Sharkie’s Machine: The Quiet Man vs. The Mouth That Roars
02.05.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: April 30th in New York City's Madison Square Garden, WBA Heavyweight Champion, John Ruiz (41-6-1-28 KO's) lost his Title in a close fight against WBA #1 ranked contender, James "Lights Out" Toney (69-4-2-43 KO's).
James Toney may have one of the biggest mouths in the boxing, but he sure did back it all up Saturday night. To his credit, "The Quiet Man" showed that he would not go away easily. This contest was surprisingly entertaining, competitive and unmarred by excessive holding.
Leading up to this fight, there has been a lot of talk of Toney dismissing Ruiz from the ranks of the elite HW fraternity. While Ruiz' methods may not be pleasing to watch, they have proven effective. Ruiz has won the WBA Title twice and defended it twice and that deserves recognition. But Ruiz' ugly, hit and hold style annoys many fight fans and makes him unattractive in terms of market value..
Since becoming WBA Champion back in February of 2000 (by beating Evander Holyfield in a rematch of their first fight), Ruiz has won fights he wasn't expected to win. He lost to Roy Jones Jr. in March of 2003 (by UD 12) in one of his least active (Jay Nady handcuffed) performances and now, he has lost to another former Middleweight in James Toney in what had to be one of his best performances. Go figure.
The coverage on HBO was as embarrassingly partial. They talked about Ruiz as if he were the unwanted stepchild of the HW division. They were all obviously rooting for Toney. Though it may have been their honest feelings, it bordered on dishonorable to be so openly biased against Ruiz. Gone are the days of unbiased announcing on HBO.
They boxed in the center of the ring, Ruiz in his wobble from side to side way and Toney raising his left hand from down low to jab as they felt each other out. Ruiz banged Toney with a right hand and clinched immediately. The fans booed. Toney landed a nice left hook but Ruiz countered with a pair of left hooks of his own. Ruiz imposed his weight on Toney, pushing him whenever they clinched, which wasn't as often as expected. Toney was the aggressor but Ruiz established a good distance from which to pop his jab and score. Toney landed a few decent shots, including an overhand right to the face but it was Ruiz' punches that had more authority. 10-9 Ruiz.
An aggressive Toney threw some wild punches that missed. Ruiz blocked and clinched, always throwing something while inside. Ruiz unleashed a pack of punches and crashed two on the backside of Toney's head. Smoger warned Ruiz. Toney stalked. Ruiz landed some combinations to the body that had to hurt but Toney showed no pain, he just smiled and kept coming forward. Toney scored with a few right hands, making the HBO team squeal in excitement but it was Ruiz's shots that were stronger and more accurate in their delivery. 10-9 Ruiz. (20-18 Ruiz)
Toney used his jab and scored with combinations as he got into range. Ruiz tied him up then countered with some well-placed shots of his own. In most fights, Toney usually lays back and waits to counter; he used a totally different approach in this fight, where he was always the aggressor. Ruiz was using distance well and catching Toney with the better punches from outside. Ruiz used his jab effectively. Toney was missing more than he was connecting but HBO's punch stats never reflected that reality. 10-9 Ruiz (30-27 Ruiz)
Ruiz banged Toney's body then tied him up. Toney landed sneaky hooks to the body during clinches. Ruiz landed one-two combinations frequently and instead of holding, was backing up and resetting his offense. Toney smiled as he stalked and landed a nice straight right that got Ruiz' attention. Toney pressed but Ruiz threw combinations and always landed something and was more effective overall. 10-9 Ruiz (40-36 Ruiz)
Ruiz wobbled from side to side in his typical way as Toney applied the pressure, bouncing on his feet and feinting before punching. When they got close, both scored. Ruiz scored with lead left jabs that kept Toney at a safe distance. Toney would attack suddenly with wild overhand punches that mostly just grazed Ruiz. Toney landed some nice counter punches, mostly right hands direct to Ruiz' face. Both scored about as much as the other. 10-10 even. (50-46 Ruiz)
They wrestled in the center ring. Smoger broke them up. Ruiz popped Toney with one-two combos followed by jabs to reset his range. Toney was effectively landing short hook shots when they clinched. Toney landed a flush right hand into Ruiz face. Ruiz backed off and scored with jabs outside. Toney made his way to the ropes and tried to lure Ruiz in but Ruiz punched and forced Toney back to the center of the ring and went back to stick and move boxing. Toney did better work inside and rallied at the end of the round. 10-9 Toney. (59-56 Ruiz)
Toney attacked Ruiz quickly with a barrage of shots that saw Ruiz hit the canvas. It was ruled a knock down by referee Steve Smoger but Toney had stepped on Ruiz right foot with his left foot and punched and pushed Ruiz down. After the count, Ruiz went back to the jab and even slipped out of a couple of Toney incited clinches, where Toney was finding Ruiz easier to hit. On the outside, Toney was more likely to miss. Ruiz boxed at a distance but was starting to get sloppier with his footwork, showing signs of fatigue. Toney stalked him and though he was missing more than connecting, he was taking control of the fight. Ruiz' punches were losing their pop. Toney's confidence was rising. 10-8 Toney. (67-66 Ruiz)
Ruiz worked behind his jab. Toney bobbed, weaved and kept coming. At times, Toney would attack suddenly, catching Ruiz unaware and scoring. In one exchange, Toney landed a left hand followed by a right to Ruiz nose. Ruiz tried to clinch but Toney moved and pushed Ruiz, who went rolling into the ropes and slipped. It was ruled a slip. Blood trickled from Ruiz' nose. Toney was landing the flusher shots now and Ruiz was getting sloppier by the second. Toney was riding high and shuffled his feet as the bell rang. 10-9 Toney. (76-76 an even fight)
Toney turned the clinch to his favor and rocked Ruiz with a left hook out of a grappling position. Ruiz looked slower but still worked his jab with success. Toney's mouth looked to be bleeding. This was a sloppy round, with Toney bouncing and Ruiz bobbling from side to side. But it was all Toney, who worked his jab and followed with crisp right hands, often followed by left hooks that found the mark. Whenever Ruiz threw his right, he would only graze Toney because Toney's stance is more closed as he fights from a lateral angle while Ruiz stance was more open and getting easier for Toney's faster hands to hit. 10-9 Toney. (86-85 Toney)
They boxed at center ring. Toney landed a left hook that jumped beads of sweat off the head of John Ruiz like a firecracker exploded in his hair. Ruiz retreated and went back to the jab, the only punch he was having any real success with at that point. Toney swung wildly and missed. Ruiz kept finding Toney with his jab and was able to set up a few good right crosses. Toney took the shots well. Ruiz power was diminishing as the seconds ticked by. In close, Ruiz scored with combos, including an uppercut. Toney landed short hooks inside. Ruiz pressed Toney into the ropes and scored some more. Toney took it well. 10-9 Ruiz. (95-95 Even)
Ruiz hugged and pushed Toney into the ropes. Smoger broke it up. Ruiz worked his jab. Toney landed a left, right combo. They exchanged blows and both scored. Toney finally landed a big overhand right followed by a straight left that wobbled Ruiz, who grabbed Toney until Smoger broke them. Toney looked the fresher of the two as he bounced on his feet. Ruiz was slower than at any time. Toney scored with another overhand right. They slugged it out until the bell rang. 10-9 Toney. (105-104 Toney)
Ruiz left eye was reddening and swelling. They clinch, clinch and clinch again. Toney works the body with short punches during clinches. Ruiz pressed Toney into the corner and went to work with whatever energy he had left. Both scored at close range. Ruiz jabbed well and outworked Toney, scoring more often. But Toney scored the better punches. Ruiz hands were low from fatigue. They grappled and slugged and Ruiz grabbed Toney to clinch as the final bell rang. It was a hard round to score as both did about as much damage. 10-10 even. (115-114 Toney)
The official Judges' scored it 116-111, 116-111 and 115-112 all in favor of James Toney.
Congratulations to James Toney, the NEW, WBA Heavyweight Champion.
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Ruiz and Toney both fought styles opposite their typical modus operendi. Ruiz boxed from the outside, worked his jab, threw combinations and may have broken a record for 'least amounts of clinches' in a Ruiz fight. Toneyfought aggressively, coming forward all night, pressing Ruiz and showed no signs of the laziness he's known to lapse into during fights.
In the early rounds, Ruiz handled Toney easily with his longer jabs from the outside and following up with combinations to the body that were landed well. Toney took a lot of good shots and lost five of twelve rounds on my scorecard. Ruiz' stamina declined from the ninth round and Toney proved to be in better shape in spite of weighing more than he ever did in the ring at 233-pounds.
In the end, I had it 115-114 for Toney. I thought the fight was closer than the official scores reflected. In light HBO's negative attitude towards Ruiz, I suspected the official scorecards were being written with one goal in mind-to be rid of, "The Quiet Man" John Ruiz. While I confess to disliking Ruiz style, I have grown to respect his tenacity and appreciate his scrappiness over the years.
The HBO team made every effort to focus on Toney and often ignored the many successes Ruiz was having throughout the fight. After the fifth round, which I called even, HBO showed clips of Toney scoring in three separate spots and no clips of when Ruiz scored with his jab and followed up with combinations that landed. If you taped this fight, re-watch it with the sound off and
notice how effective Ruiz was with his jab and body work. He took most of Toney's best shots without flinching until late in the fight. Before the sixth round, it didn't look like Toney could hurt Ruiz until suddenly, in the opening moments of the seventh round, Toney attacked and Ruiz went down. It was ruled a knock down even though it was clear that Toney had stepped on Ruiz' right foot with his left foot and punched and pushed Ruiz (and his confidence) down.
Ruiz complained that Toney had stepped on his foot and after the round, the instant replay showed that it Ruiz complaint was more legit than the knockdown. Ruiz didn't appear to be hurt at all and continued to effectively pop Toney with his jab. I never saw Ruiz fight this way. I didn't know he could. Both men seemed to employ styles that surprised the audience.
For Ruiz, this loss should be only a bump in the road. He showed some quality boxing skills that demonstrate his evolution as a fighter and he deserves to remain in the upper echelon of the division. He is still a tough proposition for anyone in the HW division.
Ruiz said he was retiring after the fight was over. Maybe he means it. Maybe he doesn't. Time will tell. Ruiz would truly have to earn any future opportunities at a major Title because it's doubtful that any of the other Belt-holders will risk fighting him at this point unless they have to.
Somehow I doubt Don King is finished with finding ways to make money using Ruiz so I won't be surprised if he returns to the ring in the near future.
Considering the reputation Ruiz built with his ugly style of hit and hold, even his unusual exhibition of boxing skills last Saturday night may be too little too late for the fallen Champion. But Ruiz had a good run and beat some good fighters along the way. It has to be tough on Ruiz that as a HW Champion, he lost twice to men who were both originally Middleweights. Bigger is not always better.
Toney put on an impressive performance and showed that he can beat more thanjust an old Holyfield at HW. I was surprised at his ability to take punches and even more surprised at the stamina he showed, bouncing on his feet for twelve rounds against a tenacious opponent like John Ruiz.
Now that James Toney is the new WBA Champ, he should do all he can to fight Chris Byrd (IBF Champ) and Vitali Klitschko (WBC Champ). I think Toney has a good chance to beat Byrd because of his quick hands and counter punching style. Byrd is well experienced and is also a very skillful boxer who should not be taken lightly. I think Toney would have the edge in power but Byrd may be the better defensive fighter. Either way it could be a great fight that reduce the number of Champions in the division.
A win over Byrd would naturally lead Toney to a fight against Vitali Klitschko, who many feel is the strongest fighter in the division. I can't imagine Toney can beat Vitali like a lot of folks who automatically assume Klitschko would be too much for Toney to handle but-that is why they fight the fights. Speculation never answers any questions.
According to circulating gossip, Vitali Klitschko is reluctant to face any of Don King's fighters in fear of having to give King options on his future. Don King denies this to be true but since when has Don King been a reliable source for truth? If Vitali's camp refuses to do business with King, he may keep himself out of the HW sweepstakes because Don King owns all the other Titleholders and the only way to them-is through him.
Vitali has not done much since winning the vacant WBC title a year ago by beating Corrie Sanders. His last fight was an impressive win-but against an opponent who wasn't quite 'top ten' material in Danny Williams. Now Vitali is recovering from surgery again, so its safe to assume he will fight another 'tune up' bout before facing a top guy in his next outing.
Toney does not need any tune up fights. At 36 years old, he should aggressively chase down the other Titleholders and seek the ultimate glory of being the one and only Champion of the Heavyweight division. Can he be successful? There's only one way to find out.
Lets hope that Toney's next fight is against either Chris Byrd or Vitali Klitschko. If Andrew Golota manages to beat WBO "Champion" Lamon Brewster next month, Golota vs. Toney could add another Belt to Toney's new wardrobe. And with new blood making their mark in the division, Calvin Brock or Sam Peter might find their way into the mix soon enough to make the HW division a wee bit more exciting than its been in a long time.
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Article posted on 02.05.2005
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