James Toney makes history: So does Ruiz!

01.05.05 – By Mike Indri: Retired Boxers Foundation (New Jersey State representative). First thing I need to do, now that I’ve eaten my own words, is congratulate the new World Boxing Association Heavyweight Champion James Toney! Although I never said that Toney wasn’t a great fighter, I knew (or thought I knew!) that he wasn’t in great shape and thought that his injuries, his time off, as well as his condition, would adversely affect his performance. How wrong I was!

Also, while I do sincerely like both John Ruiz and Norm Stone personally and respect these guys for facing adversity-fighting the battle-and ultimately achieving their dream, I would never let my personal feelings get in the way of my honest opinions or cloud my impressions. I truly believed that John Ruiz was going to beat James Toney.

Now onto the fight; James Toney said all along that he was going to make history and last night he did. Fighting in the most historic arena in all of boxing, New York’s Madison Square Garden, James Toney etched his name forever in boxing annals as only the third fighter in pugilistic history who once wore a middleweight crown and ultimately achieved boxing’s greatest prize – winning a world heavyweight championship! Toney joins the select group which also includes Bob Fitzsimmons (1897 KO14 vs. James Corbett) and Roy Jones, Jr. (2003 W12 vs. John Ruiz).

Unfortunately for John Ruiz, he also made history last night; separating himself from the aforementioned Corbett by becoming the lone heavyweight champion to have lost to two middleweight champions.

Upon his entering the ring it “looked” like the same John Ruiz. No robe, no long drawn out-entourage filled walk to the ring; just a bare-chested sprint to the squared circle, along with the Chelsea, Mass., native’s familiar scowl and gaze up to the heavens.

Yet upon the sounding of round one’s opening bell all the Ruiz familiarities vanished. There were the occasional grabs, clinches and rabbit punches, but to veteran referee Steve Smoger’s credit both fighters soon realized that Smoger – one of boxing’s finest conciliators- wasn’t tolerating any dirty tactics.

While Toney appeared to be settling into a relaxed, almost effortless-style, slip and counter-punch approach; Ruiz seemed confused, frustrated and was catching way too many short, snapping right hands from the ever cocky Toney.

While almost dead-even midway thru the bout Toney began round seven in dramatic fashion. Catching Ruiz lulling out of his corner, “Lights Out” fired off a couple of shots and a push which sent the surprised two-time Latino champ flailing to the canvas! Up quickly and apparently contesting Smoger’s knockdown count – claiming a push – Ruiz began losing his focus as his earlier look of confusion turned to concern.

*taped replay does show that Toney did step on Ruiz’s foot ‘ala Chuck Wepner vs. Ali during their 1975 title fight.

With Ruiz bleeding from his nose and the Garden’s 9,169 paid attendance chanting “Toney-Toney-Toney” round eight has become fun for Toney, who is backing up all the trash he was talking throughout this fight’s media circuit. Attacking Ruiz’s body and head and hitting his foe with practically every right hand he throws, Toney is flaunting his superior boxing skills and compiling a comfortable lead going into the bout’s championship rounds.

A bruised, beaten and totally discombobulated Ruiz has no answer to the question of how to save his WBA title belt. With the crowd against him, as well as his constant hammering by the media and boxing public in regards to his unpopular fighting style, Ruiz is close to defeat.

While the handwriting appears to be on the wall, the cheers of “Toney-Toney-Toney” reach a deafening level and the classic throwback James Toney looks like he can go another twelve rounds, a weary John Ruiz continues to do all he knows how, till the end – and that is to fight for what is his, what he has earned.

John Ruiz got beat last night, he got beat by a better fighter.

John Ruiz, in defeat, went out on his shield; succumbing to James Toney, all the boxing media and boxing public, and to himself. While believing all that he read and heard, Ruiz may have been defeated before the fight’s opening round bell yet fought a valiant struggle against an all-time great champion fighter.

While John Ruiz will never be considered a great fighter or a fighter possessing great skills or talent, that is what makes our sport of boxing so beautiful – the intangibles: such as heart, desire, intestinal fortitude and balls, which can’t be taught; you either have them or you don’t.

John Ruiz has them, and became a two-time world champion with less talent than many higher skilled fighters who never attained his status.

Last night John Ruiz “may have” been short of one of his much needed intangibles: desire, and it cost him his hard-earned championship belt.

Again, congratulations James Toney on making history and for backing up all what you said. Great fight – great fighter.

Also, congratulations to good-guy promoter Dan Goosen and to Goosen/Tutor Promotions on their first heavyweight champion.

The “Turning Point: Ruiz vs. Toney” undercard results will follow shortly.

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