Photos By: Al Bello/Getty Images
By Rich Mancuso
John Ruiz the former WBA heavyweight champion and first Latino of Puerto Rican descent to have that distinction casually works the room at fight shows when he can up in his neck of the woods in Massachusetts He poses for photos and signs autographs for the fans and one would never know he left the ring in 2010 after losing the title to David Haye.
The Haye fight did not go his way. Not like other fighters who can’t determine when to get out. Ruiz, the two-time champion, now a 44-years of age, has moved on and training the aspiring fighter at his Quietman Sports Gym in Bedford Massachusetts.
“I took enough punches over the years and would rather watch than be in there,” said Ruiz. In other words, Ruiz is content on retirement and satisfied now sitting at ringside and observing as a fan of the sport. He is content and doing business at home in Boston, concentrating efforts on his new boxing gym and MMA facility.
Though there is that look when you see Ruiz. Every fighter gets an itch to return. An though Ruiz,, known as “The Quietman” was not the most thrilling heavyweight champion on record, he still made boxing history in a division full of mediocrity.
Many probably won’t recall his last fight against David Haye in Manchester England, losing the WBA title by TKO in the 9th round in April of 2010. It was a typical Ruiz fight with minimal punches thrown. Haye would knock down Ruiz twice in the first round, once late in the fifth, and once in the sixth.
There was controversy, as there always was when Ruiz was in the ring. Haye was deducted a point in the first round for hitting the back of Ruiz’s head. But that fight, along with eleven other previous title fights, will be enough to eventually earn him an induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame.
His heavyweight title fight with Andrew Golota at Madison Square Garden in New York City, back in November of 2004 was not a classic. It will not be a part of his legacy.
“My legacy,” he says, “was winning the WBA title and to try and unify the heavyweight division.” And that was part of the reason, to be believed or not, as to why Ruiz, decided to hang up the gloves. He could not take the heavyweight division dominance of the Klitschko brother’s regime. The division has always been a backbone of the sport and Ruiz, similar to what Haye tried to do, could not break the Klitschko regime.
Now there is only one Klitschko brother who is active, Wladimir, awaiting his return bout with Tyson Fury and attempting to regain a title he lost this past November.
Ruiz has said, when the Klitschko dominance was the heavyweight division: “Until they fight each other, who knows if there will be a unified champion.You have to go there to fight them,” he said about an American seeking a title shot against the brothers.
Now a proprietor of a training facility, he has seen the increased interest of young people aspiring to be MMA fighters. “It is taking away from the sport,” he says. “MMA has hurt the ability to help the heavyweight division.”
Now, there is a new regime in the division. Deontay Wilder is holder of the prestigious WBC belt, and a youngster, Anthony Joshua, undefeated and from the United Kingdom is the IBF champion that makes two-thirds of the heavyweight championship picture.
At one time, Ruiz tried to battle Hall of Fame promoter Don King who was a nemesis. Though King would protect his champions and was also responsible for keeping the titles from being unified.
It was all boxing business when it came to Ruiz trying to get Evander Holyfield again after three previous fights. The first time, Ruiz won the vacant WBA title, lost it, and then gained a split decision. King, wanted Ruiz in his stable to get another shot at Holyfield. The rest was history with ensuing legal issues and a bitter taste towards King that may still exist.
“One part was it was good to go to war with King,” he said. But you could not win, when it came to battling King. He wished his adversary a happy birthday and would not comment about a report a few years ago, that quoted King, “The Klitschko brothers are good big men who are more champions of Germany than of the world.”
And King said that Haye was a terrible disappointment losing to Wladimir. Ruizwould not comment about the supposed remarks. He is the “Quietman” and stayed away from controversy by doing his business in the ring.
“I went out there and fought and people don’t forget me,” he said. There is no denying that. Ruiz did what he could to make an impact in a heavyweight division at the time that said goodbye to Mike Tyson, and saw the end of Lennox Lewis. He continued to get around a possible comeback saying, “Everyone can’t be as fit as Bernard Hopkins,” referring to the 51-year old light heavyweight champion who made history as the oldest to hold a title.
“I enjoy what I am doing now and hope one day the heavyweight division will have one champion,” he said. To do that, it does not matter if the Klitschko regime ends or continues. A former champion such as Ruiz, in a boxing gym, daily, can be the first person to tell you. “They have to want it,” he says.
And as much as Ruiz wanted it, the sport today is not producing the heavyweight the way he went after the title. In all fairness to John Ruiz, he may have not been crafty, not one to get excited about, but he earned a heavyweight title that will always be his.
“Boxing did a lot of good for me,” he says. In essence that is what it is all about.