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.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com