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Boxer's Personality An Odd Match In The Ring

By George Diaz

November 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

He is hardly the kind of guy you want leading the parade honoring the baddest men on the planet.

The nickname is the first ominous sign. Do we really want "The Quiet Man" anointed as heavyweight champion of the world? That's what you call your local librarian, not a man who can pummel most of us to a pulp.

There are other disturbing signs that John Ruiz is an odd fit in the pain game. He tells you so himself:

"There have been many fights in my career that I didn't have the strength and the heart to go out there and fight," he said during a recent teleconference. "I never really had the mentality to think that I am the best out there and to reassure myself [of] that…it's the mind of a champion."

Insisting that he is working hard to overcome his mind games, Ruiz steps into the ring Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in a fight card that will try to sort out the confusing quagmire in the heavyweight division.

Ruiz, the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion from Puerto Rico, faces rough and tumble Andrew Golota. Chris Byrd defends his International

Boxing Federation title against mandatory challenger Jameel "Big Time" McCline.

The card also includes four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield against Larry Donald and former World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champion Hasim "The Rock" Rahman versus Kali Meehan.

Such is the sad and sorry state of the heavyweight division, where parity means that someone simply isn't man enough to snatch all the belts.

I doubt Ruiz will emerge as The One in this survivor series promoted by Don King. Anyone who watched Ruiz "fight" with Fres Oquendo last April may still be in therapy from the sheer boredom of two guys slow-dancing for 12 rounds in what was purported to be a world heavyweight tussle.

Ruiz's ring record (39-5-1, 27 KOs) is impressive in numbers yet pedestrian when you break it down. Although he is the first Latino heavyweight champion in boxing history, Ruiz is 4-2-1 since losing to Evander Holyfield in August of 2000, with every fight lasting at least 10 rounds. His plodding one-punch, clinch tactics are not qualities fans look for in the People's Champion.

Losing to beefed up heavyweight Roy Jones Jr. in March 2003 didn't help the resume either. Ruiz then lapsed into a whiny diatribe against Jones instead of admitting he got his butt kicked by a better man that night. The anger festered as Jones moved down again to light-heavyweight again, denying Ruiz a chance at redemption.

"There was one point where I had all of the hate in the world for him," Ruiz said. "I did everything I could for him to give him, everything he wanted to get the fight going for the fans, and at the [previous] fight you could say I wasn't in the right state of mind."

Maybe, as you sort it all out, the Quiet Man is too nice a guy to be in the crazy business of boxing. He is the antithesis of Mike Tyson. Ruiz went into a depressive funk when his marriage unraveled as he prepared to fight Jones. Tyson went to strip clubs and got a tattoo on his face when his second marriage failed. Therein lies the problem.

This sport craves madness and mayhem.

"I'm always the one in the background when the camera goes on," Ruiz said. "I'm hiding somewhere." Saturday night, Ruiz emerges from his quiet corner.

Let's hope he's in a fighting mood.

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