The holiday season is off to an auspicious start: No action to strain your gift budget and, best of all, there’s a fight from Europe this Saturday, which we won’t be able to watch unless stranded in Leipzig, Germany.
Finally, a European contest, which will not be for sale on pay-per-view in this workers’ paradise. You’ll understand my joy when I tell you it features John Ruiz.
What’s more, everyone’s favorite fighter for whom to wear blinkers is up against an even bigger stiff.
Well, at least a much taller stiff.
Nicolai Valuev is, we are told, 7 feet tall and is the mandatory challenger for Ruiz’s WBAssinine heavyweight championship. We are also told he sometimes spells his name Nicolay. The translation from the Russian is not as important as knowing that this, according to my many spies, is another example of why the heavyweight division is in major trouble.
The word is, Valuev makes Ruiz look exciting.
Valuev gained his "title" shot by winning a controversial decision over Larry Donald, who also can put Ruiz to sleep. Not in the ring, but from ringside watching. Before that, the big Russian went through the murderer’s row of Gerald Noble, Attila Levin and the remnants of Clifford Etienne.
So what if he’s undefeated?
The best thing that can be said for Valuev is that he is from St. Petersburg, but not the one where Dan Birmingham trains Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy. Valuev is from the classy St. Pete, the one that until the wall fell, was known as Leningrad. It’s a tough town, withstanding the Nazi siege in World War II.
St. Petersburg has one of the world’s great museum, the Ermitage, whose connection to boxing is more than you think. Believe it or not, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva has a daughter working as an intern at the museum, which houses some very fine Rembrandts.
Valuev, despite 31 knockouts in 42 victories, is not a big puncher. A tall puncher, perhaps, but with little power. Ruiz should be the heavy favorite if for nothing else his record of having faced real opposition. Jawny may be an affront to purists’ eyes with his jab-and-clutch style.
Outside of that aberrational 19-second loss to David Tua 100 years ago, he has survived in the ring. The list of opponents passes for an elite of the heavyweight division — Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman, James Toney, Kirk Johnson, Fres Oquendo, Andrew (Foul Pole) Golota and even Roy Jones Jr.
Ruiz hasn’t won them all and he was lucky in more than a couple. But I have a sneaky suspicion his luck is about to run out. I feel Ruiz, who is so unmarketable here that he has to fight "over there," will be replaced by what promoter Don King can at least peddle as a comparatively new face.
After getting his specious title back simply because Toney (after outboxing him), tested positive for steroids, Ruiz may have made a mistake in threatening to sue King. I believe the promoter will be sitting on his hands not clapping for Ruiz, in Leipzig.
Ruiz, of course, has never felt constrained by the rules of the game. In going into Valuev’s home (the Russian is promoted by Germans) without the powerful backing of King, it would not shock me ring officials monitor Ruiz extremely close.
How do you spell "disqualification" in Russian?
Yes, since we can’t bet, that would be my prediction. I believe King has an interest in Valuev. Even if not, the promoter would probably prefer a heavyweight unification tournament without Ruiz. He’d probably like one without Chris Byrd as well, which could explain his incredible suit against the IBFelony heavyweight champion.
King has accused the big, bad Byrd of ganging up on him and ruining the tournament, which someone said was like a mugger suing his victim for fighting back.
Actually, the best heavyweight fights these days are in the back rooms and court rooms. Just think, two days before the Ruiz-Valuev confrontation, there is a pay-per-view show featuring heavyweights. In the main, Samuel Peter, off his loss to Wladimir Klitschko, gets a paid sparring session against journeyman Robert Hawkins.
Unfortunately for Peter, and the future of the division, Kevin Rooney isn’t working the corner of the Nigerian Nightmare. Peter badly needs a trainer of Rooney’s capability. That would be my holiday gift for him.