Kirk Johnson, Roy Jones jr., Hassim Rahman, Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota. Only Golota put him down – twice in the second round of their bout – however since the majority of Golota’s punches landed in the back of Ruiz’s head, it would be inaccurate to say it was his chin that failed him. I think his record since fighting Tua shows that his chin is better than it appeared in that one particular fight. Still it will always be a thing of suspect with Ruiz, however, it is doubtful that Toney will hit hard enough to expose it, if it indeed is still a major flaw.
4. Because Toney doesn’t run, and Ruiz likes to hug & mug, there is probably a very good chance that this fight stays close, fought in clinches. One difference from the usual Ruiz-snore-a-thon however, is Toney*s great ability to fight on the inside. (His inside fighting helped him defeat very good fighters such as Michael Nunn, Iran Barkley, Mike McCallum, Charles Williams, Vassiliy Jirov & Evander Holyfield). When Ruiz leans in on Toney, James will be firing back short-chopping blows to his head and body. They were successful in wearing down an aged Evander Holyfield, and although they may not wear down the less shopworn Ruiz, they will pile up points, and Ruiz is not all that active when he*s clinching.
5. Toney’s body punching. Ruiz is an under rated body puncher. He can throw effective body shots when inclined. Toney on the other hand, is an extremely talented body puncher. He’s an all-time great body puncher. He out body punched Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum in their epic trilogy. He out body punched Vassiliy Jirov (who was voted by Ring Magazine as the best body puncher pound for pound in boxing previous to that fight). He also pounded Evander Holyfield (another accomplished body puncher) in their bout, to the point where Holyfield stated after the fight “…the body shots made him a complete fighter. He fought the complete fight.”
There has been a lot of recent talk regarding Toney*s weigh-in weight of 233 lbs for this fight, however I really do not see it as being much of a factor. Toney’s never been very disciplined in making weight for fights at lower weights, and when you consider that he was not a particularly large middleweight or super middleweight, it’s remarkable that he’s even fighting as a heavyweight. He has put fat on his body over the past 10 years, but he has also put on a lot of muscle. His upper body is largely muscled, and his legs are solid, with a strong base and centre of gravity. He most likely put on the extra weight thinking that he’ll need to be big enough to push back when Ruiz leans in his 241lbs frame. One thing about Toney’s extra weight though, it’s never seemed to really have an effect on his performance. Not as much as his mental focus. Not nearly as much hoopla is being made of Ruiz coming in at a portly 241 lbs (pretty heavy for a 6’2 fighter who is not particularly muscle bound). At 241 lbs he is tied for the heaviest weight he has ever entered the ring at (the other time was against Hassim Rahman). Although I would prefer to see a professional fighter always come in the ring in the best possible condition he can, in this case, I do not believe it will be a factor.
With all of these factors taken in to consideration, as I’ve stated, I believe the most likely scenario is Toney by decision. I just don’t think that Ruiz moves his hands enough, and if he’s with a slippery opponent who throws a lot of combinations in close, he can be out boxed. I don’t think Ruiz can KO Toney. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he became the second man to put him down on the canvas, because Ruiz’s power is somewhat under rated in his right hand. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Toney was able to break his nose and bloody his face up the Roy Jones jr. did. This will be a competitive fight, with Toney coming out on top. Don’t be surprised if Ruiz’s trainer, Norman “Stoney” Stone gets booted out of John*s corner again. His mouth is back at it, and it*s conceivable that Toney might even hit or shove him after the fight.
If Toney wins this fight, as I have predicted, do not be surprised to see him fight Chris Byrd within the next year, as they have both traded insults with each other and Toney has openly insulted Byrd’s wife, Tracy. It appears that Don King has once again positioned himself to potentially own the heavyweight division again, as he promotes current WBO champion Lamon Brewster (and his next opponent Andrew Golota). He also promotes Chris Byrd, the WBO champion (Byrd mentioned at the recent ESPN PPV extravaganza that he was looking in to fighting the winner of tomorrow nights fight). King has recently, allegedly paid James Toney a large lump cash sum, in order to get him to agree to fight on some of his cards, and he already promotes John Ruiz. If things go King’s way, Hassim Rahman will knock out Vitali Klitschko in June, and again, King will own all of the pieces to the crowns. He will most likely then offer some sort of a heavyweight tournament with the outward goal being the unification of all of the belts, and the inward, more honest goal being the padding of King’s already fat wallet. Either way, like him or hate him (I go with the latter) one thing is guaranteed with King, a lot of fights, a lot of action, and his top fighters facing each other. There will be no more Klitschko*s vs The Tomato Can Kid, and that to me is something to look forward to in the future.
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