The CyberBoxingZone News

Cocked and Loaded, Ruiz is Ready to Shoot Down Holyfield

JD Vena
    In the early 20th century, the city of Chelsea, Mass, was the boxing Mecca in the United States.  Due to a city ordinance, boxing matches were allowed in Chelsea, at a time when they were outlawed in most cities in the country.  During this period, African-Americans, who weren't allowed to fight whites, turned Chelsea into a haven of for legendary black fighters to face each other.  These Hall of Famers, included, Jack Johnson, Sam Langford, Sam McVey, Joe Jeannette, Abe Attell and Joe (The Barbados Demon) Walcott.  If you do your research, Chelsea is a city rich with boxing history and it may have its first heavyweight champion, provided its favorite son, John "The Quiet Man" Ruiz wins the vacant WBA heavyweight title at the Paris Casino, this Saturday night.

    To accomplish this, Ruiz must conquer the ever great, Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield, arguably the most accomplished heavyweight of the past 20
years.  Should he win, Ruiz will not only be the first fighter from Massachusetts since Rocky Marciano (48 years ago) to win a portion of the heavyweight title, he will also be the first fighter of Latin-American descent to do so.  It is a task in which very few feel he can succeed though Holyfield is nearly 38 years old and has boxed as a professional since Ruiz was 12.

    "There have been a lot of negative things said about Johnny and Holyfield," said Norman "Stoney" Stone, the manager of Ruiz.  "But if (the so-called experts) are making Lewis out to be this sensational fighter, why isn't Holyfield at least a good fighter?  After all, Holyfield went 12 rounds with him twice and as far as I'm concerned, beat him the last time they fought."

    Since unifying the three major alphabet titles in November of last year, Lennox Lewis, has made short work of the once feared, Michael Grant and
survivalist, Francois Botha.  The winner of Saturday night's contest between Holyfield and Ruiz will look to unify the belts that Lennox Lewis had before the WBA stripped him of that recognition.  Lewis was stripped when he failed to abide by the contract he had signed to fight the WBA's mandatory challenger after beating Holyfield.

    Holyfield vs. Ruiz was originally scheduled for June 10th, until the fight was postponed because of a rib injury sustained by Holyfield during his preparation.

    "It was justice delayed, not justice denied," said Stone.  "Johnny was in absolute great shape before the first fight was postponed.  We ended camp and started back up a few weeks ago as if it was a new fight.  We've had fights postponed before.  He continued to run to stay in shape, but he whipped himself back into perhaps the greatest shape he's ever been in.  He's the most focused fighter you'll ever see and that's the way he has always been since he walked into the gym."

    Born in Methuen, Ma, Ruiz was born the third son to his parents, Gladys and Benvenuto.  Each of their four children, (Robert, Edward, John & Jacqueline) is named after members of the Kennedy family.  At an early age, Benvenuto decided to move his family back to his fatherland of Puerto Rico.  There he and Gladys had an unfortunate break-up and Gladys migrated back to the United States with her four children.  There, Gladys met her future husband, Junior Rivera, a one-time boxer also from Puerto Rico.  It was Junior who introduced John and his brother, Edward, to boxing.

    "I loved it from the beginning," said Ruiz.  I was glad that I got involved because there were lots of kids into drugs and gangs around where I lived."

    With his devotion to boxing, young John would find little time for drugs or gang life.

    "I was boxing all the time.  When I was a kid, all I really did was run in the morning, go to school, box at night, do my homework, then I'd go to bed.  I especially liked running and I often competed in every distance race I could." 

    During the year Holyfield was fighting for Olympic Gold as a light heavyweight in Los Angeles, Ruiz was wining city marathons for his age group.

    "When I was 12, I stopped boxing because it was too difficult to get fights," said Ruiz. "I would try to compete in as many shows as I could, but I could never get anyone to fight me."

    During his hiatus, Ruiz concentrated and excelled in other sports.  He lettered in basketball, football and baseball.  During his senior year, Ruiz was named all conference as a tight end for the Chelsea High School football team and a power forward for the school's basketball team.  Missing his true passion, Ruiz decided to return to what he enjoyed doing the most, boxing.  Junior took him to the Somerville Boxing Club where John continues to train.

    "From the day he walked into the gym, I knew he had potential," said longtime trainer and friend, Gabe LaMarca.  "Not only did he have great balance, he had a tremendous work ethic."

    "Since he was a kid, he'd walk right in and not say a word to anyone throughout his whole regimen," said Stone.  "When you'd tell him he was all done for the day, he'd continue to work on other things.  Gabe has done a tremendous job with this kid, but John is always striving to be a better fighter."

"Gabe and Stoney have devoted so much time and effort to not just me, but other kids," said Ruiz.  "We're very fortunate to have people like them in our community."

Within his second year back as an amateur, Ruiz was competing internationally and defeated then world amateur champion Torsten May of German in a tremendous upset.  Only a decision loss to Jeremy Williams, a fighter who would never lose inside the U.S. as an amateur kept Ruiz from competing in the 1992 Olympic Games.

Ruiz turned professional and ran up 14 straight victories as a cruiserweight before losing a close 10 round verdict to the late Sergei Kobozev.

"The loss to Kobozev is what showed us that Johnny could become champion," recalls Stoney.  "Not only did he lose a close, tough fight, he didn't sulk or complain.  He just asked if we could get him another tough fight."

The undefeated Julius Francis was supposed to be just that but went out in four rounds by a body shot.  This led to a match with U.S. Olympian, Dannell Nicholson. Despite convincing ringsiders that he was the clear winner of the fight, Ruiz was again victimized by incompetent judging.

"I was there for the fight and I felt Johnny Ruiz got robbed," said Showtime boxing analyst and two-time world champion, Bobby Czyz.

Again, the loss did little to diminish the confidence of Ruiz.  He defeated another unbeaten prospect, Boris Powell over ten rounds and knocked out Derrick Roddy in two rounds for the WBC Intercontinental Heavyweight title. 
Those two victories and the controversial loss to Nicholson set up a date with David "The Terminator" Tua, the current WBC and IBF number one contender who will face Lennox Lewis in November.  Tua is regarded by many (including
this writer) as the most devastating puncher in the division.

Seconds into their clash on HBO's "Night of the Young Heavyweights," Tua landed his vaunted left hook flush on the jaw.  The punch, which no heavyweight in the division has been able to absorb, sent Ruiz into the ropes, the only objects, which kept him upright.  Instead of being issued a mandatory eight count, Tua finished what he started and ended all of the talk about Johnny Ruiz in a matter of 19 seconds.  It was his earth shattering loss to Tua, that critics use to silence the Quiet Man as a legitimate contender to the heavyweight throne.  Ruiz, however, uses it as motivation to prove his critics wrong.

"HBO has labeled Johnny (after the loss to Tua) and he's lived with that label ever since," said Stoney.  "I'm glad they keep bringing up the Tua fight because they are the one's who will be eating crow.  Johnny loves hearing negative comments.  It just makes him train even harder.  People try to play it off that Johnny became the number one contender because of Don King.  What everyone neglects to realize is that we moved gradually through the rankings and were number three in the world by the WBC before King became his promoter.  (As the third ranked contender), he knocked out (the late) Jerry Ballard who was rated ninth by the WBC and therefore, he moved to number one.  We've prepared for this (title fight) and we deserve to get a shot."

Though Holyfield is considered a washed up all-time great, few believe that Ruiz will be the fighter who will write the end to Holyfield's illustrious career.

"He's still a great fighter, but you have to think of him as a just another man who can be taken," said Ruiz.

"I feel good about his chances and I think he couldn't have found a better time to fight Holyfield," said Sherman Williams, a solid journeyman who has spent countless rounds sparring with Ruiz.

"I've been in the ring with people like Tyson, Mercer, Kirk Johnson, Shazzon Bradley (and many other world-class heavyweights).  John doesn't hit the hardest and he's not the fastest, but he has more stamina than anyone I've ever stepped into the ring with," said Bryant Smith of his part-time employer.  "It's his stamina that will keep him a notch above Holyfield."

Throughout Holyfield's career, he seems to fight at his best when his opponents are fighting aggressively, the style in which Ruiz fights.  Therefore, it should be an exciting fight but a risky one should Ruiz plan on fighting this way. 

"All I can tell you is that we're not going to fight Holyfield's fight," said LaMarca.

 "It's such a great feeling to represent my community who have supported me from the beginning," said Ruiz.  "(Winning the title) would be something that no one could ever take away from me," said Ruiz.

On Saturday night, Ruiz will have his chance to prove his critics wrong.  This scribe thinks he's going to do it.



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