He was sitting around, looking around, listening to compatriots reminisce about halcyon days passed, as they sipped beers and maybe nodded their heads in assent when Bruce Springsteens’ “Glory Days” came on the radio.
Glory days well they’ll pass you by/
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye.
Donovan Ruddock last fought in 2001 (TKO10 win over Egerton Marcus) and has won ten straight bouts since losing (TKO6) to Tommy Morrison in 1995, but the Jamaican-born boxer, who has called Canada home for long stretches, found himself battling a different sort of scrap after hanging up the gloves.
It was an existential crisis, and the enemies were idle time, and junk food. Always a solidly built warrior, his flab to muscle ratio crept up, and the 300 pounds he was carrying around were contributing to high blood pressure. “A doctor told me diabetes was next,” the 51-year-old Toronto man told me in a phoner. “It was seven or eight years ago, my blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high.”
Some of the combativeness which made him a heavyweight to follow in the 90s returned and had him getting fired up. Ruddock, who will answer to “Donovan” or “Razor,” he has no real preference, started walking, and kicked the junk food to the curb. “Then I started training,” he recalls. Wife Tritcha, they’ve been together for 20 years, supported his swerve away from a hammock lifestyle, and saw that Razor’s mood improved measurably. So, when he started thinking about returning to the ring, giving it another go, adding on to his 38-5-1 (29 KOs) mark, she was on board. Yes, to the point where she went to the gym to over-see workouts, and will in fact, be working his corner when he fights at the Hershey Center, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada on Saturday evening.
Ruddock turns 52 in December and isn’t ready to throw in that proverbial towel, and capitulate to the calendar. He will face off with “young gun” Raymond Olubawale, age 44, who sports a 10-6-1 mark, with 7 KOs to his credit. Olubalwale has been stopped four times since turning pro in 2004.
“People ask why I’m doing this,” Ruddock told me. “Honest to God, it was not just boredom, but it was my outlook on life. Was I going to retire and fade away, on the way to dying? I can’t accept that,” he said. The return to active combat got to a place of reality when he took on a young gun, a rising talent at the gym, 21, muscles galore. “He was a young guy in the hood, a tough guy, a bad man. And I took him to school,” Ruddock said. “People were shocked maybe but I wasn’t. I know what it takes to be a fighter. I have been in with Mike Tyson, I know how I’m supposed to feel.”
So what’s the desired end game here? Ruddock is setting his sights high, and isn’t just seeing this as a trim-down plan, or a plan to right wrongs, or maybe settle scores. No, he told me he doesn’t look back in a ‘what could have been’ mindset, and ponder how fate might have shined on him differently if he’d won a Tyson scrap, or what have you. He is purely focused on the future, and wants to win Saturday, then snag the Canadian heavyweight title, then beat a top 20 type, and then fight for a crown.
Klitschko, Wilder, whoever, it doesn’t matter. He told me his power and speed are present, and he trains smarter than he did back in the day, so in some ways, he’s better than he was in his “prime.”
“My plan is to win the title, and be the oldest heavy champion,” he told me.
I shared that as I get older, I am more open to such comebacks, and don’t snipe from the sidelines when I note that a Roy Jones, for example, is fighting on. My best sourcing indicates we have but one life to live, and if the man wants to climb this high hill, despite the massive odds against, and he’s medically fit, and his family embraces it..who the hell am I to opine against. Indeed, part of me roots for “Razor” to get ‘er done, out-George Foreman, and shock the world, if not him. Good luck, “Razor.”
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