PEDs in boxing: John Ruiz provides an often-overlooked consequenceWritten by Leroy Cleveland
ESPN Kwesé recently caught up with former heavyweight belt holder John Ruiz (44-9-1, 30 KO) to gather his insight on the current state of the heavyweight division.
A top 10 heavyweight from 2000 -2010, Ruiz faced the likes of Evander Holyfield, James Toney, Roy Jones, Jr, Andrew Golota, David Haye, Nikolay Valuev, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, Ruslan Chagaev and Jameel McCline. And while his fight style wasn't overly appealing, he held his own with some big names. Few heavyweights in recent memory have shared the ring with so many elite opponents.
Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is a hot topic these days and when asked about PED's impact in boxing, John provided an often-overlooked consequence.
ESPN Kwesé: Wilder was scheduled to defend against undefeated Luis Ortiz in November, but Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance. Instead, Wilder is now fighting Bermane Stiverne, an opponent he's already beaten decisively. You had a similar situation when you fought James Toney in 2005. What's your take on performance enhancing drugs?
John Ruiz: That's what sad about boxing. Basically, PEDs make a boxer last longer. They are not going to get tired when it comes to the late rounds. Boxers want their opponents to get tired so they can take advantage of it. If the other guy is on steroids and doesn't get tired, you're screwed.
"When it happened to me with Toney, it took away my opportunity to get bigger fights. He got the decision, but when he tested positive, they changed it to a no-decision. I got the belt back, but it was almost like a loss. It took the wind out of my sails."
He later added, "But the people with me were astonished how well he [Toney] took my shots."
What we tend to dismiss, as it relates to boxing and PEDs, is the impact it has on clean fighters. As Ruiz stated, although his defeat at the hands of Toney was changed to a no contest, he lost momentum he'd gained from consecutive wins over Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota.
As for Toney, fans were displeased with the test result yet were curiously intrigued. After all, he was an aging former middleweight champion who, despite some extra help, toppled a formidable but unpopular heavyweight belt holder in an exciting dust-up. Fans wanted to know how much of Toney's performance was drug-related and how much was natural. And if a drug-free Toney could be a force in the division.
Already a popular and accomplished future hall of famer, it would take more than a positive drug test to destroy Toney's image. Ultimately, his stock value was hardly dented and he'd go on to have two have two high-profile fights with Sam Peter as well as significant showdowns with heavyweights Hasim Rahman and Fres Oquendo, and cruiserweight belt holder Denis Lebedev.
Unfortunately for Ruiz, he would be seen by many as the heavyweight belt holder who unofficially lost to two former middleweight champions (UD 12 by Roy Jones, Jr - 2003). And going forward, John would be relegated to B-side status in future high-profile showdowns.
Eight months after the Toney fight, he would lose his title to hulking 7'0" heavyweight Nikolay Valuev via controversial majority decision. And while John would have a several more big fights, he'd often find himself on the losing end of a debatable verdict and would never again win a title.