December 11, 1999
In the HBO Boxing telecast billed as "Night of the Young Heavyweights"
six young heavyweights were given an opportunity to capture the public's
imagination, the imagination that one of the heavyweights could perhaps wear
the most coveted prize in all sports. The name of each victor of the three
bouts would be linked synonymously with the word "promising." For one of its
contestants, that campaign would suffer a tremendous setback.
On the night of March 15, 1996, Johnny Ruiz would be caught seconds into
his bout by David Tua's patented left hook. The blow would send a startled
Ruiz into the ropes as he remained defenseless to the Samoan's follow up
blows. The result would go into the record books as a nineteen second
knockout for the "Terminator" who would now carry the tag of "dangerous
Nearly four years after the disastrous loss, Johnny Ruiz is riding a ten
fight winning streak and the distinction as the number one contender by the
W.B.C. Ruiz is hoping that his latest campaign will culminate with not only
another chance to capture the spotlight but more importantly a chance to
become the first Latino boxer to ever win the heavyweight crown. Only seven
Latino heavyweights have ever challenged for the heavyweight championship.
All have come up short in their attempts.
Despite Ruiz' recent success, he has had difficulty in establishing his
reputation as the fearsome boxer/puncher he is. Dubbed "The Quiet Man", Ruiz
is one of the many fighters who's only voice has been the sounds of his
thudding punches. As a result, many fight fans aren't familiar with the
Massachusetts based Puerto Rican.
Whether one believes Ruiz is the most or one of the most deserving
candidates for a heavyweight title fight or not, Ruiz is not the push over
many of the pundits have labeled him. In this writer's opinion, his
persistence and hard work will one day earn him the heavyweight title for
which Ruiz lives. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with the Quiet Man
who was preparing for his next victim, Jade Scott, this Saturday, December 11.
J.D. Vena: You were honored by your native Puerto Rico as Fighter of the Year
for 1998 mainly due to the fact that you are the first fighter of Puerto
Rican heritage to attain a number one ranking as a heavyweight. Is it as
much as a burden to you as it is an honor for you to have such a rating?
Johnny Ruiz: I consider it more of an honor. To be the first Puerto Rican
heavyweight to be ranked number one and that I could be the first Latino to
be the heavyweight champion of the world would be an even greater honor in
itself. I'm in the right groove for my ultimate goal, which is to win the
heavyweight championship of the world. I'm ranked number one in the world
(by the W.B.C.) and hopefully sometime next year I'll get my title shot.
JV: No matter what Duran or de la Hoya have accomplished during their
careers, they will never have the opportunity to wear the most coveted prize
in sports: the heavyweight championship. Potentially you could be the most
popular Latino fighter who ever lived. Have you thought about the
international fame you would gain from winning the heavyweight title?
JR: I don't know about most popular. It's true though that heavyweight's
have a certain catch to it. Everyone wants to be the heavyweight champion of
the world. It would be really nice. I'm just going to do everything I've
always wanted to do since I was a little kid.
JV: Though you're cherished by your hometown of Chelsea for your charities
has it discouraged you that being the first heavyweight from Massachusetts to
become the number one contender since Rocky Marciano, hasn't brought you the
same media attention or the accolades as you'd might expect?
JR: It's sort of disappointing. Just to know that I'm taking each fight one
at a time and for the media to not acknowledge me is disappointing in a way.
I was hoping to have more publicity from the (television) stations and the
newspapers. Nobody knows me yet. I can walk down the street and not be
JV: Is there more of an urgency to win the title because of your lack of
JR: Well if you can't get your home state behind you then it's harder to get
any of the other states to get behind you. It starts here in Massachusetts.
I need Massachusetts to rally behind me so that everyone else can follow the
JV: Back in the 1960's, a former welterweight champion named Emile Griffith
moved up in weight and was stopped in one round by a thunderous punching
Hurricane Carter. Griffith however rebounded from the setback and would
twice win the middleweight championship. He was stopped only once in his
next 60 or so fights which came at the tail end of his career. More recently,
Terron Millett who suffered a 1st round knockout earlier in his career became
a world champion at jr. welterweight. What adjustments did you make after
your loss to David Tua that may indicate your recent success: 10 straight
wins, 9 by KO?
JR: Just going out there to fight in the first round. Before (the Tua fight)
I just laid back to see what happens in the first round. Then the second
round, I'd start moving around a little bit. I'd be gradually getting into
the fight as it went on. Now I start fighting in the first round and keep
going at that pace.
JV: I've noticed that you have added some weight. Have been lifting weights?
What did your trainers Gabe LaMarca and Norman Stone work with you on?
JR: Yeah I started weight training. We worked more on quickness and just not
being lazy early in my fights.
JV: Although you have rebounded from your loss to Tua, there are more HBO
subscribers than there are Showtime, therefore, most fans haven't seen your
progress. As a result, it seems that the name David Tua's name will hover
over your head until you either win the title or avenge yourself against him.
Other than your mission of winning the heavyweight title, is it a priority
for you to meet David Tua once you become champion?
JR: Since that fight (with Tua) we've been asking for a rematch and it seems
that they (Tua and Main Events) never wanted it. When I do become champion I
will start hearing that he wants to fight me again. Other than that, he
doesn't want to come near me. I'll just wait until then. I'd fight him
tomorrow. But I think he doesn't want the fight because there's not much
JV: While you were reestablishing yourself as a contender, you were paired
with Jimmy Thunder, a tough consistent puncher on a winning streak. After
the opening bell, you raced across the ring and started pounding this guy.
Late in the fight, it appeared that you were really tested. You absorbed a
head butt which caused a cut over your left eye as well as a crippling low
blow from Thunder that put you on the canvas. What went through your mind at
JR: The only thing that went through my mind was that they weren't going to
give me that fight. They were going to take that fight away from me if I
didn't continue fighting. It discourages you when something like that
happens, but he was the favorite. I was with Lennox Lewis' people, Pannix
Promotions and they came down to see me fight for the first time wearing
Jimmy Thunder t-shirts. They were trying to have Thunder fight Lewis if he
(Thunder) beat me. Everything was going against me from the start so it was
nice to come out on top in that fight.
JV: On the undercard of Holyfield vs. Bean fight (Sept 19, 1998), you had the
opportunity of displaying your skills in front of 40,000 fans. That night
you faced the late Jerry Ballard, another dangerous fighter who won all of
his victories by knockout. Unfortunately, the television audience did not
have the privilege of seeing how well you put your combinations together to
Knock out Ballard in 4 rounds. Do you prefer facing dangerous fighters such
as Ballard, or opponents such as your latest, Fernely Feliz, who though may
be skilled, learn in the first round fighting you that they are just in there
JR: Well every fight is dangerous. Some people call these fights (against
Feliz) tune-up fights but I take each fight seriously. This guy is stepping
into the ring to fight me and that takes a lot of courage. I don't prefer a
certain style over another because you never know how a fighter is going to
react when you hit him. The first few rounds are very important, they will
either try to survive or try to take your head off so you never know until
you fight them.
JV: I have noticed that you start very quickly as attested in your fights
with Tony Tucker who you floored twice in the opening round and your 19
second blowout of Ray Anis. As a result of controversial decision losses to
Donnell Nicholsen and Sergei Kobozev, do you prefer to get in the ring and
knock the other guy out?
JR: Well we acknowledged that I was fighting slowly in the early rounds so we
worked on that. If the knockout happens then that's great. You just keep
going until the fight ends then you can go lie down somewhere (laughs).
JV: You have a look of controlled fury before the opening bell. What goes
through your mind during those moments?
JR: I just think about fighting. I hate waiting. I don't feel great until
that first bell rings.
JV: Before Michael Grant exposed his limited ability against Golota in his
last fight, your manager Norman Stone had been reportedly trying to negotiate
a fight between the two of you? Based on Grant's vulnerability, it looks as
if Lewis may chose to fight him in either of his next two title defenses. In
reports, Lennox Lewis hasn't mentioned your name once as a possible opponent.
What will you do to lobby for a shot at the undisputed title?
JR: Well the main reason why they haven't mentioned my name is because I was
with them at one point. I didn't want to sign with them again because they
were only putting their time into Lewis and they didn't want to bother with
JV: Would this lack of interest have to do with the time you two were in the
same camp while you were in England?
JR: Well I think I was a little too quick for him. You know everyone is
talking about Grant but right now Lewis' mandatory is Akinwande and he would
have to get rid of his W.B.A. belt. I don't think Lewis wants to do that.
JV: You have been scheduled to fight Jade Scott December 11 on Showtime.
What do you know about him and how do you plan on fighting him?
JR: We don't know much about him. What I've heard is that he's a boxer and
he likes to move around a lot like Feliz.
JV: You began boxing in 1989 and defeated the eventual 1992 Olympic Gold
Medal winner Torsten May two years later. Within three and a half years you
were fighting in the Olympic trials. I have heard that you have excelled in
every sport or activity you have participated in your life. How long do you
forecast hanging around in boxing? Do you have any other long-term goals
other than winning the championship and retiring with a lot of cash? What
would you like to do next once you're finished with boxing?
JR: My goal is to fight for the heavyweight title. I don't think about
anything else really. I'm just focused on that point. I mean I do want to
retire before I'm beat down or slurring my words but my goal is to become the
heavyweight champion. What happens after I reach my goal I'll think about