This Saturday at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, David Haye makes his first defense of the WBA heavyweight title when he faces former titlist John Ruiz, the American veteran best known to most for his fight with Roy Jones Jr., and also well-known in boxing circles for his clutch-and-grab style. Ruiz is generally regarded as one of the main culprits in the "death" of heavyweight boxing, and while I might argue that he gets way more blame than he really deserves, it's inarguable that Ruiz has never excited anybody, so you know, fair enough.
We'll start with the last five fights of the defending titlist, David Haye.
Fight 1: Tomasz Bonin (W-TKO-1 / April 27, 2007)
Though Haye famously reigned as the legit cruiserweight champion of the world (which we'll get to), it's interesting to note that three of his last five fights have been in the heavyweight division. Bonin was 37-1 coming in, but with an empty record. His last fight had been against a guy making his pro debut, and that guy knocked him down in the first round. Also, despite the fact that Bonin weighed in at 231 for this fight (to Haye's 217), he's a smaller guy than Haye, at 6'1" to Haye's 6'3".
This wasn't really much of a fight, and the Sky team went bananas over it as you might expect:
This "serious, serious message to the heavyweights" was followed with a return to the cruiserweight division, but we all know that. The thing is, Bonin fought in Poland. He was a domestic-level fighter in Poland. Overall, just a guy with a fluffy record that looked good for the Sky broadcast, and they could attempt to sell the win as something meaningful for Haye, when in reality it came three years after Fraudley Harrison had stopped Bonin in nine. Haye got him out very fast, because Haye is very explosive and was far too fast for the slow Pole. It's just as simple as that.
Fight 2: Jean Marc Mormeck (W-TKO-7 / November 10, 2007)
Now this was one hell of a fight. Mormeck was the reigning cruiserweight champion of the world, coming off of a couple of cracking wars with O'Neil Bell, fights that were probably the pinnacle of the careers of both Mormeck and Bell, because neither has ever really been the same.
Mormeck, a short (5'11"), strongly built Frenchman (duh), decked Haye in the fourth round, but the Englishman showed a good amount of grit in this bout, and probably deserves more credit for that than he's ever really gotten. Mormeck was 35 and a bit shop-worn at this point, and I wouldn't say Haye beat the best version of Mormeck there was, but would he have? In my estimation, the best Haye almost always beats the best Mormeck, just because I like the matchup for him physically. But Mormeck's run from 2002-2007 in the cruiserweight division was pretty fantastic, with the split two-fight series with Bell, two wins over Virgil Hill, taking Wayne Brathwaite's "0," and wins over Alexander Gurov and Dale Brown.
But this was Haye's night, and he jumped from European cruiserweight titlist to the top man in the world, winning the Ring championship as well as the WBC and WBA title belts.
Fight 3: Enzo Maccarinelli (W-TKO-2 / March 8, 2008)
Much ado about nothing, it turned out, but this was a big, big fight when it happened. Both could punch, the matchup guaranteed fireworks. I thought at the time it would be over really fast or turn into a bloody, back-and-forth brawl between two guys I was sure could throw heavy leather, but maybe couldn't take it quite so well, especially from each other. And, well, it was over fast.
The fight headlined at the O2 Arena, aka Millennium Dome, in London. There was such demand to see the fight among American hardcore boxing fans that Showtime swooped in late and picked up the fight. This was a big cruiserweight fight. Then Haye dismantled him in the second round. Enzo's never recovered, and probably never will. Haye left for the heavyweight division, seeking bigger paydays and further glory. (Plus, he had trouble cutting down to 200 pounds.)
Fight 4: Monte Barrett (W-TKO-5 / November 15, 2008)
Barrett was once a contender. By the time he fought Haye, he was running out of rub to give to up-and-coming contenders. Haye and Barrett didn't disappoint, really, as they put on a wild brawl of a fight, with Barrett stinging David a little and giving all he had, but in the end Haye was way too much fire for him to handle.
I really do like Monte Barrett, and find his career very interesting. I think he could probably put together a hell of a book about his career. He did the usual battering of cans and club guys, then in 1998 faced off with former WBA titlist Greg Page, who was two days shy of his 40th birthday. Page had put together a bit of a winning streak, mostly against club guys in Nashville, but the young Barrett dominated him over ten. This was of course years after everyone from Mark Wills to Orlin Norris, Razor Ruddock and Bruce Seldon had had their way with Greg in the ring.
Monte also got pulverized by Wlad Klitschko in 2000, lose a close fight to Joe Mesi, and got cracks at world titles against Hasim Rahman (interim WBC) and Nikolai Valuev. If he hadn't knocked out Tye Fields in one round back in June 2008 -- for which we should all thank Monte again -- does he even get this fight with Haye? Probably not. He's parlayed the loss to Haye into paychecks against Odlanier Solis (TKO-2 loss) and Alexander Ustinov (UD-12 loss), too. Good for him, but he should really hang it up. I think anything he had left at all, he left in the ring against David Haye. He REALLY tried to win this fight. He knew how much that would have meant. Knocking off Haye might well have meant a title shot for him. It didn't happen, and since he hasn't had near the same determination in the ring.
Fight 5: Nikolai Valuev (W-MD-12 / November 7, 2009)
A gruesome fight. Not as bad as Vitali Klitschko-Kevin Johnson, and not as bad as Valuev-Holyfield, but really, really, really bad. It's also the one common opponent between Haye and Ruiz, and like most, I don't think you can counter either of them as having been particularly "effective" against the giant, but I felt Haye deserves a close win, and I feel Ruiz deserved two wins, both fights going Valuev's way. But I also admit that I think Valuev sucks so much that I barely consider what he does to be "boxing." He's tall. That's it. He's not good at anything but being really tall. Anyone exhibiting anything close to actual boxing is going to win the majority of rounds against Valuev on one of my cards, and maybe that's pure bias and nothing more, but that's the way it is. He's not a boxer. I'm not saying he's an awful person or that he shouldn't be perfectly well allowed to earn the living he has in boxing, but his skills are non-existent. I even think he works really hard to BE better than he is, but he can't do it because his body won't let him.
I rank this as more exciting than Klitschko-Johnson and Valuev-Holyfield (and Klitschko-Ibragimov), by the way, simply because of Valuev's wobbly-legged stagger in the 12th when finally, Haye clocked him with a good one.
What Didn't Happen
Haye signed to fight Wladimir Klitschko in June 2009. That did not happen. Haye pulled out with a phantom injury which was code for Setanta Sports going under. Haye also was close to a deal -- everyone thought it was done -- to fight Vitali Klitschko in September. Instead, he suddenly turned tail and signed to fight with Valuev in November. Haye and Valuev fought on a small afternoon PPV in the States. Vitali Klitschko and Cristobal Arreola fought in Los Angeles in front of a great crowd in the highest-rated HBO fight of 2009.
That might make it seem like whether he likes it or not (and who would?), Haye is at the mercy of the Klitschkos in terms of becoming a bigger star than he is. But a funny thing has happened: HBO appears to no longer care about the Klitschkos. Eddie Chambers, an American, was as legit a contender as Wlad was going to get on March 20, and no TV network in the States picked it up. It ran as an internet PPV.
So does Haye need the Klitschkos? Certainly, if he wants the biggest paydays. But now, I think they need him, too. Vitali's next fight with Albert Sosnowski will probably also wind up on Klitschko.com for $14.99, which is gross overpricing for such a ridiculously lopsided fight.
Now we move on to John Ruiz after the jump...
(Photo by Al Bello / Getty Images)
This'll be quick...
Fight 1: Ruslan Chagaev (L-SD-12 / November 18, 2006)
Pretty typical Ruiz fight in Germany, a close decision loss you can argue that he deserved to win. Ruiz and Chagaev were fighting a WBA eliminator in this one, and "shockingly" Chagaev came out the victor. For all the seeming intention to get John Ruiz out of the WBA title picture, they seem to always keep him right there on call.
Fight 2: Otis Tisdale (W-TKO-2 / October 13, 2007)
Rebound win over a journeyman. On the Juan Diaz-Julio Diaz undercard in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a show promoted as poorly as any major show I've ever seen.
Fight 3: Jameel McCline (W-UD-12 / March 8, 2008)
Again fighting off TV on a big King card. This was the Cancun HBO double-header that featured Nate Campbell's upset of Juan Diaz and Samuel Peter whomping Oleg Maskaev. Ruiz-McCline was a WBC eliminator (Peter beat Maskaev for the WBC belt that night), but he's never tried to cash it in, and has never really come up in talks as a possible WBC title opponent. It's almost as if they WBC simply decided to completely ignore that this fight ever happened, because Peter lost to Vitali Klitschko in his first defense, and Klitschko-Ruiz never came up. I mean, I understand why Ruiz wouldn't want that, but still.
Fight 4: Nikolai Valuev (L-UD-12 / August 30, 2008)
Thought Ruiz won this one, too, but he took the L again. After this fight, Ruiz was off for over a year and became embroiled in a dispute with Don King Promotions over whether or not they actually still promoted him. They didn't, as it turns out.
Fight 5: Adnan Serin (W-TKO-7 / November 7, 2009)
Rebound win over a journeyman, on the Valuev-Haye card, as it was all but set in stone that Ruiz was going to fight the winner. John and his PR team have been trying hard to let people know he isn't doing all that holding and grabbing that he used to do, and they're not just whistling "Dixie." He really doesn't do it so much anymore, and he fairly well battered Serin until Serin's corner threw in the towel to mercifully stop the fight. Ruiz probably could have picked up the pace and put him away earlier, but he also needed the work.
We'll have the regular preview later this week, and then round-by-round coverage on Saturday afternoon.