The Parker-Ruiz Fight Wasn’t As Close As The Scoring Suggested


THE PARKER-RUIZ FIGHT WASN’T THAT CLOSE — This past weekend, a new WBO heavyweight champion was crowned in Auckland, New Zealand. The title was vacated by former champ Tyson Fury, who won it from Wladimir Klitschko this time last year, but was unable to defend it for well-documented reasons. The combatants challenging for the vacant belt were 24-year-old Joseph Parker, now 22-0 (18) and 27-year- old Andy Ruiz, now 29-1 (19).

Both fighters entered the bout undefeated and were thought to be at the high water mark of their careers. Parker (pictured with his trainer Kevin Barry) was fighting in his home country and was thought to be the slight favorite over the Mexican-American Ruiz. The bout went the 12-round distance and when it was over – Parker was the new WBO champ. One of the judges tabulated it 114-114, or on a rounds basis 6-6. The other two judges had it 115-113, or 7-5 Parker in rounds.

Lance Revill, the President of the New Zealand Boxing Association, thought the decision was nuts. Speaking to a reporter from the New Zealand Herald, Revill said that Ruiz got ripped off. “And I want to make it clear with everyone else,” he said, “cut your bull****, cut saying he’s an honorable Samoan/New Zealander, it’s bull****. He didn’t win the fight last night and get real New Zealand because we haven’t got a New Zealand heavyweight champion.”

I couldn’t disagree more!

I watched the entire bout live and in the moment, and when I heard the first score read 114-114, my jaw dropped in disbelief! Then the following two scores were announced, and they favored Parker 115-113.  Quite frankly, I was even a little dismayed by those scores. I just didn’t see the fight as being that close. No, I don’t think Parker dominated Ruiz or came close to beating him up. In fact neither guy was ever hurt or really shook once during the 36-minute fight. However, there was only one guy in there fighting his fight and doing more of what he needed to do. That was Parker, who did what he needed to do to neutralize Ruiz’s strength and mute his aggression – and he did so in at least eight of the 12 rounds.

I’m tired of observers talking favorably about the aggression of certain fighters who press the action, but ineffectively, trudging forward offering no return. Professional boxing isn’t strictly about the hardest puncher landing one or two notable shots during a round, and thinking that’s enough to carry it. This seemed to be Ruiz’s mindset for a majority of the bout. 

The fight started slow, as expected. Nothing much happened, but Parker was sticking Ruiz with his left jab from time to time. They weren’t piercing shots and not all of them got through, but there was nothing coming back from Ruiz. So the round goes to Parker. In the second and third rounds, Ruiz picked it up and let his hands go more freely, and had success tagging Parker to the head and body. After a sampling of what it felt like fighting Ruiz, Parker decided that it was in his best interest to keep Ruiz turning in the corners and his back off the ropes while picking his spots to flurry, and that’s exactly what he did in seven of the last nine rounds of the fight.

Plodding forward, without cutting the ring off or making the other guy pay for punching at you, shouldn’t be rewarded. And in my opinion, Ruiz got too much of the benefit of the doubt in that regard. It was clear from the fourth round on that Parker’s strategy was to box, circle, move and flurry just enough with left jabs and right hands so he could occupy Ruiz and keep him off of him. Parker was mostly successful in doing that. He didn’t run from Ruiz or refuse to fight him; it’s just that he set the terms of when there would be engagement. The onus was on Ruiz to disrupt Parker’s strategy with activity and somehow force him to fight it out, but Andy wasn’t very effective in doing so. Both fighters were very unimaginative offensively, and Parker was vulnerable to Ruiz’s left-hook when he was attempting to get out after a flurry. The problem was that Ruiz didn’t force him into that position often enough. And it wasn’t as if Parker’s boxing and moving was anything reminiscent of a vintage Muhammad Ali.

Parker was actually predictable with his hands and feet. Circle left, with a very occasional switch to the right, flurry to the head with an occasional jab to the body, and if forced inside, a few left-hooks to Ruiz’s big body. Most of the time when there was a brief firefight and they mixed it up, Ruiz got slightly the better of it. There just weren’t enough of those instances for Ruiz to be so close on the scorecards. He simply had too many gaps of inactivity. Again, Parker didn’t outclass or beat Ruiz up – he out-boxed him during at least eight of the 12-rounds they fought. It was by no means a wide margin; it’s just that he was busier and getting off more consistently.

There’s a reasons why fighters don’t get off like they need to in order to dictate the fight versus an opponent who is trying to avoid full engagement. In the case of Ruiz against Parker – either Parker’s punches were bothering Ruiz more than they looked to be, which I don’t think was the case, or Ruiz was lazy, which I also don’t think was the case, or Ruiz just isn’t very well coached at how to cut the ring off and force his opponent to trade with him. Sure, Ruiz can come back from this setback, but he must fight with more ferocity and determination and improve at cutting the ring off and getting inside when confronted by a guy who is intent on moving away and around him.

As far as the action went, the Parker-Ruiz clash was somewhat close with not many memorable exchanges. But Parker won an overwhelming majority of the rounds in a close manner, fighting his fight just enough to stay a step ahead of Ruiz most of the way. Parker fought a very relaxed fight, and Ruiz never made him uncomfortable doing such. When nothing decisive happens, a fighter, in this case Parker, can actually win by a wide margin without really dominating any of the rounds. I think that’s what happened in this fight and the scoring was far too liberal in rewarding Ruiz points for just coming forward without letting his hands go or landing many clean punches.

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-Coxs Corner :

Yes effective aggression like that offered by a Joe Frazier, or Mike Tyson among heavyweights is what true scoring aggression is. To just push the fight as Frank stated without cutting off the ring or making your opponent pay when he opens up is not effective and should not be rewarded. It was relatively close but Parker landed more cleanly and controlled the action. No controversy, but AJ would kill either of them.

-StormCentre :

Yep, Parker won the fight in my view. But - due to the fact that Parker (like Ward) spent a great deal of time in retreat - there were shades of Ward V Kovalev in how it could be both judged and interpreted. Retreating doesn't always mean you're (meaningfully) scared (in the context that it should be reflected in the judging) or losing. In fact, even if it did mean you're scared, it still doesn't always mean you're losing. Ruiz is pretty tough though. His footwork doesn't always match his hand-craft. But - aside from knowing how to use the counterpunch and a few sneaky right hands very shrewdly - he probably is a better inside fighter than Parker too. Either that, or Parker's punch resistance and/or confidence is not always where Ruiz' is. Parker probably hasn't faced a guy that is not intimidated by him - can take his shots - and, can trouble him so easily on the inside, and at times also at medium range; as Ruiz. Add to it all Andy - when not rubbing his glove's wrists and/or laces into Parker's head - illegally used his forearm many times throughout the night (and without too much castigation from Weeks I might add {perhaps because Arum was ringside?}) to both position Joseph and also set up some of the aforementioned counters and sneaky right hands that Ruiz was investing in. At 27 - provided he dedicates himself to his craft and trains hard - Ruiz may be able to do something with himself. But I suspect that, even if Andy were to train hard and stay in shape, when in against some of the taller, longer, and equally fast heavyweights (especially those that were not as concerned about Ruiz' counterpunches, and were also - unlike Parker - prepared to really sit down on their own long range jabs and other punches) that can move their feet, quickly control distance and/or reset; Ruiz may not get too far past the jab and right hand.

Parker has the power to stop Ruiz, but last Saturday night he was too full of respect and concerned about Ruiz' counters to set up the power shots properly with committed and hard long/medium distance jabs. That will change with time though.

Ruiz had a good game-plan and he executed it fairly well. However, even with all that said, there's no mistaking it; despite how fluidly he operates at both medium and close range, and despite how well he transitions from attack to counterpunch and vice versa; Ruiz eats a lot of punches. Even when in with guys that are below his class. And that consideration also factored into why I thought Parker would win this. Parker ate a few shots too. But I suspect he was simply not used to sparring/fighting anyone that - after the types of exchanges that both he and Ruiz engaged in - was still standing in front of him (as Andy was) and willing to throw more punches. Hopefully it's a lesson learnt. As guys like Wilder, Joshua, possibly Wladimir, and possibly also (a fit) Browne, will most likely exploit the vulnerabilities in Parker that previously existed but were also confirmed within the Riuz fight last Saturday night. Those vulnerabilities include Joseph's dislike of a high work-rate (not an entirely uncommon problem amongst heavyweights) - his apparent unfamiliarity with guys with fast/heavy hands, and his vulnerability to almost any counterpunch (also not an entirely uncommon problem amongst heavyweights). OK, to (some of the) the good stuff about Parker. Parker (like Ruiz) is still only young too. He had his work cut out for him with Ruiz. If the fight were not in New Zealand it could have easily been justifiably scored for Ruiz. That is not to say it's not currently and justifiably scored as a win for Parker. Just that the subjective nature of scoring provides for both. Personally I agree with Frank in that because;

A) Both Parker and Ruiz were effectively fighting Parker's fight for the most part.
B) The fight (when Parker wasn't attacking and/or scoring) often involved Joseph turning/retreating - but using that movement to both, combat Ruiz' approach and also suppress his offence.

Ruiz should therefore not be awarded points solely for the fact that Parker didn't provide him with a stationary object to strike at. Parker's retreats were not entirely motivated by Ruiz dominance. But more by strategy. And the proof of that is seen in how Parker utilized that strategy to control the fight and at times Andy. It should also be said though; there was a fine line between how all that could have been interpreted. But the demarcation point (for me at least) about it all is in the fact that Ruiz was not always cutting the corners off, and - to some extent - seemed to be content to just plod after and follow Parker around. Almost as if he had no answer to Parker's movement and only wanted to seriously fight when/if Parker stood still and engaged him on those terms. I disagree with the Frank that the fight was not close. I think it was close. More that Parker just won the (close) fight because he utilized his movement and controlled both Andy and the fight more than those times when Andy won the close range exchanges; where, usually, both guys still got good punches in. I would never argue that Parker is not being managed and his opponents carefully selected. Perhaps that's the best way. Because, if he can slowly increase the competition level and continue to win, then within a few years he could really be a force to reckon with. That said, the other heavyweights out there will have noted Parker's abovementioned vulnerabilities, particularly his dislike for a shootout with guys of equal substance. Which all means (regardless of what is stated and regurgitated in sensationalistic press releases) perhaps we should not expect serious competition and/or a tall order for Joseph's first defence. Or, even those thereafter. Not in the least as Ruiz does not represent the complete depth of the waters in the heavyweight boxing scene at the moment. Good write up Frank.
Storm. :) :)