Ruiz isn’t likely to go away any time soon
Conventional thinking says that if you’ve been waiting for what feels like forever for John Ruiz to get the shellacking that finally convinces him to leave us all the hell alone, you’ll get what you’ve been waiting for when he meets David Haye for some alphabet title or another on April 3.
I’ve looked forward to that day as much as anyone, as my vocation, such as it is, has mandated that I sit through innumerable Ruiz “fights” over the years, one as awful as the next for reasons with which you already are familiar. And if you are not, consider yourself fortunate.
Suffice to say that if you’ve seen Ruiz on more than a couple occasions and remain a fan of prizefighting nonetheless, you are more addicted to this vulgar profession and its attendant ugliness than is probably healthy. Bless you.
Here’s the problem: Ruiz might just beat Haye in Manchester, England, of all places, and even if he doesn’t, it’s unlikely that Haye’s margin of victory will be sufficient to get boxing out of Ruiz’s system.
Those of you who against your better judgment have made a habit of listening to https://www.ringtv.com/blog/1744/ring_theory_audio_show/ Ring Theory know that during the most recent edition I surprised my beleaguered co-host, Eric Raskin, by picking Ruiz not only to beat Haye, but to stop him late.
I cite, in no logical order, Haye’s tendency to tire, his suspicious chin and the characteristics Ruiz shares with an old shoe: stubbornness, experience and a certain toughness, that, like him or not, you cannot in good conscience deny.
Of course, this means less than nothing; you might recall that I picked Juan Manuel Marquez to beat Floyd Mayweather, after which Mayweather won so easily, I’m not sure he even deserved to get paid for the evening’s work.
A job should be a little taxing at least, shouldn’t it?
But don’t listen to me. Listen to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who told me he gives Ruiz an “excellent” chance of beating Haye.
“As far as conditioning and mental focus, he’s ready,” Muhammad said. “He’s been doing excellent. He’s moving his hands a lot more, and (new trainers) Miguel Diaz and Richie Sandoval have done a marvelous job with him. He ran BJ Flores out of the gym.”
How does Muhammad know? His cruiserweight, Aaron Williams (19-2-1, 13 knockouts), was brought in to spar with Ruiz for his ability to impersonate Haye in the ring. They’ve been there eight weeks.
“If Haye stands in front of Ruiz, he’s going to be in trouble,” Muhammad said.
Others are less optimistic concerning Ruiz’s chances. Stan Hoffman, who managed Hasim Rahman when Rahman lost a decision to Ruiz in December 2003, picks Haye outright.
“The fight he had with Rahman was the ugliest fight I’ve ever seen,” Hoffman said. “It was punch and clutch, grab and hold. Rock just didn’t listen to the corner and it was just awful. But David Haye is a different ball of wax. He’s younger than Rock was at the time and Ruiz is older.
“If I was made to bet, and I don’t bet, but if I had to, I would give the advantages to Haye on speed, punching power, and movement. I think he’s going to be able to handle the clutching of Ruiz if he does that. I definitely think Haye will beat him.”
Age is a concern for Ruiz. He is 38 and recently has been in several hard fights, notably against Nicolay Valuev (two decision losses), and Ruslan Chagaev (decision loss). Arguments could be made that he won all three, but since none was televised in America (woohoo!), it’s hard for us to know how much he has left.
Ruiz’s prime — if you can call it that — occurred in a different era and was so aesthetically objectionable it tarnished what was a reasonable record of accomplishment.
“There’s been a conflation among boxing people that (Ruiz) is maybe the worst fighter in the world to watch and by popular demand does not belong on television,” HBO’s Max Kellerman told me.
“But in terms of the merits of his career, he has been among the better heavyweights, maybe not the last four or five years, but in the last 15 he was consistently among the better heavyweights in the world.”
Still, Kellerman thinks Ruiz’s time has come and gone.
“Ruiz is at this point a little too old and Haye too dynamic for him,” he said. “Ruiz at his best, against this version of Haye, maybe Ruiz would have an unpopular, slight advantage over Haye because he’d be able to maul and use that style that people don’t like.
“But at this point, if he’s 80 percent or 70 percent of what he used to be, Haye will be too quick for him. And remember, Haye is an explosive puncher.”
There is no question that a win for Haye is the better outcome for boxing. As Hoffman noted, “Haye’s mouth will sell a lot of tickets and pay-per-view buys.”
It’s hard not to root for him on that alone.
A little piece of me will be rooting for Ruiz, too, and not just because I picked him and at this writing cling to a slim lead over Raskin in our “Quick Picks” competition.
After all, an old shoe offers some comforts. And Ruiz is a bottomless well of material for a snarky boxing columnist.
But if Ruiz cannot win, if Haye’s speed, youth, and power are too much for him, then let it be a decisive and demonstrative win of such a convincing nature that Ruiz never thinks of entering a boxing ring again.
Because if it’s a close decision that can be debated, it’ll be years until we’re done with this guy. And no one wants that.
Some random observations from last week:
I don’t care what 51,000 easily-entertained Dusseldorfians say, no man who can punch like Wladimir Klitschko can should have to be brow-beaten into going for a knockout against a guy half his size who can’t break an egg.
It’s like watching a NASCAR event (I assume) where none of the drivers push their cars over 40 mph for fear of crashing. It goes against the natural order of things.
If it were because Wlad didn’t want to hurt anyone, that would be one thing. I could respect that. But from all appearances it’s because he knows that opening up leaves him vulnerable to getting hit. How revolting. ÔÇª
Sechew Powell got his revenge on Darryl Lattimore but the first fight was more fun, wasn’t it? ÔÇª
For the hell of it: Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! ÔÇª
Hoffman has Delvin Rodriguez going against Mike Arnaoutis on April 2. That’s a good matchup for Rodriguez, and just what he needs after getting screwed against Rafal Jackiewicz in Poland in November. ÔÇª
Who else would have a better opinion of Odlanier Solis if he weren’t built like Jason Estrada? ÔÇª
Just had a look at the fight schedule and it appears about every licensed fighter on the major continents is fighting next weekend. Life is good.
Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected] You can read his articles every month in THE RING magazine.