The CyberBoxingZone News

Words with the Quiet Man
J.D. Vena

December 11, 1999

In the HBO Boxing telecast billed as "Night of the Young Heavyweights" six young heavyweights were given an opportunity to capture the public's imagination, the imagination that one of the heavyweights could perhaps wear the most coveted prize in all sports. The name of each victor of the three bouts would be linked synonymously with the word "promising." For one of its contestants, that campaign would suffer a tremendous setback.

On the night of March 15, 1996, Johnny Ruiz would be caught seconds into his bout by David Tua's patented left hook. The blow would send a startled Ruiz into the ropes as he remained defenseless to the Samoan's follow up blows. The result would go into the record books as a nineteen second knockout for the "Terminator" who would now carry the tag of "dangerous prospect."

Nearly four years after the disastrous loss, Johnny Ruiz is riding a ten fight winning streak and the distinction as the number one contender by the W.B.C. Ruiz is hoping that his latest campaign will culminate with not only another chance to capture the spotlight but more importantly a chance to become the first Latino boxer to ever win the heavyweight crown. Only seven Latino heavyweights have ever challenged for the heavyweight championship. All have come up short in their attempts.

Despite Ruiz' recent success, he has had difficulty in establishing his reputation as the fearsome boxer/puncher he is. Dubbed "The Quiet Man", Ruiz is one of the many fighters who's only voice has been the sounds of his thudding punches. As a result, many fight fans aren't familiar with the Massachusetts based Puerto Rican.

Whether one believes Ruiz is the most or one of the most deserving candidates for a heavyweight title fight or not, Ruiz is not the push over many of the pundits have labeled him. In this writer's opinion, his persistence and hard work will one day earn him the heavyweight title for which Ruiz lives. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with the Quiet Man who was preparing for his next victim, Jade Scott, this Saturday, December 11.

J.D. Vena: You were honored by your native Puerto Rico as Fighter of the Year for 1998 mainly due to the fact that you are the first fighter of Puerto Rican heritage to attain a number one ranking as a heavyweight. Is it as much as a burden to you as it is an honor for you to have such a rating?

Johnny Ruiz: I consider it more of an honor. To be the first Puerto Rican heavyweight to be ranked number one and that I could be the first Latino to be the heavyweight champion of the world would be an even greater honor in itself. I'm in the right groove for my ultimate goal, which is to win the heavyweight championship of the world. I'm ranked number one in the world (by the W.B.C.) and hopefully sometime next year I'll get my title shot.

JV: No matter what Duran or de la Hoya have accomplished during their careers, they will never have the opportunity to wear the most coveted prize in sports: the heavyweight championship. Potentially you could be the most popular Latino fighter who ever lived. Have you thought about the international fame you would gain from winning the heavyweight title?

JR: I don't know about most popular. It's true though that heavyweight's have a certain catch to it. Everyone wants to be the heavyweight champion of the world. It would be really nice. I'm just going to do everything I've always wanted to do since I was a little kid.

JV: Though you're cherished by your hometown of Chelsea for your charities has it discouraged you that being the first heavyweight from Massachusetts to become the number one contender since Rocky Marciano, hasn't brought you the same media attention or the accolades as you'd might expect?

JR: It's sort of disappointing. Just to know that I'm taking each fight one at a time and for the media to not acknowledge me is disappointing in a way. I was hoping to have more publicity from the (television) stations and the newspapers. Nobody knows me yet. I can walk down the street and not be recognized.

JV: Is there more of an urgency to win the title because of your lack of popularity?

JR: Well if you can't get your home state behind you then it's harder to get any of the other states to get behind you. It starts here in Massachusetts. I need Massachusetts to rally behind me so that everyone else can follow the uproar.

JV: Back in the 1960's, a former welterweight champion named Emile Griffith moved up in weight and was stopped in one round by a thunderous punching Hurricane Carter. Griffith however rebounded from the setback and would twice win the middleweight championship. He was stopped only once in his next 60 or so fights which came at the tail end of his career. More recently, Terron Millett who suffered a 1st round knockout earlier in his career became a world champion at jr. welterweight. What adjustments did you make after your loss to David Tua that may indicate your recent success: 10 straight wins, 9 by KO?

JR: Just going out there to fight in the first round. Before (the Tua fight) I just laid back to see what happens in the first round. Then the second round, I'd start moving around a little bit. I'd be gradually getting into the fight as it went on. Now I start fighting in the first round and keep going at that pace.

JV: I've noticed that you have added some weight. Have been lifting weights? What did your trainers Gabe LaMarca and Norman Stone work with you on?

JR: Yeah I started weight training. We worked more on quickness and just not being lazy early in my fights.

JV: Although you have rebounded from your loss to Tua, there are more HBO subscribers than there are Showtime, therefore, most fans haven't seen your progress. As a result, it seems that the name David Tua's name will hover over your head until you either win the title or avenge yourself against him. Other than your mission of winning the heavyweight title, is it a priority for you to meet David Tua once you become champion?

JR: Since that fight (with Tua) we've been asking for a rematch and it seems that they (Tua and Main Events) never wanted it. When I do become champion I will start hearing that he wants to fight me again. Other than that, he doesn't want to come near me. I'll just wait until then. I'd fight him tomorrow. But I think he doesn't want the fight because there's not much money involved.

JV: While you were reestablishing yourself as a contender, you were paired with Jimmy Thunder, a tough consistent puncher on a winning streak. After the opening bell, you raced across the ring and started pounding this guy. Late in the fight, it appeared that you were really tested. You absorbed a head butt which caused a cut over your left eye as well as a crippling low blow from Thunder that put you on the canvas. What went through your mind at that point?

JR: The only thing that went through my mind was that they weren't going to give me that fight. They were going to take that fight away from me if I didn't continue fighting. It discourages you when something like that happens, but he was the favorite. I was with Lennox Lewis' people, Pannix Promotions and they came down to see me fight for the first time wearing Jimmy Thunder t-shirts. They were trying to have Thunder fight Lewis if he (Thunder) beat me. Everything was going against me from the start so it was nice to come out on top in that fight.

JV: On the undercard of Holyfield vs. Bean fight (Sept 19, 1998), you had the opportunity of displaying your skills in front of 40,000 fans. That night you faced the late Jerry Ballard, another dangerous fighter who won all of his victories by knockout. Unfortunately, the television audience did not have the privilege of seeing how well you put your combinations together to Knock out Ballard in 4 rounds. Do you prefer facing dangerous fighters such as Ballard, or opponents such as your latest, Fernely Feliz, who though may be skilled, learn in the first round fighting you that they are just in there to survive?

JR: Well every fight is dangerous. Some people call these fights (against Feliz) tune-up fights but I take each fight seriously. This guy is stepping into the ring to fight me and that takes a lot of courage. I don't prefer a certain style over another because you never know how a fighter is going to react when you hit him. The first few rounds are very important, they will either try to survive or try to take your head off so you never know until you fight them.

JV: I have noticed that you start very quickly as attested in your fights with Tony Tucker who you floored twice in the opening round and your 19 second blowout of Ray Anis. As a result of controversial decision losses to Donnell Nicholsen and Sergei Kobozev, do you prefer to get in the ring and knock the other guy out?

JR: Well we acknowledged that I was fighting slowly in the early rounds so we worked on that. If the knockout happens then that's great. You just keep going until the fight ends then you can go lie down somewhere (laughs).

JV: You have a look of controlled fury before the opening bell. What goes through your mind during those moments?

JR: I just think about fighting. I hate waiting. I don't feel great until that first bell rings.

JV: Before Michael Grant exposed his limited ability against Golota in his last fight, your manager Norman Stone had been reportedly trying to negotiate a fight between the two of you? Based on Grant's vulnerability, it looks as if Lewis may chose to fight him in either of his next two title defenses. In reports, Lennox Lewis hasn't mentioned your name once as a possible opponent. What will you do to lobby for a shot at the undisputed title?

JR: Well the main reason why they haven't mentioned my name is because I was with them at one point. I didn't want to sign with them again because they were only putting their time into Lewis and they didn't want to bother with me.

JV: Would this lack of interest have to do with the time you two were in the same camp while you were in England?

JR: Well I think I was a little too quick for him. You know everyone is talking about Grant but right now Lewis' mandatory is Akinwande and he would have to get rid of his W.B.A. belt. I don't think Lewis wants to do that.

JV: You have been scheduled to fight Jade Scott December 11 on Showtime. What do you know about him and how do you plan on fighting him?

JR: We don't know much about him. What I've heard is that he's a boxer and he likes to move around a lot like Feliz.

JV: You began boxing in 1989 and defeated the eventual 1992 Olympic Gold Medal winner Torsten May two years later. Within three and a half years you were fighting in the Olympic trials. I have heard that you have excelled in every sport or activity you have participated in your life. How long do you forecast hanging around in boxing? Do you have any other long-term goals other than winning the championship and retiring with a lot of cash? What would you like to do next once you're finished with boxing?

JR: My goal is to fight for the heavyweight title. I don't think about anything else really. I'm just focused on that point. I mean I do want to retire before I'm beat down or slurring my words but my goal is to become the heavyweight champion. What happens after I reach my goal I'll think about then.


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