ON this day in 1963 Canadian heavyweight powerhouse Donovan Ruddock was born. Born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, Ruddock would relocate to Canada and begin an exciting boxing career in the 1980s.
Picking up the “Razor” nickname due to his fast and sharp left jab, it wouldn’t be too long before Ruddock would soon develop a punch that was given it’s own nickname, that of “The Smash,” Ruddock’s hybrid left uppercut-cum-hook. The early going of Ruddock’s pro career – that followed a decent amateur career highlighted by a win over future heavyweight great Lennox Lewis – started slowly and without much fanfare.
His debut came in Toronto in March of 1982 and Ruddock was more of a boxer than the all-out slugger he would famously become. Average performances against the likes of a 7-20 Phil Brown (a six-round draw) and a 13-5-2 Conroy Nelson (W10) didn’t set the world on fire, and an 8th-round TKO loss to journeyman Dave Jaco in April of 1985 appeared to be the end for Ruddock. Forced to quit on his stool, Ruddock complained of breathing problems. It was discovered he had a respiratory illness and it did seem he had punched his last. But, after taking medical advice and a significant amount of time off, Ruddock returned to the ring in February of 1986.
Ruddock picked up stoppage wins over Carlton Jones and, in an appearance in London, John Westgarth, before boxing his way to a ten-round split decision win over former heavyweight titlist Mike Weaver. Now a ranked contender, Ruddock began blasting opponents out, including Ken Lakusta who, in 1988, he destroyed inside a round to win the Canadian title. 1989 was the year Ruddock really began to make some noise on the world stage. An up-from-the-floor KO win over another former “world” champ in James “Bonecrusher” Smith attracted fan attention and then, in his Madison Square Garden debut, in April of 1990, Ruddock unleashed a punch he had been working on in the gym. At the expense of an unfortunate Mike Dokes (yet another former champ Ruddock would meet and defeat), the world was introduced to “The Smash.”
His left hand work nearly decapitated Dokes, who crumbled, badly hurt, in the 4th-round. Commentator for U.S TV, Gil Clancy, exclaimed on air how Ruddock was “the best young heavyweight I have seen in years!” Now seen as one of the most dangerous and exciting heavyweights out there, Ruddock was a genuine title threat. Amazingly, Ruddock would never fight for the world heavyweight title.
Instead, “Razor” got his big chance against former king Mike Tyson, who he met twice in memorable battles as Tyson was on the comeback trail following his huge upset loss to James Douglas. Ruddock, displaying a granite chin yet a poor defence to go along with it, took real punishment against Tyson, yet he did land enough bombs of his own to make both his March and June 1991 challenges of “Iron” Mike entertaining affairs. The first fight ended controversially, as referee Richard Steele famously dived in to rescue Ruddock as he was under fire on the ropes in the 7th round, this after a punishing fight had raged on. Ruddock, who had been knocked down earlier in the fight and had taken some wicked shots to the body from an in-form Tyson, was outraged and as soon as Steele waved it off, the ring was full of bodies; a near riot ensuing due to the premature call.
The return meeting came three months later and once again Ruddock’s inadequate defence, combined with his big heart and courage, saw him take far too many punches. Ruddock, again having to get off the floor, did last it out to the final bell in a fight that saw its share of fouls and points deducted, but his jaw was mangled and fans and experts wondered how much the fight had taken out of him. As it turned out, the war had taken quite a lot out of Ruddock.
A big name due to the way he’d fearlessly rumbled with Tyson, plenty of people still believed the now 28-year-old was a future world ruler. And, with new trainer, former heavyweight king Floyd Patterson by his side, Ruddock picked up good stoppage wins over Greg Page (still another former champ on his resume) and the unbeaten Phil Jackson. But, in a shock loss to his former amateur victim Lennox Lewis, in a final eliminator for the WBC crown, which took place in London on October 31st of 1992, Ruddock was all but finished off as a serious contender. Turning in one of his best performances, an ice cool Lewis annihilated Ruddock inside two sensational rounds. Had Ruddock’s punch resistance been compromised due to the Tyson wars? British commentator Reg Gutteridge didn’t think so. “I think he’d have done that to a fresh Ruddock, don’t you,” he asked on Sky Sports.
Razor wasn’t ready to retire, and he did play his part in giving fans a treat of a slugfest with Tommy Morrison in 1995 (losing by stoppage in the 6th round, in a fight that saw both men hit the deck). But Ruddock would fight only sporadically from here on in, appearing in 1998 and 1999 for a string of fights, all wins, and again in 2001 for a win that saw him regain his old Canadian belt. The win over Egerton Marcus seemed for a long time – over 14-years actually – to have been the end for Ruddock. But then, just this past march when aged 51, the old warrior made a quite shocking return to the ring.
The critics naturally had a field day, but Ruddock did mange to bag two wins over fighters who were a fair bit younger than himself. But in September of this year, in a attempt to become a three-time Canadian champ, Ruddock was brutally KO’d in the 3rd round by Dillon Carman. Ruddock and his team cried foul (for an alleged shot to the back of the head) and filed an appeal to have the result demoted to a No Contest. Here is December, nothing has come of the appeal and it is to be hoped Ruddock, an exceptionally brave and thrilling fighter to watch in his day, has finally punched his last.
The man who celebrates his 52nd birthday today finishes his career with a 40-6-1(30) record.