Mike Tyson calls him the hardest puncher he ever faced, while Riddick Bowe, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield flat out refused to fight him.
But unlike all of those guys, Toronto’s Donovan (Razor) Ruddock was never heavy-weight champion of the world.
And that’s bugged him ever since he walked away from boxing 11 years ago, with a record of 38-5-1 (29 KOs).
Now, at age 48, Ruddock is poised to launch an improbable comeback.
“People can think what they want; the only thing that matters is that I know what’s inside me. I know I can do this,” Ruddock said earlier this week.
With a physique spectacularly chiselled down to 215 pounds from his old fighting weight of around 250, the 6-fooot-3 Ruddock says he’s ready to breathe new life into a division that’s been on life-support for the past several years .
“I’ve never been in this shape in my life,” he said.
“Back in the day, I always got by on my ability and trained as hard as I knew how, but now I know so much more. And not just about boxing; I know myself a lot better, too.”
That includes knowing what he did wrong in his biggest fights: back-to-back losses to Tyson in 1991 (after their scheduled bout in Edmonton was aborted a year earlier) and a KO loss to Lennox Lewis in ’92..
“I had a lot of stuff going on around me outside the ring, and I let it affect me inside the ring,” he said. “That’s all behind me now. I’ve learned how to tune things out and just focus on fighting.”
From a physical standpoint, Ruddock certainly looks like he could fight again.
After becoming a vegan a year ago, he’s transformed himself from a muscle-bound slugger to a lean, sinewy boxer-puncher, and he claims to have speed to burn.
“At 215 I feel faster, stronger and more lethal than when I had ringside doctors running all over the place after my knockouts,” Ruddock said.
Unlike most fighters who contemplate a comeback, his original retirement wasn’t precipitated by beatings at the hands of lesser lights.
After his last loss — a controversial 1995 TKO to Tommy Morrison after Morrison was floored and on the verge of being stopped in the previous round — Ruddock quit the ring for three years, then returned to win 10 in a row (9 KOs), including a stoppage of Egerton Marcus to win the vacant Canadian title in 2001.
“My (left) shoulder was in bad shape after I beat Marcus, so rather than risk further damage, I retired again,” said Ruddock.
“But today the (heavyweight) division is so messed up, I’ve made it my mission to come back and straighten it out.”
Ruddock wants to fight at least three times this summer, then challenge reigning Canadian Boxing Federation champ Neven Pajkic.
“That’s first on my agenda: I want my Canadian title back,” said Ruddock, who first won the national crown by stopping Edmonton’s Ken Lakusta in 1988.
Assuming he fights and beats Pajkic, he’s already compiled a hit list.
“When Neven is healing up, hopefully he’ll take some comfort in the fact that I’ll be looking to put Tyson Fury, Derrick Chisora and David Haye on the same pudding diet,” Ruddock said, ticking off the top names in the Commonwealth rankings.
“And after I feast on the appetizers, I’ll dive in for two helpings of Chicken Kiev: the Klitschko brothers.
“The older one (WBC champ Vitali) ducked me 11 years ago, and now he has to pay. The younger one (WBA, IBF and WBO titleist Wladimir) just bores me. I’ll have to knock him out too.”
For now, it’s just a dream.
Ruddock hopes to fight in Chicago later this month, but nothing has been signed. Negotations with Pajkic’s camp, he says, are “ongoing.”
Still, this is boxing. Stranger things have happened.
Just ask George Foreman.