By John J. Raspanti
Michael Ruiz Jr. defines a fighter. He trains for hours in his chosen profession for little in return, except some bruises and disappointments.
Still, he fights on, with the support of family, the love of his girlfriend, and the belief that his time will come.
His professional boxing record (11-4-2, 3 KOs) appears mediocre.
But looks can be deceiving.
Michael Ruiz Jr. can fight.
On April 15, at Cache Creek Arena in Brooks, CA, Ruiz will face hard-hitting Rodrigo Guerreo for the IBA junior bantamweight title.
The road to a title shot has been bumpy to say the least.
His career took off with a bang—eight consecutive wins and a promotional contract from the late Dan Goossen. In 2011, everything changed. He lost two fights.
Boxing has become a game of extremes. One loss and a career is on the ropes. Two and the contender might as well look for a new profession.
In the past, a loss could be a learning experience.
Over sixty years ago, future Hall of Famers Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Jersey Joe Walcott, all lost fights, but recovered, to move on to successful careers.
Ruiz won his next bout, but was having trouble getting fights at his most comfortable weight, which maxes out at 115 pounds.
To have anything resembling an active career, he had to travel to his opponent’s hometown to fight. The disadvantage of meeting another man in his backyard is obvious—especially in boxing where a “fair-shake,” usually doesn’t exist.
Ruiz found traveling and being the underdog only made him more determined.
“I get excited knowing that I can surprise people,” Ruiz told this writer via email. “Being able to prove people wrong who didn’t believe I can do it.”
But fighting in someone’s hometown is tough.
“It’s a struggle to have to fight the opponent and also the judges who already have a pre-conceived notion on who they want to win,” Ruiz said.
The ringside judges have let Ruiz down on a number of occasions Ruiz.
In 2013, he traveled to San Diego to face local prospect Khabir Suleymanov. The WBA and USA bantamweight titles were on the line. To most at ringside, Ruiz did more than enough to win the fight.
Www.Fightnews.com ringside reporter Felipe Leon was at the fight and posted this article.
Russian Khabir Suleymanov was awarded an unpopular ten round unanimous decision and thus the NABA bantamweight title against Michael Ruiz Jr.
Shaking off the loss in San Diego, Ruiz traveled to Redwood City, CA, to face then once-beaten Bruno Escalante for the vacant IBA super flyweight title.
The fighters knew each other well after having split two amateur matches. The fight was a hard-fought 10 rounder--with Ruiz the consistent aggressor.
“They said he’s gonna come in and he’s gonna move,” Ruiz said after the fight. “I took it to him in the first two rounds. I out-boxed him clearly. I was just landing shots.”
Again the ringside judges had a different take, giving Escalante the win by a majority decision.
This writer, stationed at ringside, had Ruiz winning the bout by two points.
It is hard to imagine a fighter’s disappointment when he gives it his all only to be on the short end of a dubious decision. All the hard work, the sweat, the sacrifice - canceled out by the seeming lack of impartiality by the judges.
This problem is common in boxing. It’s amazing a fighter like Ruiz doesn’t quit, but, for him, that option isn’t in the cards.
Instead, he gets back on the road and fights, but he changes his goal.
“I feel like I have to knock out my opponents’,” said Ruiz Jr. “No more decisions.”
In 2014, he shuffled off to Buffalo, NY, to face hard-hitting southpaw Jonathon Gonzales. Ruiz was expected to lose, but instead he fought impressively, only to be let down once again by the judges.
The fight was declared a draw. Undaunted, Ruiz won his next match, and then faced Escalante in a rematch.
Primed and ready, Ruiz fought with passion and grit. Revenge can be a great motivator. He outworked Escalante in almost every round. The only suspense was how the judges would score the match.
This time, they got it right, with Ruiz declared the winner by unanimous decision.
“It was really satisfying to know I dominated that fight,” Ruiz said,” After the last time, feeling like I had won the fight. There was no doubt in anyone who had seen this (second) fight that I won.”
Ruiz will be back in the ring April 15 against the bigger Guerrero, who captured the WBC international bantamweight belt two years ago. Ruiz has watched tape of Guerrero. He knows he’s tough, but Ruiz is excited.
“I’ve had a few controversial calls,” Ruiz said. “I’ve had to fight my way back to finally get this opportunity. Being able to be the main event and fight for a title is a dream for me.”
As always, Ruiz will leave everything in the ring.
“Like the name of the fight,” said Ruiz. “This really is all or nothing for me.”
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