18.12.05 - By Karen Belford, photo by David Martin-Warr/DKP - On Saturday night in Berlin, Germany, the 7 ft Russian heavyweight Nikolay Valuev (43-0, 31 KOís) won by majority decision to earn the WBA heavyweight title over John Ruiz, much to the disappointment to the German fans, who mostly booed the decision. For Ruiz, it seemed as if he had the deck stacked against him from the very beginning of the fight, simply by making the decision to come over and fight in Germany, which is Valuevís new home town. Never the less, the fight was close from start to finish, and the decision essentially could have gone either way, no matter how many people feel that Ruiz was robbed by the ultimate decision. During the first half of the fight, it was mostly Ruiz (42-6-1) who dominated the action, using his hand speed, combinations, and surprisingly, superior power, to snap back Valuevís head again and again. To a certain extent, Valuev looked horrible in the early going, mostly due to his slow punches, which lacked any real power to do any kind of damage. However, Ruiz appeared to tire by round six, as his punches became viewer and his attacks became more infrequent. Valuev, although still not doing much other than jabbing, took command of the fight with the use of his long reach and chopping right hand, that would catch the smaller Ruiz as he rushed in to trade. The judges scores were: 114-114, 116-114, 116-113, both for Valuev. I scored it 116-114 for Valuev, who I feel, won the fight largly based on his excellent jab..
Article posted on 18.12.2005
After the decision was announced, an angry Ruiz, feeling wronged, stormed out of the ring without giving any interviews. In the meantime, his manager, Norman Stone, snatched the WBA belt from Valuev, and then walked around the ring, with the belt raised overhead, shouting at the German crowd. It looked bad, a kind of an in your face attitude, almost as if he were shaming the judges for their scores. However, after a moment, the shock wore off and one of Valuevís cornerman rushed in and began to wrestle with Stone, before tagging with him with a overhand right that knocked Stone back against the ropes. At that point, Security rushed in and restrained Stone, and took the belt forcefully from his desperate, clutching grip. It was as if a toy was being taken from an angry, grieving child. The entire episode was like comedy at the finest. No, I'm not kidding you. This really happened, and sadly, it made the whole fight seeming boring in comparison. Stone was then escorted out of the ring by Security for his own protection, not that he really needed it.
Neither fighter was ever really hurt during the bout. However, Valuev landed a big right hand in the 5th round that knocked Ruiz back against the ropes. Valuev did nothing to follow up with this, however. I think he would have liked to have, but being that his reflexes and reaction time was so slow, mainly due to his huge size, that by the time he started to move forward, Ruiz was already gone. That to me, was the most disappointing thing about Valuev, the fact that his punches were so painfully slow and weak, which looked odd, coming from such a physically imposing fighter. Just from looking at him, you would think he could knock someone through a wall, but the fact of the matter is, he punches about as hard as a light heavyweight fighter, perhaps even weaker than that. I doubt at his age, 32, Valuev will be able to improve on his power by much, but he needs to try, for his sake. Perhaps he can learn to hold and hit, or punch to the back of the head. These appear to be some of the more popular punches that are now being used in the heavyweight division.
I know Ruiz isnít too happy about this loss, but he only has himself to blame. If he had pressed the action more in rounds six through twelve, he would have won the fight easily, in my opinion. However, Ruiz seemed to be content to fight in flurries, staying on the outside for the most part, eating a lot of jabs thrown by Valuev, before rushing in and landing several shots. Ruiz would take five to six stiff jabs to the face, before coming in and landing one or two punches. From the way I see it, you just canít ignore all the jabs that Ruiz was taking to the face while staying on the outside. The jabs did a lot of damage to Ruizís face, causing it to redden, swell and his right eye to badly bruise. It wasn't a pretty sight by the end of the fight. At the same time, the constant jabs accumulated points for Valuev, who seemed to be putting on a clinic as he machine gunned Ruizís face over and over, using his piston like left hand.
For Valuev, he showed the same vulnerabilities, mainly lack of any real defense, that he did in his last fight against American, Larry Donald, who he also defeated by split decision. Whenever Ruiz would work his way inside punching range, he would land combinations that would land clean, as if he were punching a heavy bag without any defense rather than a real fighter. This is something that Valuev is going to have to work on if he intends on holding on to his heavyweight title for any length of time. If Valuev canít decisively beat the offensively weaker heavyweight punchers like Larry Donald and John Ruiz, what will happen when he meets up with the most powerful fighters in the division, such as Wladimir Klitschko, Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter or Hasim Rahman? To be honest, I wouldnít like his chances with any of them, nor do I think he would beat the craftier heavyweights, Chris Byrd, James Toney or Monte Barrett.