Not all memories of a golden past are good, even for those who walked with world championship belts around their waists.
Gabriel Ruelas can attest to that.
The prizefighter from Yerba Buena, Mexico who later trekked to the San Fernando Valley captured the WBC junior lightweight title in 1994. But as with any professional boxer, there is much more to his life.
“The Business of Pain” written by Araceli Martinez-Rose chronicles his life in a style reminiscent of Oscar Lewis’s book “Children of Sanchez.” You might call this the “Children of Ruelas” as the author utilized the voices from those who worked, lived and cried alongside Ruelas.
Among those who narrate their points of view were sisters, brothers, parents and wives. Of course the book also includes his trainer of many years Joe Goossen, promoter Dan Goossen and former adversaries such as Jesse James Leija and Azumah Nelson.
Most important is the book points illuminates the fight between Ruelas and Colombia’s Jimmy Garcia, who died from injuries sustained during their fight. Family members of Garcia contributed their dark memories of that night along with friends and family of Ruelas.
It’s also a moment that stands out in my own mind. I happened to be covering that fight card for the Los Angeles Times, which also featured Oscar De La Hoya fighting Rafael Ruelas in a lightweight world title match. It was in 1995 and my part was to speak to Gabriel Ruelas, whether he won or lost.
On May 6, 1995, Ruelas out boxed, out slugged and basically did whatever he chose to do against the over-matched Garcia. It was the first big fight card I had ever covered and the outdoor setting of Caesars Palace was filled with grimaces and looks of shock. Few could believe the fight was not stopped around round seven as Ruelas pounded Garcia with little in return.
When the fight was finally stopped in round 11, I spoke to Times columnist Allan Malamud (a great columnist who passed away in 1996) and he gave me some instructions on what to ask Ruelas. As I moved out of press row and toward the dressing room inside a large tent Garcia with an oxygen mask was being rolled on a bed toward an ambulance.
It was a grisly site that I’ll never forget.
Outside of Ruelas’ dressing room stood actor Gene Hackman and heavyweight Jeremy Williams. I informed Williams, who was guarding the door that I was expected. Though Ruelas knew that Garcia had endured a lot of punishment, I could tell that he harbored hope that the Colombian fighter would recover. When I informed him that Garcia was sent out with an oxygen mask you might say the pallor of Ruelas face suddenly changed drastically.
The book gives every perspective of that night and many of the important moments that led to that fight. It also covers his life after that fight and Ruelas’s continuing journey after professional boxing.
My favorite sections of the book are the early years of the Ruelas family while they lived in Mexico and the observations given by former foes like Leija and Nelson. What they have to say is both inspiring and truthful.
Martinez-Rose, the author, also added a number of great current and past fighters like Kostya Tszyu, Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko and Sugar Shane Mosley. There are others who all give their reasons why they love the sport of boxing with a feverish passion.
Most importantly the book expresses the truest sentiments of those involved directly and indirectly with boxing and its Business of Pain.
“Business of Pain” placed first place in the 2012 International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation story.
The book can be purchased in Spanish or English and has an extensive photo section. Araceli Martinez-Rose is a native of Tijuana, Mexico, and has worked in both Mexico and the United States as a journalist.