Boxing
Ruiz crawls toward another reign
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Quick, hit the lights...everyone's favorite cockroach is re-emerging from boxing's baseboards.

John Ruiz, already one of few to claim the tag "two-time heavyweight champion," takes a shot at an even more exclusive title No. 3 on Saturday night in Germany, when he faces seven-foot novelty act Nikolai Valuev for the vacant WBA title at Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin.

The crown was vacated when incumbent Ruslan Chagaev pulled out of a planned rematch with No. 1 contender Valuev -- his third postponement/cancellation since winning the title from the Russian-born behemoth just 16 months ago.

Ruiz, now 43-7-1 in a 16-year pro career, is ranked No. 2 by the WBA.


John Ruiz is ranked No. 2 by the WBA.
"I'd definitely say I've been unappreciated," he said, in a recent FitzHitz interview. "Everyone's entitled to their own opinions, but I think the record says it all. I'm not sure how much more I'd need to give or accomplish to change people's minds. No matter what I do, they'll say what they want."

Ruiz dropped a controversial majority decision to Valuev in December 2005, ending a second term as WBA champion that had begun with a win over Hasim Rahman two years earlier.

His first reign started with a defeat of Evander Holyfield in 2001 and lasted until his inglorious loss at the hands of Roy Jones Jr. in March 2003.

"The last fight with (Valuev) was really one of my easiest fights," Ruiz said.

"There's nothing he did that makes me feel I can't do anything I want with him and do it even better this time. Before, I would try to go in with one or two punches and then get out, but now I'm going stay in there and throw more. And I know they'll connect."

Valuev was given the nod on two scorecards -- 116-114 and 116-113 -- while the third was even at 114.

Ruiz has fought twice since, scoring a two-round blowout of journeyman Otis Tisdale and a wide 12-round decision over multi-time title challenger Jameel McCline. He claims he'll continue to utilize a more active, less clutch-and- grab style under new trainer Manny Siaca.

"The way I see it, Don King has a freak show going with this guy. If he were a normal-sized fighter, no one would be talking about him," Ruiz said. "This time I'm going for a knockout. There's no way I'm leaving it to the judges. But if it goes the distance, I'm going to get a knockdown in each round as an exclamation point."

FitzHitz says: Ruiz in 9.

Ahhh...now the world can exhale.

"Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya finally made it official Thursday, overcoming a few weeks of money haggling to announce his 'made for pay-per-view' swan song with Manny Pacquiao is signed, sealed and delivered for Dec. 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Though the match looked dead in the South Pacific after Pacquiao reportedly balked at a 30-70 revenue split with the omnipotent Oscar, it was suddenly revived over the past few days, perhaps after the Filipino sensation realized 30-or-so percent of a De La Hoya-powered largesse is still a far bigger paycheck than he'd cash with two dozen WBC lightweight title defenses against Humberto Soto.

Never mind he's not even the legit champ at 135 pounds. We'll discuss that another time.

"This is my greatest challenge," Pacquiao said in a Thursday conference call. "When I take that walk to the ring to fight Oscar, I will carry all the people of the Philippines -- the entire country -- on my shoulders. I promise I will fight with all of my heart and that I will give everything I have."

OK, thanks...but you'll forgive me if I don't genuflect.

Regardless of who gets what cut of the sure-to-be-enormous live gate and PPV receipts, the idea De La Hoya would choose a never-fought-above-135 sideshow over legitimate, deserving opponents in his own weight range dismantles the substantial in-ring legacy he might've hoped the finale would create.

And his weak attempt at drumming up a rivalry over "can't pull the trigger" comments by ex-trainer Freddie Roach -- while simultaneously ignoring direct challenges by top-flight welterweights Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams -- shows his event-promoting acumen could use a little work as well.

"Manny Pacquiao is considered the best fighter in boxing today and I always want to fight the best," De La Hoya said. "I am glad we were able to make this fight happen because while Pacquiao is at the pinnacle of his success and has defeated all of the top fighters he has faced, I am going to show the world that it stops with me. Dec. 6 can't get here soon enough."

Actually, Oscar...you're just one day off.

I'm suddenly looking much more forward to Dec. 7...when you'll finally be gone for good.

The late-summer title fight drought ends this week with four championship matches in addition to the Valuev-Ruiz get-together.

First, on Friday night in northern Ontario, local favorite Steve Molitor risks his IBF junior featherweight title for the fifth time when he takes on Argentine export Ceferino Labarda at Casino Rama, about 100 miles north of Toronto.

As chronicled here last week, the fight marks Molitor's first trip to the ring with new trainer Stephan Larouche, who takes over corner duties in the fallout of a multi-pronged dispute involving Molitor, promoter Allan Tremblay, manager James Jardine and ex-trainer Chris Johnson.

Molitor claimed the issues are "water under the bridge" and will not impact his focus on the unheralded Labarda, the IBF's No. 15 contender and seemingly the last obstacle between Molitor and a lucrative unification match with WBA champ Celestino Caballero later this year.

Labarda is 18-0 overall but has just four wins over foes with better-than-.500 records.

FitzHitz says: Molitor in 8.

On Saturday in Monterrey, Mexico, southpaw incumbent and native son Cristian Mijares carries a 29-fight win streak and both the WBA and WBC titles at 115 pounds into a dual defense against 67-fight veteran Chatchai Sasakul.

Mijares, who'll turn 27 in early October, won the WBC title in January and defended it four times before adding the WBA trinket with a split-decision win over Alexander Munoz on May 17.

Now 35-3-2 overall, he's not lost since July 2002 and is 8-0 in interim or full-fledged world title bouts.

The 38-year-old Sasakul held the WBC's 112-pound title in 1997-98 and defended it twice before falling in eight rounds to Pacquiao in his native Thailand.

He's lost only once in 32 fights since, but has not fought in 2008 after seven bouts in 2007.

Sasakul is ranked sixth by the WBC and seventh by the WBA.

FitzHitz says: Mijares by decision.

In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, WBO 108-pound belt-holder Ivan Calderon risks his title against the man from whom he won it a year ago this week, top-ranked Mexican challenger Hugo Cazares.

Calderon, the WBO's champion at 105 pounds from 2003-2007, relinquished that crown to challenge Cazares on Aug. 25, 2007, and hung on to earn a split decision after climbing off the canvas in the eighth round.

The 33-year-old Puerto Rican won by 115-112 scores on two cards while losing on the other, 116-112.

He's made two successful defenses since the controversial verdict, defeating Juan Esquer and Nelson Dieppa by unanimous decisions to run his career record to 31-0 overall and 15-0 in world title fights.

Cazares, who'd won the title from Dieppa in 2005, has fought just once since, defeating Kermin Guardia over 10 rounds in the main event of an eight-bout January card in Cicero, Ill.

He is 26-4-1 with 19 KOs.

FitzHitz says: Cazares in 10.

And finally, the Philippines are the site for the weekend's final title action, where Donnie Nietes risks the WBO's belt at 105 pounds for the first time against Eddy Castro.

Nietes, who's 22-1-3 overall and 11-0-2 since the lone loss in 2004, won the vacant championship with a unanimous verdict over previously unbeaten Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym 11 months ago.

Castro, ranked ninth by the WBO, is fighting for the first time outside his native Nicaragua.

He won four of five fights in 2007, including three by knockout, but actually dropped a six-round decision to Roberto Meza in his last bout on Feb. 29 in Managua.

He is 12-3-1 with nine KOs.

FitzHitz says: Nietes by decision.

Overall Picks Record: 8-4

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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