By Tom Donelson
Never have a boxer in recent times been a victim of more derision than John Ruiz. I will admit that I was one of those who would cringe the entire time during a Ruiz fight. Yet, there was something noble about the guy. For one, he did not rape, plunder or pillage outside the ring. He conducted himself with dignity at press conference, never grabbling his crotch or unleashing a series of expletives. He was, well, the Quiet man. He never seemed to land in jail, much less get a traffic ticket.
Ruiz carried his blue-collar attitude in the ring when he fought. Nothing special, he would mug you and hug you. He would pound your body and then wrestle with you. There was nothing pretty about a John Ruiz fight but the guy won. Since 1996, he lost to three hall of fame fighters and to Tua, who had the talent to be a hall of fame fighter. The only guys who could beat Ruiz were hall of Famers. Everyone else lost. Every top ten fighter who was not or is destined for boxing Hall of Fame and even one Hall of Fame fighter (Holyfield), he beat.
When Roy Jones beat Ruiz, I downplayed the victory but now it has to be clear that Toney beat one of the top three heavyweights in the world. How can I say that? Look at the record. Who has beaten Ruiz? As I have mentioned before, when Ruiz faced a top ten fighter, he usually won. Ruiz was not a great fighter but he was a good fighter. His biggest skill was forcing the other guy to fight his fight. Ruiz may have been boring press, but he conducted himself with class outside the ring. At Toney’s press conference, Toney disparaged Ruiz. Toney is a great fighter but there is just a thing called sportsmanship. A simple acknowledgement of Ruiz contribution to boxing would have been nice. Let face it, if Toney disparaged Ruiz as trash, he is also disparaging his own accomplishment- wining a heavyweight title and being of only one of three middleweights to do it.
Which brings me to Toney. Toney is a boxing master. What surprised me the most was Toney’s ability to fight 12 rounds and dictate the pace of the fight despite what his lack of conditioning. Toney’s secret is that he does not waste motion. He shuffles from side to side but limits his movement to conserve energy. He fights relax and as I have mentioned before, the guy could avoid punches in a phone booth.
Toney beat a good Heavyweight to gain a piece of the title and soon he will challenge Chris Byrd for his IBF title. (Toney would love to chop down the giant Klitschko but Vitali has his dance card filled after he recovers from his surgery.)
Which brings us to Don King. As Frank Lotierzo once wrote, Don King is the true heavyweight champion. For over three decades, King had the promotional right to almost every major champion. And he now control three-quarter of the titles that people recognized with any merit. And if Rahman beats Vitali, then he will control all aspect of the Heavyweight title.
King has played his hand smoothly. By sending Hasim Rahman against Klitschko, King is sending the one man who may have the style to defeat the Ukrainian fighter. Rahman is an effective jabber with a long reach and as his victory over Lewis showed, Rahman can beat a big fighter. As for the rest of the bunch, he can set up Toney against Byrd or maybe the winner of the Brewster-Golota fight. King has at least one fighter who can sell tickets and cause a little stir in the division. And he can set up a tournament to determine his own champion to face up against Klitschko- just in case, Rahman fails to defeat Klitschko.