John Ruiz is back in the business of boxing in a big way.
The Chelsea boy who became the first Latino to win the heavyweight champion of the world is now an official promoter of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights and president of the American Fighting Organization (AFO) that will hold boxing shows throughout New England.
Ruiz, who owns and operates the Quiet Man Sports Gym in Medford, is also pursuing a professional boxing promoter’s license in Massachusetts and hopes to begin promoting boxing shows in early 2014.
“We are going to put on the best shows in New England,” said Ruiz. “I’m investing a lot of money to promote events and fighters in addition to putting on great MMA and boxing shows for fans.”
Ruiz’s family will be involved in the new venture. His brother, Eddie, who was in John’s corner throughout his boxing career, is second-in-command of the AFO. His brother, Robert Ruiz will be involved in the financial operations while his sister, Jackie Ruiz, is the secretary of the AFO.
Ruiz has also added a familiar face to his management team. Deb Cronin, a Chelsea High Class of 1985 graduate and popular Red Devils cheerleader, is serving as the marketing coordinator for the American Fighting Organization. Together they are hosting a Ring Card Girl contest on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Quiet Man Sports Gym, 4000 Mystic Valley Parkway (inside Gold’s Gym).
The Ring Card Girl finals will be held on Jan. 4 at The Greatest Bar in Boston. Ring Card girls must be age 18 or older.
“We’re working on the Ring Card Girl promotion and move ahead to our first MMA show,” said Ruiz. “We’re also looking at different venues where we will hold the shows. This sport has a big following in Massachusetts and it’s growing each day.”
John Ruiz has been an outstanding athlete as far back as longtime Chelsea sports can remember. He was running long distance races at a young age and played in the local youth baseball, basketball, and Pop Warner football programs.
At Chelsea High, Ruiz was a football and basketball player. He was the starting tight end for the CHS football team in the program’s final Thanksgiving game against Everett in 1989.
Ruiz became a one of the top amateur fighters in the country and competed in the 1992 Olympic trials in Worcester only to see his quest come to an end in a controversial loss. The punch-tabulating machines were not functioning for Ruiz’s fight at the trials, leaving the decision in the hands of the judges who awarded a close decision to Ruiz’s opponent, Jeremy Williams. Many in the audience felt that Ruiz had out-punched his opponent in the bout.
Ruiz turned professional and earned the WBA heavyweight championship by sending Evander Holyfield to the canvas in a title fight in Las Vegas. Ruiz returned to a hero’s welcome in Chelsea and in Puerto Rico, where a parade was held to salute his achievement as the first Latino heavyweight champion of the world.
Ruiz said his organization will be reaching out to local businesses for sponsorship opportunities for AFO events and boxing shows. Interested sponsors may contact Deb Cronin at TheDeb67@gmail/com or visit the AFO Web site: HYPERLINK “http://www.AFOMMA.com” www.AFOMMA.com. (Information from the AFO Web site was used for this story).