When consigned to history John Ruiz’ career will be much maligned, it is already. His success and resolve will be overshadowed by the snipers who point to his suffocating, ugly style, a crushing defeat to the then Zeus like David Tua in 17 seconds and a ponderous pursuit of Light-heavyweight Roy Jones Jnr. in 2003. Despite these facts, and they are all facts, his rough-edges and lack of beauty, I just can’t help liking him. It’s a strange thing, attraction.
Ruiz’s status as a leading contender or champion has extended over 10 years since his victory over fringe contender Jimmy Thunder in 1997. Two previous attempts to step up had left him with a split decision loss to rough and ready Danell Nicholson and the aforementioned clash with David Tua’s left hand. In the ensuing decade Ruiz has ignored the critics to record victories over Tony Tucker, Evander Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Hasim Rahman, Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo and Jameel McCline interspersed with a highly contentious points defeat to Nikolay Valuev for the WBA heavyweight strap he had previously held twice.
Such was the vitriol he received for his passive role in the Roy Jones fight he fleetingly retired, a defeat to James Toney – later overturned due to Toney’s dalliance with banned substances – also pushed him toward the exit. But each time he has rebounded and perhaps it is in that perseverance that I can push aside the lack of sophistication or blood lust usually associated with my favourite fighters.
I admire his willingness to engage with Valuev in the giant champion’s adopted hometown and his determination to overcome the calamitous effect David Tua had on him as a young prospect. Now, with Ruslan Chagaev suffering more virus problems than Microsoft Windows he’s stepped up again, expressing a desire to tangle with Valuev once more in a bid to win the WBA belt for a third time.
Is it really fair to malign Ruiz so completely? His body of work, despite the grinding methods he employed to build it, is worthy of credit if not applause. There are plenty of American heavyweights, more aesthetically pleasing but lacking in the fortitude Ruiz has repeatedly demonstrated. Where, for example, are Dominic Guinn, Malik Scott, DaVarryl Williamson or Larry Donald? Just a selection of Ruiz’ contemporaries?
Loving the wrong man is a sentiment I usually leave to Dolly Parton or Aretha Franklin, but in John Ruiz’ case I’m prepared to make an exception. He’s ugly, he’s hard to watch but I love him.
Go on John, squeeze the life out of him!
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