Shortly after being on the wrong end of the judges’ scorecards this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden, John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz put an end to a career many critics will say highlighted the shortcomings of today’s elite division. Looking at the man who beat him on Saturday night, they may be right.
Ruiz amassed a record of 41-6-1 with 28 knockouts in a twelve year professional career that will be highlighted by his reign as the WBA heavyweight champion, with the lows being punctuated by his 19-second loss at the hands of David Tua. In between there were many hazy shades of grey, such as his very credible victories over Hasim Rahman, Andrew Golota and Evander Holyfield, which are negated by his heavyweight loss to 175-pound king Roy Jones Jr., and losses to the merely adequate Darnell Nicholson and Sergei Kobozev.
The 33-year-old from Chelsea, Massachusetts will be remembered – assuming anyone actually does recall his career in the ring – for his unique style of hit-and-hold, stab-and-grab, punch-and-clutch, or whatever other terms have been born out of his pattern throwing one punch and then lunging at his opponent to hold them in an effort to prevent any return fire. Against Toney it didn’t work out too well, as the veteran middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight and now heavyweight champion was successful in avoiding the jab of Ruiz and countering with quick right cross-left hook combos.
Many rounds were difficult to score on Saturday night which put a questionable knockdown ruling by solid referee Steve Smoger into the spotlight. In the seventh round Toney came out and tagged Ruiz with a quick flurry that sent Ruiz into the ropes. In Smoger’s defense, “The Quiet Man” would have touched the canvas had the ropes not been there to save him, but video replays showed that Toney stepped on Ruiz’s foot and gave him a shove. Whether Ruiz was going down due a punch or because he had his foot stepped on is a split-second judgment Smoger was forced to make; that round being scored 10-8 for “Lights Out” had a major impact on the night’s end. Scores were 116-111 (twice) and 115-112 in favor of the 233-pound cigar-sucking Toney. If the knockdown had not been counted as such and had Ruiz gone on to win the round, the scores might have been a more respectable 115-113 (twice) and 114-114. One round scored differently anywhere along the line of the many 3-minute stanzas that were so difficult to score and the fight could have been a draw.
To hear Toney tell it though, it was a blowout victory.
Sifting through James Toney’s post-fight verbal diarrhea, the new WBA/IBA heavyweight champion called John Ruiz an “average” and “stupid” fighter. I would then suggest that for Toney to escape with such a slight nod over a fighter of such poor caliber, as he claims Ruiz to be, Toney himself therefore isn’t much better.
Looking at the history of “Light’s Out” Toney, his career accomplishments as a heavyweight now dwindle down to a win over 41-year-old Holyfield, whose best days were long ago and who was also a cruiserweight, a decision win against another cruiser named Rydell Booker, who hasn’t fought since, and now the victory over an “average,” “stupid” opponent who he claims came from, and belongs in, a “trashcan.” So, James Toney, what have you really done besides fall into the lap of a cushy division?
Showing no respect or class, Toney then suggested that promoter Don King would toss John Ruiz back into the “trashcan” where he found him. While I never was a big fan of John Ruiz in the ring, I do have a ton of respect for any person who enters the ring to box. To become the heavyweight champion and successfully defend a major title is no small feat. Ruiz never badmouthed an opponent in either victory or defeat and perhaps accomplished more with less than any top-ten heavyweight in the sport today. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and now he is done.
True to his “Quiet Man” persona, a dejected and disappointed Ruiz did not appear at the post-fight conference where his longtime friend and manager Norman “Stoney” Stone took the podium to announce that Ruiz is “done,” that the press and fans alike will no longer have his fighter to kick around any longer. Ruiz and Stone went through their share of “downs” in overcoming the crushing defeat to Tua, being outclassed by Jones Jr. and constantly being trashed in the media.
An orthodox fighter with an unorthodox style, John Ruiz kept coming back against all odds and went on his winning ways. Now he will just be on his way.