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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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
Martinez-Rose was once a vocal critic of boxing.
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.”
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
As she learned the story of Jimmy Garcia, Martinez-Rose had to fight to stay focused.
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
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 www.amazon.com
Recent work from Raspanti:
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