Monday, September 08, 2008

Team Ruiz Alleges “Corruption” in Valuev Fight

Robbed of his WBA title when he first fought Nikolai Valuev December 2005 at Berlin’s Max Schmeling Halle, The Boxing Standard’s favorite heavyweight, John Ruiz, had a rematch with the seven-foot Russian August 30 in the same building for the vacated WBA belt.

Perhaps Ruiz had little choice but to return to the scene of the crime at this point in his career, since he has been attacked for years by all the media “experts” who have been writing him off for over a decade now, and he is not considered to be a major drawing card on American TV. So when the sadly predictable verdict of this rematch was announced, originally a split decision win for Valuev which was later “changed” to a unanimous decision by the WBA officials claiming a clerical error in adding up the scorecards, the accomplices in this latest heist are those who have had John Ruiz effectively banished from American TV.

But fuck TV. Who needs it these days, anyway? This fight was broadcast in Germany on the ARD network, and streamed on various peer-to-peer sites for free around this world, and any others which might be nervously watching how we handle our affairs on Earth.

I thus watched the fight under these imperfect but acceptable conditions, and scored at least seven of the 12 rounds for Ruiz. Plus, Valuev was deducted a point for shoving Ruiz to the canvas in the tenth round. Also, in the second round, Valuev was hurt by Ruiz and knocked to the ropes, which was the only thing holding his huge frame up. The referee did not rule it a knockdown, but the round still should have been scored 10-8 for Ruiz.

While the judges ruled against him, the German fans largely cheered Ruiz after the fight, showing that they are far fairer than those who ran this show. This was clearly visible and audible on the telecast, even to those of us who do not know German.

Now, perhaps just as predictably, John Ruiz’s team has issued a news release alleging corruption in this fight, and calling on the WBA to review the fight and declare it a no contest.

Somehow I think the WBA’s response to all this will be just as predictable.

Here is the Team Ruiz news release:

Deck stacked against “The Quietman”

Team Ruiz protests outcome vs. Valuev

LAS VEGAS (September 8, 2008) – Two-time World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John “The Quietman” Ruiz (43-8-1, 29 KOs), as well as his advisor/attorney Tony Cardinale and head trainer Manny Siaca, Sr., believe they faced sizable unfair disadvantages August 30 fighting Nikolai Valuev (49-1, 34 KOs) for the WBA heavyweight title in Berlin.

Valuev recaptured the WBA belt by way of a 12-round decision clouded in controversy.

Team Ruiz is demanding a full videotape of Valuev-Ruiz II to further review for evidence of alleged corrupt practices.

Points of contention include the following issues:

1. Judge Takeshi Shimakawa improperly kept a running score during the fight, which is prohibited by the WBA, as well as the only way he could have “corrected” his scorecard after the scores were announced (Shimakawa’s scoring changed from 114-113 in favor of Ruiz to 114-113 for Valuev.

2. Ruiz was not credited with a legitimate knockdown when he floored Valuev in the second round. Ruiz blasted Valuev with punches, knocking “The Giant” into the ropes, but the referee incorrectly ruled a slip when Valuev’s knee hit the canvas after he careened off of the ropes. Scoring that round would have been different, in Ruiz’ favor, if it was ruled a knockdown.

3. Judge Antonio Requena scored two rounds even, despite WBA instructions that there should be no even rounds scored in championship bouts. Ruiz would have been declared the winner if the two even rounds had been awarded to Ruiz in addition to the aforementioned second round scoring snafu being sorted out.

4. Most importantly, throughout the fight Valuev’s cornermen received judges’ scoring results as the rounds went on, something that happens regularly only in Germany, yet clearly constitutes major corruption in boxing.

In addition to demanding a full videotape of the fight for review, Team Ruiz plans to petition the WBA to rule the bout a no-contest and Valuev be stripped of the WBA title for a blatant violation of WBA rules. Team Ruiz will also seek sanctions against any officials involved in permitting these violations to happen, whether it’s enforced by the WBA or German Boxing Federation.

“The WBA needs to resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” Ruiz said. “Non-officials are not allowed to handle or read scorecards during the fight. Valuev should be stripped and a rematch ordered. It seems like everything possible has happened to me in boxing. Whether it was defending my title by disqualification (Kirk Johnson), my opponent testing positive for steroids (James Toney), or scores changed after a fight like this. It was chaotic after the fight. With all of the confusion going on, at one point while waiting to hear the results, I thought I was in Florida and the ‘hanging chads’ during the 2000 election.

“The WBA must investigate the judges and who was running the show, Sauerland. Everything was very weird at the end of the fight. The German people are wonderful and they’ve treated me very well each time I’ve fought there. They cheered loudly after the fight, but only when Valuev announced he was going to give me a rematch (He has since changed his tune and is talking about fighting an unnamed opponent in December.) They should hold Sauerland and the German Boxing Federation accountable. The great German boxing fans deserve much better. Things have to change in Germany, where everybody knows foreigners don’t have a chance of winning a close decision. I’m terribly disappointed with what went on over there. Boxing suffered another black eye.”

The Puerto Rican-American Ruiz is the first and only Latino heavyweight champion of the world. He has fought in 10 world championship fights and defeated three world heavyweight champions -- Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Tony Tucker – in addition to beating top contenders such as Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo, Kirk Johnson and Jameel McCline during his 15-year pro career.

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At 6:46 PM, Blogger Frank Lotierzo said...

Nothing will come from this. I also think Ruiz is starting to erode dramatically from all the tough fights.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Carlo Rotella said...

If you look over Ruiz's career, you see an awful lot of complaining in its latter part. It seems that he protests every decision. On the one hand, that gets annoying very quickly, and sometimes the complaining is trivial and shrill--like when he complained about James Toney failing a steroid test, as if Toney's use of steroids had anything to do with his ability to box rings around a depressed, immobile Ruiz. On the other hand, Ruiz has lately lost a bunch of close, dubious, messy fights by decision. Yes, Toney and Roy Jones clearly outboxed him, and Tua cleaned his clock, but the other 5 losses are an early-career split decision loss to Dannell Nicholson, an ugly debatable loss to Holyfield in virtuoso fouling form, and three recent dubious close decisions to Eastern Europeans on their home turf: the two Valuev fights and the Chagaev fight. I can see why Ruiz could get to feeling that he hasn't been really beaten in years and years and yet he can't get a W. Complaining won't help, but I can see why he does it. He's on the downslope of his career, but he's still good enough that he can't be philosophical about a loss in the way that, say, Larry Holmes was when he went to Denmark to fight Brian Neilsen. Before he left, Holmes told me, "I can't win this fight--they're gonna take it from me--but they're gonna have to pay me for my trouble." I can't say that Ruiz definitely won any of the fights he lost by decision to Chagaev and Valuev, but I can say that he didn't definitely lose any of them, and that has to leave him feeling incomplete and robbed. He doesn't feel beaten, and yet he feels himself turning into a plausible opponent for the Russians, a high-end Jameel McCline who's actually trying to win, and that has to burn.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Charles Farrell said...

I sense the hand of Ruiz's lawyer Tony Cardinale all over this. If I'm correct, these losses might not burn John Ruiz as much as it would seem. I think that Ruiz knows at this point that he's unlikely to win any close decisions. And unless he's fighting a novice like Jameel McCline (something he very seldom gets the chance to do), virtually all of his fights will be close. By the nature of his style, he doesn't dominate. And, assuming he's fighting today's top but unexceptional heavyweights like Valuev, Chagaev, later Holyfield, Golota, or, for that matter, Povetkin, Ibragimov, or Peter ( these last being guys he hasn't faced yet), he doesn't get blown out either. If he's the victim of bad decisions, it's hard to say that he's been on the wrong end of out and out robberies. In fact, I thought he probably lost the Chagaev fight. And although I disagree, there are many people who believe that John was given an undeserved win over Golota. Ruiz's style makes it difficult for all but vastly experienced judges to correctly assess what's really happening in his fights. This is all a circuitous preface to what I think Cardinale is trying to do: it's his way of giving voice to Ruiz, saying, "I didn't really lose. I didn't really lose. I didn't really lose." I don't think that Ruiz's people believed that any of the decisions would really be reversed. But the protest serves as a constant reminder that John is both still there and still competitive with anyone. It leaves him perpetually close to title shots or other major fights because it renders the losses relatively meaningless (if he lost this often in inarguable fashion, he'd no longer be considered a viable title contender. And a win over him in a non-title would have far less currency.) It's a good strategy to keep getting John Ruiz paid.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Carlo Rotella said...

That strikes me as plausible, and it's probably a semi-effective strategy to keep positioning him somewhere near the top so that he can make money losing close fights, but my sense of it is that losing decisions when he doesn't feel like he got beat does in fact burn him. He seems baffled and angry, not so much because he lost but because he has ended up making money in the way Charles describes. In fact, one of the main things he seems to be pissed off about is that this is how he makes the best money he can make at this point in his career.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Charles Farrell said...

And it probably is the best way for him to make money now. I suppose that, theoretically, there'd be a reason to let him win one if there were some charistmatic, money-making prospect on the horizon who could knock him out dramatically (and Ruiz would be the preferred victim of that kind of loss, since he's never the draw at the gate, while the Russian and German guys can still bring in money on their own.) But no one is close to being able to do that. And, with an undefeated prospect, you never really know what you have; there's always a real possibility that Ruiz will grind him down. So, unfortunate as it might be, this is probably how Ruiz's late career is going to play out until he's no longer able to hang in with the division's best.


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