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The ever lasting presence of John Ruiz

His nickname is the Quiet Man, but I am not entirely sure if quiet is the term I would use to label the former two-time heavyweight titlist from Chelsea, Massachusetts who continues to resurface through thick and thin in the heavyweight division.  On April 3 Ruiz set to square off with WBA heavyweight champion David Haye. 

Back in March of 1996, when David Tua practically decapitated Ruiz in the first round of the opening bout on HBO's Night of the Young Heavyweights card, one would have suspected that the boxing world would not be seeing much more of him on the world class stage.  After all, that was was a devastating knockout.  To his credit, Ruiz was able to rebound from the loss to Tua and managed to win the WBA heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision over Evander Holyfield in March of 2001.  The win over Holyfield was the second of their three fights, with Holyfield winning the first by way of a controversial unanimous decision in August of 2000, and the rubbermatch ending in a draw in December of 2001. 

Following the trilogy with Holyfield, Ruiz successfully amassed a number of significant victories, including a DQ win over Kirk Johnson, a TKO win over Fres Oquendo, and decision wins over Hasim Rahman and Andrew Golota.  He also lost an embarrassing, one-sided decision to former middleweight champion Roy Jones Jr in March of 2003, in what was considered a historic victory for the Pensacola, FL native.  Quite an embarrassing set back for Ruiz, knowing that such a feat had only been achieved once, back in 1897 when Bob Fitzsimmons, also a former middleweight champion, knocked out Jim Corbett in the 14th round to win the heavyweight championship of the world. 

In April of 2005, Ruiz lost his title in a unanimous decision to James Toney, but was later reinstated as the WBA champion when Toney's post-fight drug test returned with a positive result.  Ruiz lost his title by way of majority decision to Nikolay Valuev in his next fight in December of that year.  After losing a title elimination to Ruslan Chagaev, Ruiz got another shot at Valuev and lost a unanimous decision.

It is no wonder that most pugilists hold the Olympic Games to a higher regard than they do the professional ranks. Winning medals in the Olympics is a greater achievement to most boxers than winning world titles as a professional. While professionals get multiple shots at world titles, thousands of athletes around the world fiercely and passionately compete in extensive trials to make the Olympics knowing that they will only get a single opportunity to do so. One can only hope it stays that way.

This commentator is still trying to figure out how a guy, who lacks both the crowd pleasing fighting style and the sufficient fan base to keep an ailing heavyweight division on life support, gets so many title shots for doing nothing!  Ruiz loses to Toney, but the decision is overturned because Toney's drug test is positive.  Ruiz loses to Valuev. Ruiz loses to Chagaev. Ruiz loses to Valuev again.  Now he is preparing for his next fight on April against Haye as an unlikely challenger. 

To be fair, Ruiz did score a win over Jameel McCline in 2008, but it is appropriate to mention that McCline had seen better days and was coming off a decision loss to Samuel Peter as well as his own disappointing title challenge against Valuev in which he broke his leg in the third round!  Most of Ruiz's notable, career-defining victories were scored in the first half of the previous decade, from 2000 up until about 2004.

Such an ever lasting presence reminds me of the villains from the classic horror films of the past.  Ruiz reminds me of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, after Dr. Loomis shoots him six times and he just gets up and walks away! Yes, that's Ruiz.  You can defeat him over and over again.  At times, you can practically tear his head right off his body, as Tua seemingly attempted to do in scoring that memorable first round knockout 14 years ago.  Other times, you can beat him and it will still get overturned because you tested positive for drug use. 

When it's all said and done, you may very well legitimately defeat the guy, and he will still be fighting for the same exact title a year later.  He may even be fighting you again in a rematch.  Yours truly is finally convinced that The Quiet Man may never go away.

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