Ruiz-Jones: A marketing ‘Conn’ job

Feb 25, 2003 5:57 AM

The numbers suck. Not the minus $2 or plus $1.70 posted on Roy Jones Jr. vs. John Ruiz. The $49.95 for the pay-per-view, the $1,200 for ringside tickets ”” those numbers suck.

This could be the most intriguing fight of the year. Many people think it could be a bore, but it could just as easily be a classic. But one thing it is not, it is not a heavyweight title fight.

John Ruiz is no more the heavyweight champion of this world than is Tonya Harding. He has a phony title. Ruiz is just another heavyweight and, if it weren’t for Don King being his promoter, probably couldn’t get a gig on Telefutura.

Michael Spinks is the only reigning light-heavyweight champion to have ever won a heavyweight title. But lots of ’em beat heavyweights. Billy Conn almost beat Joe Louis. Archie Moore couldn’t beat Rocky Marciano; Bob Foster couldn’t beat Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. But they beat a lot of guys in the class of Ruiz.

And a lot of heavyweight champions were, in fact, light-heavyweights or cruiserweights by today’s standards ”” starting with most of the 19th century and going on through Tommy Burns, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Ezzard Charles and Floyd Patterson.

Size? Remember, Michael Spinks also beat Gerry Cooney, a mountain of a man and someone I would have bet on against Lennox Lewis. Okay, when Spinks beat him, Cooney was messed up on booze and drugs, so a better comparison might be Conn and Louis. This could be as entertaining a fight. Ruiz is not a very skilled fighter, but he’s rough, tough and awkward.

First time I saw him, he was a light-heavyweight at the 1992 Olympic Trials. Ruiz lost to Montell Griffith, the only guy who has beaten both of next week’s contestants.

Gabe LaMarca, Ruiz’s trainer, says he doesn’t think Roy will run. He won’t. Conn didn’t run from Louis, who outweighed him by 31 pounds and who hit a bit harder than Ruiz does. I’m not sure Jones is as good as Conn, but they’re on the same plane. This is Johny Louise, not Joe Louis.

Jones will use his superior leg speed to set up angles, from side to side, in and out, and his body shots can hurt Ruiz. He will frustrate Ruiz, who will have to resort to his wrestling tactics and other fouls. If a really neutral referee works the bout, it’ll be Jones by DQ.

Hit him in the body, and Ruiz will scream to the ref about a low blow. He was in effect knocked out by Evander Holyfield in their second bout by a solar plexus shot. Referee Joe Cortez ”” like Ruiz a Las Vegan of Puerto Rican descent, and yes, I mention that on purpose ”” ruled the punch a low blow. Instead of declaring Holyfield winner, a point was deducted. Cortez started yelling low blows from the start against Kirk Johnson when somehow appointed again to a Ruiz fight.

Ruiz, of course, is a live $1.55 underdog. He’s got a sneaky right hand, but Jones can take a shot or two. Conn took more than a couple from Louis before the fateful 13th round of their 1941 meeting. That was a close fight when Conn mistakenly went for the knockout. Jones, by nature, is cautious. But he could get the KO anyway with a buildup of body punches and a shot Ruiz will not see coming.

That is one of the keys to this matchup. Jones should see everything coming from Ruiz. It won’t work the other way.

I believe Roy wins. I wouldn’t like to lay 2-1, but if you put a gun to my head (please don’t, I have dandruff), I’d have to take Jones (at —175 early in the week). The best value may be Jones by knockout, especially since DQ counts as a KO.