May 22, 2000
When John "The Quietman" Ruiz enters the Somerville Boxing Club, his second home, he usually has nothing to say. The gym he has attended for the past 12 years has been there for Ruiz as a vehicle that will eventually carry him to the heavyweight title.
"From the time he walks into the gym until he walks out, he doesn't say a word," said manager and longtime friend Norman (Stoney) Stone. He immediately becomes a focused machine, a machine that will fine tune itself into a highly conditioned specimen before a fight. On the day before he was to greet the media in an open workout session, the Quietman had to get something off his chest when he walked in.
Covering the walls that surround the two boxing rings at the Somerville Boxing Club are a variety of flags, including the American (of course), the Dominican, the Italian, the Irish and the Puerto-Rican flags. Most of the club's members happen to be of those nationalities besides American.
Showtime, the network that will air Ruiz' contest with Holyfield on June 10th at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, required a "Showtime Championship Boxing" banner for their photo-shoot of Ruiz. The most convenient place to hang the banner happened to be where the Puerto-Rican flag has hung for years. Out of respect for Ruiz, who is of Puerto-Rican descent, the Puerto-Rican flag was hung over the Irish flag. Upon noticing this, Ruiz was startled and approached his manager Stone.
"Hey Stoney," Ruiz said. "Why is the Puerto-Rican flag covering the Irish flag?" To which Stone replied, "It's my flag John. Don't worry about it."
"Take the Puerto Rican flag off of the Irish flag," demanded Ruiz. "I don't want to insult anyone."
Everyone who knows John Ruiz sees him as a man of principle, a genuine nice guy -- outside the boxing ring, of course. Inside the ring, Ruiz is a fierce and driven competitor. The late Jerry Ballard (a former contender who was murdered last year) had unfortunately met Ruiz inside a boxing ring. On September 19, 1998, the relentless Ruiz mercilessly knocked out Ballard in four rounds.
It was that impressive performance that vaulted Ruiz into the number one slot by the WBC. Ruiz has also acquired the number one status for the WBA. Since the designation, Ruiz has been campaigning for a shot at what he wants most, the heavyweight championship held by Lennox Lewis, a man who has refused to face Ruiz.
"Lennox Lewis has a reason for avoiding John," said Ruiz' attorney Anthony Cardinale. "Lewis knows what Johnny can do and has seen what Johnny can do."
Ruiz was at one-time a sparring partner for Lewis while also being promoted by Panos Eliades. To Stone's account, Lewis didn't look too well against Ruiz and would not spar with Ruiz while the press attended Lewis' workouts.
"Since Johnny became the #1 contender, all (Lewis' people) have done is offer us money to step aside," said Cardinale. "They offered us a lot of money without a written guarantee of a title shot. Well we're not interested in the money, we're interested in the championship."
"We fought off their legal challenge that they took against Don King and John Ruiz to avoid fulfilling their contractual obligation to fight the mandatory WBA challenger which is Johnny," said Cardinale.
Lewis had signed an agreement that required him to face the mandatory challenger had he defeated Holyfield, which he did this past November. Instead of facing Ruiz, Lewis opted for Michael Grant, an over-hyped opponent that Ruiz had tried to get in the ring with prior to his near disaster with Andrew Golota. It was Grant's performance against Golota that prompted Lewis to select Grant as his first title defense after decisioning Holyfield. Now Ruiz and Holyfield will battle for the vacant WBA title in pursuit of fulfilling their dreams.
"It will be good to know that I will not only become the first Puerto Rican but the first Latino to ever win the heavyweight title," said Ruiz. "No one will ever be able to take that away from me."
Even if Ruiz wins the WBA title, however, he still would need to beat Lennox Lewis to solidify his claim.
The Spokesaman for Ruiz continues:
"All that BS you hear from Lewis about 'titles being won in the ring' is just HBO hype," said Cardinale. "Lennox Lewis had no problem fighting for vacant titles in the past and he took one of those belts out of the garbage can. . . . Lewis calls it 'politricks' yet he has mastered it and all the spin doctors at HBO are the one's that have helped him," said Cardinale. "We're fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world and it is well deserved whether Lewis or HBO accepts it or not."
Lewis has taken to calling Ruiz "Johnny Louise." "I really don't care for what Lewis has called me," said Ruiz. "I'll fight him on a day's notice. After I beat Holyfield, I want to unify the belts and become a great champion as Holyfield was."
"I don't know what Lewis is trying to get at by calling him Johnny Louise," said Stone. "He's the one that wouldn't fight us. If anything, he should be called Lennox Louise. If Lewis wants to change his opponent for July 15th, then send us plane tickets on June 11th (the day after the Holyfield fight) and we'll go right over to England and knock him out."