By John J. Raspanti
The call came in only weeks before the fight was scheduled, but Michael Ruiz Jr. was ready. He had been training for months,hoping the phone would ring. When it did, the discussion between Michael and his father was short and sweet.
“I called Michael’s dad with an offer of a bout,” said Paco Damien of Paco Presents, and Don Chargin Promotions. “He called me back minutes later saying they’ll accept the fight. Just like that, they accepted.”
“The fight” will be in Norfolk, Virginia against Alexandru Marin April 14 for the IBO intercontinental super flyweight championship. Marin is undefeated in 15 bouts. He’ll be fighting in Norfolk for a third time.In other words, Ruiz will be fighting against hometown judging, along with Marin. It’s a big mountain to climb, but Ruiz is ready.
“I worked my way back from losing some years ago,” said Ruiz via email a few days ago.
Nothing has been given to Ruiz during his eight-year professional boxing career. He’s been the underdog nobody heard of, the guy brought in to lose. No matter, Ruiz always brings it. He’s fought on the road a number of times.
Beating the “house fighter” is one of the most difficult things boxers face. The word fair usually disappears on the road to the arena. For the most part, some of the judges are biased.
Ruiz (12-4-3, 4 KOs) has been hurt by bad judging his entire career. On the road in 2013, he thought he had defeated local hotshot, Khabir Suleymanov. Most at ringside agreed, but still Suleymanov was awarded the fight by decision.
Seven months later, Ruiz lost another dubious decision to Bruno Escalante. The road warrior couldn’t get a fair shake. Ruiz shook his head but didn’t complain. If anything, the setbacks made him more determined.
“It took so much work to finally get back to where I can make a difference in my career and my family,” Ruiz said.
The road back started in 2014 when Ruiz fought to a draw against hard-hitting Jason Gonzalez. Shaking off the disappointment, Ruiz won his next bout and faced Escalante in a rematch. Primed and determined, Ruiz stayed in Escalante’s grill all night, winning the fight by a wide decision.
“There was no way they (the judges) were going to take it away from me that time,” Ruiz told this writer after the match was over. “Nothing against Escalante, he’s a good guy, but I dominated.”
A year ago, Ruiz met former world title challenger Rodrigo Guerrero. The fight was for the IBA junior bantamweight title. Ruiz wanted that belt. Most of the pre-fight articles focused on Guerrero. No matter. On fight night, Ruiz was the guy.
“He (Guerrero) fought (Vic) Darchinyan seven years ago and almost beat him. He’s got a couple of titles, but I was ready that night.”
Ruiz shocked Guerreo by flooring him with a body shot in round two. He was dominating until an unintentional headbutt forced an end to fight. The bout was declared a no-contest. Bad luck again, but Ruiz had proved his point.
Last September, for the first time in his boxing career,Ruiz would be the hometown fighter. He boxed and defeated Jonathan Arturo Flores in front of his family and friends.
Now it’s back on the road for Michael Ruiz. As always, he’s the underdog. He’ll be the shorter man in the ring by three inches. But no matter. Determination is not an issue with Ruiz. He loves to prove people wrong.
He’ll also be fighting for something even more important on April 14.
“I have so much more to fight for now,” said Ruiz, who learned a few months ago that he’ll soon be a father. “I have my firstborn coming, my stepdaughter, and fiancé in my corner. I thank my Lord Jesus for these blessing in my life. I prayed for a child and another shot at a title.
“I’ll leave it all in the ring,”he said.
That much is guaranteed.