Gabriel Ruelas, never able to escape the ghost of Jimmy Garcia, has decided, at 28, to seek refuge in retirement.
Ruelas, who rose from a childhood of poverty in Mexico to win the World Boxing Council super-featherweight title, said he would permanently hang up his gloves after losing last weekend to John Brown on an eighth-round TKO in Atlantic City, N.J.
But Ruelas really lost his taste for the sport 3 1/2 years ago on a hot night in Las Vegas when he beat Garcia so badly that the Colombian fighter died of his injuries.
"I think I still can fight," Ruelas said. "But sometimes I wonder if I'm still there in ring. It's like two fighters when you look at me before and after [the Garcia fight]. I don't think I've been the same. It doesn't look like same old me. Maybe I've just been trying to fool myself."
At first, while Garcia lingered in a hospital bed, Ruelas said he would quit if Garcia died.
He subsequently changed his mind, vowing to go on, promising to donate some of his earnings to the Garcia family.
When Ruelas next stepped into the ring, seven months later, to face Azumah Nelson, he said later, instead of seeing Nelson, he saw the ghost of Garcia. Nelson won on a fifth-round TKO, taking the WBC super-featherweight crown. Ruelas said afterward that he had been suffering from stomach flu that night, which might have explained his delusion.
But it was no delusion that Ruelas was a changed fighter.
He had a 41-2 record after beating Garcia. He wound up fighting seven more times, losing three of those bouts.
"I can still fight," Ruelas said. "But I would only come back if I had a good opportunity. You just never know. I would only come back if it was against a big name where I had everything to win and nothing to lose.
"I'm very happy with everything that happened in my career. [Garcia's death] is the only thing in my life I regret. It does stand out."
Ruelas' retirement follows by four months the retirement of his brother Rafael, who also won a world title, the International Boxing Federation lightweight crown. The brothers trained under Joe Goossen at the Ten Goose gym in the San Fernando Valley.
Rafael has already gotten on with his life. He's pursuing a business degree at UCLA.
For Gabriel, the feelings of separation from the ring are still new. Will he miss boxing?
"Yeah, I already miss it," he said. "But there has got to be an end, just like in a story."
Even a ghost story.
Bob Arum is bringing out the heavy artillery. In one of his more memorable promotions, Arum handed out army helmets inscribed "The War," and below that, "Correspondent," to reporters covering the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns rematch in 1989.
Arum has hired both Leonard and Hearns to promote his latest welterweight extravaganza, the fight Nov. 21 between Oscar De La Hoya and Ike Quartey for the WBC welterweight championship in Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center.
On that same date, the Heritage Palms Golf Club will be the site of the Champions Golf Classic, an event to aid in the construction of the World Boxing Hall of Fame at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. More than two dozen current and former champions--among them Carlos Palomino, Ken Norton, Ray Mancini, Mando Ramos, Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Bobby Chacon, Carmen Basilo, Gene Fulmer and the Ruelas brothers--have been invited to participate. Entry fee is $500. Details: (760) 776-8066.
Former IBF and World Boxing Assn. light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill (43-3, 20 knockouts) will fight as a cruiserweight for the first time next Saturday when he takes on Jimmy Hayes (22-1, 18 knockouts) for the vacant title of yet another of boxing's seemingly endless line of sanctioning bodies, the little known and less appreciated International Boxing Council. The bout is scheduled in Bismarck, N.D., Hill's home state. Also on the card will be a heavyweight match between Jorge Luis Gonzalez (25-5, 23 knockouts) against Josh Dempsey (19-2, 18 knockouts) of Torrance.
On Nov. 13, WBC strawweight champion Ricardo Lopez (46-0-1, 35 knockouts) gets his rematch with the only man to have put a blot on Lopez's record, WBA mini-flyweight champion Rosendo Alvarez (24-0-1, 16 knockouts). They fought to a technical draw in March after a head butt opened a cut over Lopez's right eye in the seventh round. The rematch is set for the Las Vegas Hilton.