12.12.03 - By Wes Moore: The heavyweight division is a strange landscape. It can see over-hyped fighters rise to title shots and unnoticed competitors continually denied their just due. However, once a fighter breaks through anything can happen and opportunities are abound. Case in point is this weekendís clash between former titleists Hasim Rahman and John Ruiz in which one of these guys will emerge and undoubtedly receive another shot at gold in 2004. Granted, Rahman was the legitimate world champ after his shocking win over Lennox Lewis but only until Lennox got back in shape and took it back. Ruiz won his strap by during his hardly epic three fight series versus Evander Holyfield.
Article posted on 12.12.2003
The Ruiz-Holyfield fights were bad enough but then the boxing public was subjected to one of the ugliest fights I can remember when Ruiz retained in the 2002 foulfest with Kirk Johnson. Finally, Ruiz dropped the title to Roy Jones Jr. after being handpicked to suit his opponentís style. Now, the two will emerge on one of the best top to bottom pay per view events of all time to try to climb the mountain once again. The fight could be really interesting or it could be really ugly. Itís definitely a contrast in styles and quite amazing that these two guys are hooking up with such a small amount of hype surrounding this fight. Say what you want about the resumes, or the styles but this is a huge fight considering where these guys have been during their careers.
Hasim Rahman was considered easy pickings when selected for the Lewis fight. He really only had one quality win on his ledger to that point(Corrie Sanders) and only recently has that surfaced as a great win since Sandersí title victory over Wlademir Klitschko but he had losses in his only other two major fights. The first was a good showing against David Tua where he got TKOíd late in the fight(98) and the other was his KO loss when he got caught and deposited in press row by an Oleg Maskaev bomb. Both of these fights he was in till the end but no one envisioned him posing a threat to the real heavyweight champion. But he did what most thought was impossible and caught Lennox and took the strap. He proceeded to talk smack during the interim of their two bouts and was dispatched in round 4 of the rematch. Since then he hasnít had much better luck. First he lost to Evander Holyfield when a butting of the heads resulted in a stoppage and the most grotesque sight I have ever seen in my life arose on Rahmanís skull. Then this past March he fought David Tua to a draw, which like just about every other decision nowadays is highly disputable. Now he arrives to this showdown with expectations of another shot in which he would be considered an underdog once again.
John Ruiz story is not much different than Rahman in how he gained his glory. He was picked to fight Evander Holyfield for the vacant WBA title in August of 2000. Upon entering that fight, Ruiz had no victories that would shock the world. He had fought some solid opposition but nobody of world class in fact he had lost to Dannell Nicholson, Sergei Kobozev, and been iced by David Tua in round 1 of their 96 tilt. The Holyfield camp must have been thrilled with the matchup. Ruiz was known as a banger and gritty guy just like Evander. The first fight went to Holyfield by decision(controversy), the second fight went to Ruiz(controversy), and the third fight was scored a draw(controversy). The series was dirty, gritty, ugly, hard to score, and not impressive for anyone to watch. Regardless of the outcome, Ruiz emerged with the title and proceeded to defend it in one of the ugliest foul-filled fights of recent memory but once again he escaped. His title run ended earlier this year when he was simply peppered by Roy Jones over 12 rounds and dropped a decision. After the fight, his postfight commentary led me to believe he might be done but promises of big money and gold probably changed his mind.
The fighters have a few common opponents in their past as both have beaten Steve Pannell(Ruiz 95 TKO4 and Rahman 98 KO2). Each fighter has fought David Tua at least once(Ruiz 96 KO1 Loss and Rahman 98 TKO10 Loss + 03 Draw) as well as Evander Holyfield(Ruiz 00 L Dec, 01 W Dec, 01 Draw and Rahman 02 Stoppage Loss). Do these fights lend anything toward predicting the outcome of the fight-probably not but itís always interesting to take a look at common foes. Both guys are still relatively young in the heavyweight division(31) and also both have significant experience with Rahman probably holding a slight edge in the strength of competition. Rahman definitely has more pop and is more technically sound but Ruiz can get dirty inside and make things happen out of the clinch. That could be a problem for Rahman as he had some problems with Holyfield who fights in a similar fashion. The jab is imperative for Rahman to avoid those clinches with the crafty Ruiz and it is well known that a solid shot will really challenge the jaw of ďThe Rock.Ē
I see the fight starting out pretty even with Ruiz trying to establish inside and stunt the activity of Rahman. If he can establish the jab and avoid getting into a tit for tat dirty situation with Ruiz then Rahman will probably avoid the big shot and eventually wear him down enough to land the big right. Whatever turn the fight takes I canít see it going to a distance decision. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that this fight is just a shot in the dark for Ruiz. If he wins against Rahman he can claim a legitimate win and fight for a title again but if he loses I think heíll quickly fade away or retire. It seems funny to be saying that about a 31-year-old fighter in the heavyweight division but that is a very likely scenario for Ruiz. Even if Rahman loses, he will probably find a way to reinvent his career and gain some more decent money fights down the road; I just canít see him going away just yet. Regardless of the outcome it should be an interesting fight with some real repercussions for the coming year of heavyweight action.
On a side note I am going to conduct a Readerís Choice Poll for Heavyweights like I did last year.
The categories are:
Fight of the Year
Fighter of the Year
Worst Fight of the Year
Comeback Fighter of the Year
Most Improved Fighter
To vote or to get in touch with me you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and until next time watch out for the uppercut behind the jab.
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