Overcoming All Obstacles - Dave Ruff Was Born to Be A Fighter!
By Ken Hissner (Oct 20, 2009) DoghouseBoxing  
Dave Ruff was diagnosed at 6 months of having cerebral palsy. “When I was 15 kids were going to throw me down the steps,” said Ruff. “I was then being home tutored when Phyliss Railson told me to learn how to fight,” he added. He went to a local gym in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1975, when Ronnie Branch started working with him. Then Jimmy Lancaster took him under his wing. Lancaster was a veteran of 82 fights. Some of his opponents included Tippy Larkin, Lenny Mancini, Tony Morgano, Al “Bummy” Davis and Petey Scalzo. “It was hard being a white kid in a black society and getting your ass kicked. My dad (Waltter) hung and old
duffle bag in the cellar for me to hit,” said Ruff. His dad boxed in a CC camp. At Fouriner Hall he would climb three flights to get to the gym.

“Since I was a 7 year old kid I had the greatest respect for Dave Ruff. I would listen to other boxers in the gym complain about how hard it is to jump rope, hit the heavy bag or spar. Then I would look over at Dave struggling to get through the ropes and then getting propped in a corner to get ready for a sparring session. I never heard Dave Ruff complain once. Dave had a heart like a lion and a commitment second to none” - Dave “TNT” Tiberi, Uncrowned Middleweight Champion.

“I never lived in a disabled world. People I dealt with are disappearing,” said Ruff. When he was 6 his parents died inside a 2-3 year period. “Dave Ruff is a good guy and did a lot of interviews for me” -Rusty Rubin, editor for Ring Sports
Rich Ormsbee would work the corner with my dad in Reading, Pennsylvania. “Dave Ruff may be a little guy on crutches, but a giant of a man in reality. He is my hero and a role model to every physically handicapped person that knows him” – Rich Ormsbee, Mgr, trainer and cut man

Ruff has fought over 50 amateur bouts and exhibitions. “Sometimes I would fight four times in a month. My first match was in 1978. I boxed Carmen Graziano’s Steve Arvin. I sparred with Dave Tiberi. Once we fought and got fight of the night,” said Ruff. Former contender Chico Vejar had a son with CP and came to Vineland for a show. Joey Giardello would come down since he had a disabled son. An Everlast man made me a robe, trunk, shoes, with red and gold velvet. I painted ‘God bless these legs’ on my shoes,” said Ruff. Ruff would receive an Honorable Golden Glove Champ award from Pat Duffy, head of the gloves at the time.

USA’s Tuesday Night Fights came to Delaware when they were still on the cable network. Roger Wilson, the producer spent 10 hours filming this courageous young man going up a flight of steps to enter a gymnasium. The next steps he took were to enter the ring, with a little assistance like most fighters have in getting through the ropes. He would lean up against the turnbuckle and wait for the bell to ring. He fought his heart out with boxers like Dave Tiberi (4 exhibitions) and would stay along the ropes never quitting. “Only problem with the filming, the guy let the tape in a car rental and never found it,” said Ruff.

Ruff always favored the underdog. One of his boxing hero’s was Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss, out of Omaha. Strauss had a 77-53-6 (55) record. In those 136 fights, when he got knocked down, he bounced up and fought to the stoppage of his opponent or himself. “Dave Ruff is an awesome guy who really knows his boxing”, said Strauss. It seems Ruff has a tattoo on his right arm of boxing gloves and Strauss’ name. “I didn’t see him get it done, but on a visit to Delaware I did see the tattoo,” said Strauss.

Ruff started managing fighters starting with Ali Bey. I had Greg Hackett from Chester. After he won nine fights in a row he was getting pressured into signing with another manager. It got to the point that he said “I’ll quit before I sign with someone besides Dave Ruff.” And that is exactly what Hackett did. Other fighters he worked with were George Wilson, James Mills, Maurice Johnson and Dale Brown. “All of Dave’s boxers were in shape and came to fight” – Greg Sirb, Pennsylvania Boxing Commission

Ruff has written for Ring Sports on such boxers as Buck Smith, Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss and James “Quick” Tillis among others. His most recent Q&A on promoter/matchmaker Don Elbaum appeared on the Doghouse Boxing website.
“I thought to myself it took a lot of courage to get into the ring when I first saw him fight” - Tony Wolfe – President of the Mid-Atlantic Association in Pennsylvania. Ruff suffered an injury receiving a herniated disc in the neck 1995 form a car accident.

Once a week Ruff works with the Youth Program for Boy’s and Girl’s ages 6-13 at the Jackson Street Boys Club in Wilmington. “I don’t just teach boxing. I teach life,” said Ruff. “The kids really look up to Dave. I’ve been here two years and he’s been doing it over five,” said Rachel Kane. “He has met Mickey Rourke and Don King. He has helped turn a lot of lives around. He has overcome his handicap with over 50 fights,” said Cher Goodchild. She had helped work the corners of fighters. At a “Tough Man Show” that founder Al Dore put on she sang the National Anthem in Harrington, DE.

I recently was in the office of the Front Street Gym, in Philadelphia and saw a picture of Ruff, Tony Ayala, Sr., Frank Kubak (runs Front St Gym) and Brian Raditz at the NE Armory in Philadelphia, among others. Everyone seems to know Dave Ruff! “Great guy. Always in good spirits. Has done some amazing things out of his love for boxing. – Jeff Jowett, Boxing Digest

Ruff is a three-time honorary Golden Gloves champion, in 1982, 1985 and 1987. In 1984 he received the Courageous Award from the won the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Boxing Federation. He has a lifetime membership with VBA 105 of Delaware. “No one took care of his fighters better than Dave Ruff. We have continued as friends, we’ve traveled to the boxing Hall of Fame induction weekends together, along with hittin the fight movies and ppv fights in bars/restaurants. - Larry Tornambe, Top Ring announcer and writer (who also had an exhibition with Ruff)

Besides Tornabe I got a chance to talk to one of the top referee’s in the world, Steve “Triple” Smoger. “Dave Ruff is always in great spirits. Always supportive and has great boxing knowledge. Every time he would see me working a show he would put his hands up in a boxing position. - Steve Smoger, Top Ref

I could go on and on with people whom I have approached and it’s the same re-action about Dave Ruff. The man whose has spent his entire life “overcoming all obstacles and was born to be a fighter!

Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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