LAS VEGAS -- John Ruiz is one fighter who has lived up to his nickname. He'll find out Saturday night against Evander Holyfield whether he can live up to his expectations.
The "Quiet Man" finally gets a chance to make some noise when he meets Holyfield for a vacated piece of the heavyweight title in the chance of a lifetime for the unassuming heavyweight from Massachusetts.
He can only hope it goes better than the 19-second loss he suffered to David Tua three years ago that so far has defined his boxing career.
"It still burns in the back of my mind," Ruiz said of the Tua fight. "I think about it all the time. It keeps me focused on what I have to do."
Ruiz brings an 11-fight winning streak and the WBA's No. 1 ranking into the scheduled 12-round fight against a fighter who is trying to make history as a four-time heavyweight champion.
He's still quiet, though seemingly not overwhelmed by the opportunity. But he's a 4-1 underdog to a 37-year-old warrior who is a giant step up in class from the opponents Ruiz built a 36-3 record on.
"There's nothing I can do to change anyone's mind until I win and keep on winning," Ruiz said. "I feel I earned this fight. I worked my way up to the No. 1 spot. No one just gave it to me."
He was 224 pounds at Thursday's weigh-in, while Holyfield was 221.
Few would have given Ruiz a chance to get back in this position after Tua knocked him silly in their March 1996 fight in Atlantic City.
Ruiz is actually getting his title shot before Tua, who is scheduled to face Lennox Lewis in November for the WBC and IBF versions of the title.
"That was basically the changing point in my career," Ruiz said of Tua. "Most people would have quit after that. That's not my style. I'm here to prove a point."
The 28-year-old rebounded from the loss to win his next 11 fights, nine by knockout. But his opponents were hardly household names, with the biggest win an 11th round stoppage of an over-the-hill Tony Tucker.
The quality of his opposition may be the biggest knock on Ruiz, whose 27 knockouts in 39 fights came against a string of no-names. Ruiz, who began boxing at the age of 7, turned pro in 1992 as a cruiserweight before moving into the heavyweight ranks.
He was, however, once a sparring partner for Lewis, who mockingly called him "Johnny Louise" when he declined to fight Ruiz and instead defended his title in April against Michael Grant. It was that decision that prompted a federal judge to tell the WBA to strip Lewis of that piece of the crown.
"He didn't want to give a young guy a chance and follow the rules," Ruiz said. "There's nothing I can say about Lennox Lewis that hasn't already been said."
He can say a lot about Holyfield, however, who gets his chance at the now-fragmented title despite getting a controversial draw and then a loss in his last two fights against Lewis.
"Evander always comes to fight and his heart is behind it," Ruiz said. "I see myself as being the aggressor. I definitely have to take it to him and fight to win the title."
Ruiz, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, would become the first Latin fighter to hold a heavyweight title should he beat Holyfield. Few in boxing, though, believe that will happen, even though Holyfield is an aging fighter who has shown signs of deteriorating in recent fights.
The Quiet Man believes, though, and has trained nearly six months for a fight that was originally scheduled for June 10 but was postponed after Holyfield suffered an injury to his side.
And, in this case, he's planning to make some noise.
"It's going to be one of those fights you better watch," Ruiz said. "It's going to be a fight that goes back and forth because Evander has a lot of heart and so do I. One thing for sure is neither one of us will back down."
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