29.04.05 – By Chris Ireland: During Don King’s dominant reign as a heavyweight promoter, the division’s landscape has changed several times. Over the years, his ever-growing roster of champions have ranged from influential icons to sub-par stooges. In today’s heavyweight title comedy that is the tales of Lamon, Moe, and Curly, perhaps no fighter personifies the fall of the heavyweight division better than John Ruiz.. His style has led him to be the poster boy and inspiration to fighters like Henry Akinwande, Bonecrusher Smith, and Vaughn Bean. “The Quiet Man” has clung to the WBA heavyweight title the same way he has his opponents in the ring–you’ll have to pry it from his cold, dead hands.
The only things being pried from James Toney’s hands at the moment are all-you-can-eat ribs and chocolate ice cream. Toney, who will challenge for Ruiz’s WBA title tonight, is coming in at a career high in weight at 233. “Lights Out” is by no means another poorly trained, undeserving challenger on a Don King champion’s record, and is picked by many to take the crown away.
During press conferences for the fight, Toney has earned what has to be a hollow victory — trash talking a guy named “The Quiet Man.” The real verbal jabs, which may turn out to be the most telling punches of the fight itself, were landed against Norman Stone, who once killed a referee with his bare hands……just kidding.
Forgotten during Toney’s memorable trash talk was the fact that, despite being the bigger name and more gifted pugilist, Ruiz has his fair share of advantages coming into the bout. Ruiz comes in at a weight natural for him (241), and has a comfortable reach advantage. Given Toney’s tendency to sit on the ropes and offer little lateral movement, Ruiz has a tremendous opportunity to keep his sometimes lazy opponent on the outside and land combinations. There’s only one problem: Ruiz seldom stays on the outside and throws combinations. His tactic, the one which we all know and hate with a passion, is to throw one punch, maybe two, then come in and clinch.
James Toney, on the other hand, has a style that fits his opponent. Toney is, pound for pound, one of the best inside fighters in the game. He uses the shoulder roll technique to perfection, and is remarkably accurate with counter shots. A fighter like Ruiz, who throws few combinations and does his best work on the inside, is made to order for Toney. The question for Toney is, of course, how badly will the expanded waistline hurt him against a mauler like Ruiz? The opportunity is there for the champion to, during a clinch, rest his heavyweight frame on the challenger and wear him down.
The thought from this corner is that despite all of his problems coming into the fight, James Toney will be crowned the new WBA champion. Ruiz is a fighter who fights one way. He doesn’t modify his tactics in the middle of the fight, simply because he does not have the ability to do so. James on the other hand is a smart, gifted, seasoned fighter who will figure Ruiz out in a hurry and win a decision.
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