John Ruiz: Be quiet already
By Martin Wade (November 19, 2004) 
Photo © Marty Rosengarten
Shhhhhhh…. can you hear that? Listen real close; what you hear is the collective sigh of resignation from a jaded boxing public. On November 13th the ranks of the unwise (that almost always includes me) witnessed John Ruiz grapple and occasionally punch his way to yet another disgustingly graceless WBA title defense. I’m sure by now that many observers are experiencing the sensation of being trapped in a cruel boxing version of Bill Murray’s hit movie 'Groundhog Day'. As of this writing the Chelsea Massachusetts 'immortal' is fast on his way to becoming the most maligned heavyweight titlest in modern times. While even a dull Lennox Lewis eventually grew on us and exited a respected champion, Ruiz by comparision has become that sticky stuff on the bottom of our shoes. You know, the stuff you can't get rid of. So how did we get here? Do I even have the time? What ever happened to the cream of even a mediocre crop rising to the top? But don’t let me mislead you, for this is certainly not another Ruiz 'bash fest'; besides that angle is getting a little old. John Ruiz is simply a rugged guy, who despite obvious limitations has the dedication to persevere and commit to his sport. In other sports he’d be heralded as a 'lunch box' guy, a 'character' type that every team needs. No, boxing junkies, the Ruiz phenomenon runs much deeper than that and I propose that we assess blame for this God awful title reign to a wider range of suspects.

To complain about John Ruiz at this late stage would be like complaining about a good for nothing spouse ten years into the marriage. If John Ruiz lacks all of the prerequisites that we find essential in a heavyweight champ then what does that say about the more talented in the division? To dismiss him as a 'bum' is naïve because obviously there’s something dominant about a guy who can impose his will and style on another man - especially one more gifted than he. The term 'bum' was popularized in this sport to define a guy who had limited skill (check) but who also had an engrained acceptance of his role in the grand scheme of things. This is where Ruiz distinguishes himself because the man is freaking oblivious, he simply chooses (a novel idea) not to accept himself as an inferior fighter. Now maybe, just maybe, some of our venom for Ruiz is related to the fact that we not only accept our limitations but we’ve been conditioned to give in to them everyday. In the 1970’s, a period dense with committed, badass heavyweights, John Ruiz would be more appropriately cast than some of his modern-day counterparts. Though limited, Ali would have plucked the 'Quietman' from the east coast club circuit to play straight man to the champs mid-seventies bombastic tour de force.

So why should John Ruiz be vilified for getting in tiptop shape and executing his wretched fight plan? In a more ethical era of heavyweights no amount of holding nor “Stoneyonics” would have kept the proud Puerto Rican in the big fight picture for more than one fight. Don King himself, if transported back to the 70’s with his current far reaching power, still could not have pulled that magic trick. No, Ruiz haters, it’s not the individual yet the environment of sloth which spawned him. Take into consideration the classic style of much under appreciated champion Larry Holmes. If K.I.S.S. is the acronym for success, then I.H.J.S. best suits the 'Easton Assassin' because 'it’s his jab stupid'. Larry Holmes would have (get this) arrived in shape and focused, punched Ruiz’s 'obscure title defense' membership card and went home, end of story. Ditto for Shavers, Norton, Quarry, hell even early 90’s guys like Tommy Morrison (who had no jab) would have feasted on a fighter who prefers holding to hitting. So before we get carried away with this silly notion of actually hating John Ruiz for his very existence, consider asking yourself the following questions.

Why did Lennox Lewis begin posturing as if he were some freaking English Knight after dispatching an obviously faded Mike Tyson in 2002? Lewis grandly became an authority on the worthiness of an opponent, often regressing to the juvenile practice of referring to Ruiz in the feminine (Louise). When Joe Louis won the title he vowed to be a fighting champion, hence the “bum of the month club”. The immortal understood that it was not his job to set 'em up, it was his job to knock 'em down. Language is tricky, and in no place is it trickier than in boxing. Tell me what is the difference between the following: “bum of the month club”, “I’ll take on all comers” and “I’ll lick any son of a bitch in the room”. The answer is really none, only the prestige (or lack thereof) we bestow upon Joe Louis, John L. Sullivan and John Ruiz. Lennox Lewis was never that kind of champion; neither were Mike Tyson and most recently Vitali Klitschko. John Ruiz and Chris Byrd may not fight the way we would like them to, but at least they’ll fight anybody.

Even Roy Jones Jr. stated recently that he isn’t surprised that Ruiz hasn’t lost a fight since their March of 2003 meeting. Neither am I. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am more surprised by Hasim Rahman and Kirk Johnson’s erratic brand of dedication. I am more surprised that a great athlete like Fres Oquendo would fold in the late rounds, and that a superior boxer like Golota failed to separate himself from Ruiz on November 13th. And another thing… Oh hell, I’m getting carried away, I’ll just be quiet already.

Until the Next 'Jones'
The 'Boxing Junkie'
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