|Interview with John Ruiz: Ready for a New Nickname?
Intreview by Coyote Duran, DoghouseBoxing.com (May 20, 2009)
Bad news sells newspapers. It’s a statement John Ruiz believes in.
These days, newspapers are an antiquated alternative to the news-and-such juggernaut known as the internet but the adage still applies. Needless to say, Ruiz, 43-8-1 (29) with one no-contest, thinks the press has a major hand in dealing him a bad hand.
”Bad news sells newspapers.” says the former two-time WBA heavyweight titlist tells Doghouse Boxing. “There are people who have never fought in their lives, mostly commentators, or others who have maybe put on gloves once or twice in their lives and all of a sudden, they're experts.”
Ruiz’ grievance with boxing’s media certainly isn’t an unheard of complaint. Any fighter worth his salt who comes up short either in the stats or in the fans’ eyes is subject to the oft-acerbic critiques of many sharks in the far and wide ocean of writers and bloggers. It is what it is and it’ll never change. That doesn’t mean it’s going away anytime soon. Ruiz believes television commentators and writers are mainly at the root of fans’ dislike for him; also believing media partly responsible for keeping him from getting more exposure here in the States.
“I feel like I’ve been judged already and I’m stuck with that label,” says Ruiz. ”There’s no way I can take that label off and people (in the States) haven’t seen me fight lately because I’ve fought in Germany so many times and they’re not even being televised in the United States or even around the world. I think they were televised in Europe. I’m not sure.”
But despite Ruiz’ recent relative obscurity, ‘The Quiet Man’ has seen more than his fair share of higher profile fights since his first title win over former Undisputed Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield in a March 2001 rematch. Since then, Ruiz has engaged in either a title defense or title challenge in 12 out of his last 13 fights. Still, Ruiz finds little satisfaction in what’s becoming an increasingly intolerable wait for his next opportunity.
Ruiz’ last fight was a rematch against WBA titleholder Nicolay Valuev in August of 2008. Until a winner of the upcoming Valuev-Ruslan Chagaev rematch can be determined, Ruiz will continue to wait. And even he’s not sure who the WBA’s real heavyweight representative actually is. Most fans with common sense would say Ruiz is preaching to the proverbial choir.
“Chagaev’s the champion in recess and Valuev is…I’m not sure what.” Ruiz says; his voice tinged with a dry humor. “They’re gonna fight in this month (May 30), they’re telling me. And I’ll be waiting a whole year because the winner will have a whole year until he has to fight his mandatory.”
Unless Ruiz gains an interim fight before then, all he’ll have left is waiting. However, Ruiz believes that’s not all up to him. Since taking on management from Wilfried Sauerland, prior to his loss to Chagaev in November of 2006, Ruiz has felt mired by television obscurity and believes wholeheartedly that he’s not getting a fair shake anymore; in terms of exposure. Combined with an ongoing court battle with barely-hanging-on-to-Ruiz promoter Don King, the Sauerland management deal came off as more hassle than it was worth. Ruiz just wants it all to go away.
“We’re not being managed by anybody at this very moment. The only person who could say he has a stake or a claim is Don King but he’s done so many things against us and he’s not been active in the best way to promote us. There’s really no question. He’s not really our promoter. All we have left is to take him to court. We’re trying to ask him for a release so we don’t have to take him to court. But at the same time, he is Don King. He’s willing to hang on until it goes to court.”
Ruiz continues, “At this moment, this thing with Sauerland, we tried to make a deal awhile back ago. Things went south with that. We’re now trying to talk to Klaus-Peter Kohl but we’d also like to try to start fighting in the USA again where we can possibly get a fair shot at winning when it goes to a decision (chuckles).”
Although Ruiz sees the results of both Valuev fights as typical homecooking, he also saw something in the German fans who watched the dubious decisions (which featured hinky attention to scorecards and confusion galore with Judges Ove Ovensen and Antonio Requena scoring the fight 111-116 and 113-116, respectively; rendering a split decision rematch win for Valuev.) go down: Respect. That respect gained those fans love in return. When referring to the German fight fanatics, Ruiz’ voice is saturated with a joy that contrasts his typically stoic demeanor.
“I was really surprised. In the first fight with Valuev, I heard the crowd cheer for me before and after the fight and I was very surprised. I thought I’d go in there and people wouldn’t really know who I am and they’d mostly cheer for Valuev. I’m surprised I had a following there!”
Not just a following, apparently, but a mutual understanding. Ruiz sees German fans as a no-B.S. lot who appreciate a fighter who gives his all while not ducking the big challenges. And, according to Ruiz, these same fans are fatigued with pro-Euro judging.
“I’m not saying that there’s some sort of corruption but at the same time, I’m glad the fans there are fed up with it.” Ruiz cheers on. “I’m glad they’re willing to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough. We’re tired of it.’ If someone looks like they won, then they won. Not because they’re from another country.”
Fighting abroad wasn’t all that bad; Ruiz admits.
“I loved the atmosphere. I had a different view of the country (before fighting there) but when I went there, it was totally the opposite. I would totally go back there to visit. And the fights in Germany were great fights. There was hardly any holding and I don’t know anybody could criticize me for holding first of all. Over there, my opponents were holding more than I was. Twice as much! But people were criticizing me and that’s something a lot of the commentators in the United States didn’t like; especially HBO. But even I had criticisms for myself. I mean, there were times I was just tired of it because you have to just give someone a chance to prove themselves and they haven’t done that.”
Ruiz thinks that upon returning to the States, he might just get that chance if television wants him. He feels he’s still got a lot to offer but admits he has some evolving to do as well; should he gain such a valuable career extension.
“I’m trying to get back to boxing more, throwing punches and moving more. Hopefully, that’ll change people’s minds about me if they get a chance to see me. People still have me labeled as a holder and a brawler and that’s why I wanna get back to the States and show everyone that, somehow, I’ve transformed. I’m getting back to the basics in a way. Before, I was more of a boxer/puncher, in a way. Now, I’m something of a brawler and that’s what people decided they didn’t like.”
Ruiz continues, ” I hate to blame fans because they’re just expressing their opinions. Every other writer or promoter is expressing their opinion but I think if you’re going to say something negative, also say something positive about what a guy is doing. But that’s what boxing is all about. Sometimes you have bad days and sometimes you have good days. There’s gotta be something positive there where they could say, ‘Oh, by the way, this guy’s fought everyone out there and other guys don’t wanna fight him. They just have to express both sides.”
Should the Las Vegas-based heavyweight return to the American airwaves soon, his wish list of fight locales is already drawn up.
“I always wanted to fight in Puerto Rico (Ruiz is the first heavyweight fighter of Puerto Rican descent to win and hold a major heavyweight title) and Massachusetts. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Massachusetts. I wanna let my fan base know that I’m still around. But it all depends on television. It seems like without television, you can’t fight in your home town until you’re seen all across the country, you know what I mean? Television controls everything now.”
But John Ruiz might consider that television has always been a conduit for widespread negativity; something he’s desperately jonesing to reverse. And if bad news sells newspapers or, in this day and age, spikes the hits on the World Wide Web, then why would a gargantuan visual media like TV be any different?
This writer suggested a fun new alternative: A nickname change. Perhaps a spin on the old saying, ‘If the shoe fits, wear it.’
“You know, I think I'm gonna have to get that for my next fight! I'm thinking about it very strongly, “ Ruiz says, with a hint of epiphanic amusement in his voice. A symbolic thumbing-of-the-nose to the establishment, if you will. ”There'll definitely be talk if I use it for my next fight.” (Laughs)
That nickname? ‘Bad News.’
Hey, Ruiz started it. But it kinda works, doesn’t it?
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