Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ruiz-Valuev: A titlist in the wilderness comes upon a giant

The fight between on-again-off-again WBA heavyweight titlist John Ruiz and Russian Nicolay Valuev was considered a non-US televised sideshow. It was, that is, until a knee injury suffered by Vitali Klitschko canceled his scheduled Nov. 13 WBC title defense against Hasim Rahman, and eventually led to his retirement.

Kltischko’s retirement, however, casts a new light on the Ruiz-Valuev fight, which is set for Dec. 17 in Berlin. Ruiz, you see, is now not only one of the four belt-wearers known by at least some of the public, he is promoted by Don King – the promoter of all of the other belt wearers.

That of course means that should he prevail against the towering Valuev, he will almost undoubtedly cash in as a participant in an eventual title unification series.

The imposing figure of the 7-foot, 320-pound Valuev presents a seemingly mountainous obstacle to riches that Ruiz was ready to give up on just months ago, when he lost to James Toney. The fight was of course later ruled a no-contest due to the discovery of steroids in Toney’s blood, and presto, Ruiz was given back his title without a fight. His original talk of retirement was immediately rescinded.

Ruiz will enter the ring in Berlin as a decided outsider. Despite Valuev’s Russian citizenship, his last 10 fights have been in Germany and his manager is the German Wilfried Sauerland.

Ruiz is hardly on a hot streak. He lost his only fight of 2005 to Toney. The self-nicknamed “Quietman” was out-speeded and out-slugged by the former middleweight and cruiserweight champion.

In the Toney bout, Ruiz abandoned his infamous stab-and-grab style and threw punches with more bad intentions than in many of his other recent fights. In the end, whether it was skills supplemented by steroids or not – the debate is endless – Ruiz simply could not match the talent level of Toney.

Before that fight Ruiz engaged walking enigma Andrew Golota, and it was an ugly sight. Not just for the fans, but for Ruiz. He was decked twice and had a point deducted, yet managed to capture a controversial (to say the least) decision over the Pole. No one was pleased except Ruiz.
Of course many boxing insiders jump right from that series of less-than-stellar performances to his loss to Roy Jones Jr. Such is the animus against his painful-to-watch, clutch-and-mauling approach, that many are quick to overlook a substantial win over new WBC titlist Rahman.

Add in a real knockout over Fres Oquendo – in a fight that was incredibly dreadful until the moment of the knockout – and it is clear that painting Ruiz as an incompetent is not only unfair it is plainly inaccurate.

However, the Chelsea, Massachusetts, native’s career has been full of ups and downs. There’s a 19-second knockout loss to David Tua; a win, a loss and a draw against Evander Holyfield; a knockout of a depleted Tony Tucker; and losses to Sergei Kobozev and Danell Nicholson.
Despite the mix of results, Ruiz (41-5-1, 1 NC) remains an experienced battler who usually finds a way to win.

Finding a way to win is something none of Nicolay Valuev’s opponents have found a way to do. Only his record exceeds his mammoth height and reach. At 42-0 and 1 NC (31 KOs) one would expect the world to be standing still as he rumbles past.

Of course the details are necessary when evaluating his relative stature in the division and that’s where he runs into problems.

The 32-year-old built his record largely in Europe and Asia (with two fights in the U.S) against a group of opponents that could charitably be labeled as modest in ability.

His most recent win, a 12-round majority decision over the 38-year-old American Larry Donald in Germany, is by far his most important victory to date.

However, Donald, and many others in attendance, would differ sharply as to calling it a win. Indeed, a review of the highlights provided on, by Valuev’s promoter, presents a picture that is less than favorable to the big man.

What the tape shows is a man who is fairly skilled, though slow. He’s also extremely easy to hit as Donald, who is an inch taller than the 6-foot-2 Ruiz, demonstrated repeatedly. Most of Valuev’s punches are thrown from the shoulder and rarely does he get his weight behind his shots. Perhaps Valuev poked enough with his long punches to win, but it was not impressive.

His other notable victories include knockouts of former fringe contender Cliff Etienne, Attila Levin, and current EBU titlist Paolo Vidoz. Nothing in any of the victories gave particular insight into his ability at the highest level, but in each case he won handily.

Other than his 10-inch height advantage and the likelihood that he will enter the ring almost 100 pounds heavier than Ruiz, Valuev will enjoy a hometown crowd that is free of criticism of anything he may do against Ruiz. If Valuev looked somewhat dispirited at the end of the Donald bout, he almost undoubtedly has revised the history of that fight and will enter the ring against Ruiz with the confidence of an undefeated boxer.

Ruiz will have the confidence that comes from experience against top competition and perhaps the contempt he held for Valuev’s fellow European (and formerly Germany-based) contemporary Klitschko.

As Ruiz indicated in a recent rambling statement denigrating the then-soon-to-be retired Klitschko, it comes down to character.

“He doesn’t have the heart and soul of a world champ,” said Ruiz of Klitschko. “It’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Against Valuev that test may be applied to him.


Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Is he the best 7-foot 300-pound hvy in history? Or is he just the best 7-foot 300+pound hvy in history? Answer,the latter.In other words;Valuev isn't THAT bad,but he isn't THAT good.


Have you seen the young eastern euro/Russian hvy crew? I have only seen a bit through the net and trade,and quite frankly from what I've seen so far,Ive been moderately impressed,but ONLY moderately impressed.They seem to be well-schooled amateur fighters,but...I have yet to see a single one that has the 'it' factor.(You know,like when seeing a young Tyson,Holyfield,Bowe,Lewis,or even the young Klitschko's to a certain extent.) I suppose so far--Dimentrinko with his youth and prototype size strikes me the most.But I haven't seen enough of him.Greenberg with his youth and speed of hand and foot looks fairly impressive,but ditto.Chagaev-Not bad,but I certainly wasn't overwhelmed or awed.Quite the opposite.Boytsov (from the glimpse I saw) looked pretty impressive for his age (19 or 20) but at 6'1" 210-215,he's a bit undersized.Although I couls see him getting up into the 220's in the future,but not much (if any) more.Anyways,curious to get your response...

P.S-Ironically,ATHLETICALLY speaking,and from a standpoint of raw POTENTIAL,a 200-pound cruiserweight with a defeat on his record has been one of the more 'striking' and impressive guys to me.David Haye.His defeat came VERY early and against tough opposition,and at 24 yrs.old and 6'3" tall,he will probably be a hvy in a year or a few years time.Obviously-while I think his potential at cruiser is tremendous-hvy is a different ballgame,and while he may have a chance,there is also a (very) good chance he could be a Herbie Hide type at hvy! (There is already a bit of a chin & stamina question.)


1:53 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

P.S-I was pretty high on the African hvy's in the 90's,but needless to say--they turned out to be kind of a mixed-bag and disappointment!

(Brock & Peter are suddenly looking better to me after taking a closer look at some of these other guys!)

1:57 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I agree about Valuev. He has some skills but is very slow. His size helps him. His big plus appears to be that he has a very good chin -- an absolute requisite quality as a top heavyweight. I suspect he won't be at the top very long but at least he has been able to add something new to the mix.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

True JE.He DOES seem to have a good chin.(Good lord,it's about as big as a pier block!) And while he has certainly shown evidence of being very beatable,he has also shown that-given his size-there may not be anyone out there that is going to have an 'easy' time with him.It's kind of unfortunate that he doesn't seem to posess big one-punch ko power.If he did,that would sort of make-up for some of his deficiencies.

2:05 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Cruiser -- One thing that has impressed me with the way the German promoters are bringing along Alexander Dimitrenko is that they have appeared to have learned from mistakes they made with other heavyweights. By matching some of them too easy for too long, they did not prepare guys, such as Luan Krasniqi, for title shots against top fighters. It remains to be seen how this plays out but I think we are seeing a not-so-subtle shift in the heavyweight division toward Eastern European fighters.

11:27 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I too am only moderately impressed but I've seen enough to know that one or more will emerge to seriously challenge the dominance of Americans in the heavyweight division. With increased exposure to American fighters earlier in their careers, they are moving past their amateur focused programs.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous The Cruiserweight said...

Agreed on both accounts JE.In some ways--it kind of reminds me of the recent influx of foreign players in the NBA.They are well-schooled amatuers with solid fundamentals.

BTW-I like the way they are moving Dimentrinko very much-and to an extent-Greenberg as well;although they need to start stepping it up a bit with the latter IMO.

4:14 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I just hope that American promoters catch on to the wave and get these European and African fighters on our TVs.

8:36 AM  

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