Since the moment it was signed, I've been one of the minority (but a vocal minority, at that) touting Saturday's WBA heavyweight title fight between David Haye and John Ruiz as an upset in the making, a fight that Haye would absolutely be foolish to look past.
What I'm saying is not that John Ruiz is a great fighter, or that he ever was. He's good, highly competent at the least. He's also tough. The only guy to ever stop him was David Tua, and that was so long ago it might not have even happened, other than it gives the Tua fanboys something to YouTube when they need a fix. To put it in perspective, when Tua and Ruiz fought, Tua was 23 years old. Ruiz was 24. Ruiz was still five years away from claiming his first major heavyweight title, when he beat Evander Holyfield in 2001.
Ruiz, now 37, has eight losses on his record. They are:
- Sergei Kobozev, 1993, SD-10. This was at cruiserweight.
- Danell Nicholson, 1994, SD-12.
- David Tua, 1996, KO-1. I think we've been over how much I believe you can read into first round knockouts. Look, I'm not saying that the Tua KO of Ruiz wasn't legit. Obviously it was. Tua was a monster puncher and he caught Ruiz cold, hard and fast. But it was 14 years ago.
- Evander Holyfield, 2000, UD-12. Close fight.
- Roy Jones Jr., 2003, UD-12. Not a close fight.
- Nikolai Valuev, 2005, MD-12. I think Ruiz deserved the W.
- Ruslan Chagaev, 2006, SD-12. Close fight.
- Nikolai Valuev, 2008, UD-12. Again, I thought Ruiz deserved the W.
If you combine all three scorecards from every one of Ruiz's losses to Kobozev, Nicholson, Holyfield, Valuev, Chagaev and again to Valuev, you come out with an average scorecard of 112-110 against Ruiz. That's how close these fights were on the cards. And we're talking about six fights, half of them in Germany against Sauerland and Universum fighters.
I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
For my money, Ruiz did more against Valuev in either of his two fights than Haye really did to the Russian giant when he snatched the WBA strap from his hairy clutches and hopefully saved us from more Integrated Sports PPVs where Col. Bob Sheridan extols Valuev's talents, as if the people watching don't know who he is.
I'm not trying to discount Haye. David is the favorite and he should be. I mean, run down the checklist, and it favors Haye almost all the way.
- Power? Haye.
- Speed? Haye.
- Wear and tear (lack thereof)? Haye.
- Youth? Haye.
- Height? Haye.
- Reach? Hey! It's even.
About the only thing Ruiz can really count in his favor would be experience, which is nice and all but has a way of turning into oldness when 38 and the other guy's 29, and the fact that he's faced a lot of top heavyweights over the years, whereas Haye's best wins are still at cruiserweight, and will still be at cruiserweight even if he beats Ruiz.
It's definitely the best test Haye has had as a heavyweight. Tomasz Bonin was nothing, Monte Barrett was on the very last set of legs his career was going to give him, and Valuev isn't so much a heavyweight fighter as a puzzle for opposing fighters to solve.
Ruiz is a legit heavyweight, a big guy, stronger than he often gets credit for, a puncher surely good enough that questions of Haye's chinniness are relevant for this fight.
Honestly, I don't worry that Haye is too cocky, or that he'll be looking past Ruiz. For all his boisterousness, Haye is no dummy. He talked of knocking out Valuev, but instead he was smart (boring as it was) and stayed away from the big galoot. He's a superior athlete, every bit as good a boxer as Ruiz, and he has far more weapons in his arsenal. He's got legitimate power in both hands (I don't think there's a fighter in the division he can't knock out, and I include creaky old Vitali Klitschko in that), and most importantly, tremendous speed for the division.
And I see the speed being the key to the Haye victory. Ruiz is a smart boxer, can punch some, and I think he'll give Haye some good looks early. But I lean toward David because of the speed. You know who the last guy Ruiz faced that was notably fast? Roy Jones Jr., in 2003. Since then, he's fought Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo, Andrew Golota, James Toney, Valuev, Chagaev, Otis Tisdale, Jameel McCline, Valuev again, and Adnan Serin. Not exactly the fastest bunch of guys in the game.
I still think John Ruiz has a very legitimate chance, and I'm very interested in seeing how this fight plays out. But I also think David Haye knows exactly what's on the line here, and how disastrous a loss to old John Ruiz of all the damned people would be for his career. He'll be focused, he'll be smart, and he'll get Ruiz out inside the distance. Haye TKO-10