Boxing Book Review: Gabriel Ruelas the focus of "Business of Pain" by Araceli Martinez-Rose
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 27, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Business of Pain - Book Cover
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: The Business of Pain. Stories About the Life of Gabriel Ruelas, Former World Boxing Champion.

As an old, cynical book reviewer, I fully expected the new boxing bio, “Business of Pain – stories on the life of Gabriel Ruelas” to be a typical rags to riches biography.

It was immediately apparent how wrong I was.

Author Araceli Martinez-Rose's compelling narrative takes the reader through the poverty riddled streets of Yerbabuena, Jalisco, Mexico, to the birthplace of future champion Gabriel Ruelas. The author uses the actual words of Ruelas and the 17 other former champions she interviewed to tell a story steeped in drama and pathos.

“First, I didn’t trust myself,” said Martinez-Rose, about her early attempts at writing. “I fell in love with their personalities. It was a process to believe in my writing, but the philosophy and discovery was all mine.”

The idea of writing a biography of Ruelas came to Martínez-Rose when she heard Hollywood was interested in doing a movie on the former champion.

“I wanted to read a book on his life,” said Martinez-Rose. “I found nothing was published.”

Soon thereafter, the opportunity presented itself.

“I knew nothing about boxing, which scared me,” said Martinez-Rose. “But, Gabriel opened his heart and shared the highs and lows of the sport, as well as the terrible tragedy that marked his life in the ring.”

As Ruelas rises up from poverty to prosperity, the narrative moves to the memories of other former and present champions. Legends like Azumah Nelson, Carlos Zarate, Vitali Klitschko, Shane Mosley, and Evander Holyfield share their drive and passion for boxing.

“The boxers are great people,“ said Martinez-Rose. “They come with a dream and nothing else.”

The dream aspect drives the book. A broken arm suffered by Ruelas almost ends his career. A disputed loss to Nelson devastates him, but still the dream won’t die. Ruelas, along with his boxing brother Rafaelkept working.

Martinez-Rose was once a vocal critic of boxing.

“I thought it was only blood and guts,"she said. “I thought they were crazy to be in the sport. I never really made much of an effort to understand. My parents are big fans. But, for me it didn’t make sense. I’m ashamed of that now. I’ve opened a door to see the beauty within the sport. It’s more then just physical effort, it's brains, and technique, and training and dedication.”

In 1994, Ruelas won the WBC junior featherweight title. He was a 24-year-old with a bright future. He had heroically pulled himself up from the poor streets of his hometown to the glitz and money of a championship. The heights were dizzying for Ruelas, but his fall would be heartbreaking. On the night of May 6, 1995, he successfully defended his title against 23-year-old Jimmy Garcia. Victory came with a heavy price. Garcia took a heavy beating until the fight was halted in the 11th round. He died the next day, as did a part of Ruelas and referee Mitch Halpern.

As she learned the story of Jimmy Garcia, Martinez-Rose had to fight to stay focused.

“I did get emotionally involved,” she said. “I did, I cried may times. I talked to Jimmy Garcia’s family. They didn’t really want to talk. I told them that he really deserved a tribute. We need to talk about how a mother suffers. We need to talk to the opponent. The referee Mitch Halpin was so sad, and suffered for years. Everyone suffered. It’s very difficult to let go of something tragic like that. It was so sad listening to Gabriel tell about seeking the forgiveness of Jimmy Garcia’s mother.”

Araceli Martinez-Rose's book transcends the sport of boxing. It reminded this reviewer of the movie Rocky, which tells the story of a boxer, but is in reality about a dream that won’t die. Boxers are born dreamers. Many of them grow up impoverished with little or no education. What many of us take for granted, they can’t comprehend. Gabriel Ruelas would not quit.

Business of Pain recounts the stories of heroic men and women. Their pain is deep, but the joy they inspire transcends it.

Business of Pain is available at

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