Friends of Simon Ruvalcaba have a nickname for the Carson City welterweight: They call him "Encyclopedia."
That's a fairly accurate assessment for Ruvalcaba, who doesn't just remember a fight such as Lennox Lewis-Henry Akinwande, but can supply a truckload of other information. In addition to specifics of the fight, he'll tell you who was on the undercard, all the results, the date of the fight and a ton of other factoids.
"I'm a student of boxing," said the 25-year-old Ruvalcaba. "It's been my life since I was 10."
It shouldn't surprise anyone then that he has since taken his passion for watching boxing, to actually becoming a boxer.
Ruvalcaba, who said the first fight that really caught his attention was the 1985 war between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, compiled a 54-17 amateur record. He boxed in the United States Army, winning the 1998 Eighth Army Championship in South Korea as a 139-pounder, before continuing his amateur career at Fort Hood, Texas.
Ruvalcaba, who works as a relief supervisor at Caesars Tahoe, turned professional in 2001, but had a rough start, going 0-4-2 in his first six fights. But when a young fighter goes against another boxer who has 53 professional fights under his belt in only his third pro fight -- like Ruvalcaba did against journeyman Luis Montes in October 2001 -- it's a bit tough to emerge with a sparkling record.
"What was I thinking fighting a guy with over 50 fights (Montes)," Ruvalcaba said on his early approach to the sport. "I took on experienced fighters, short-notice fights. I was tired of training, so I'd take any fight."
That was the old Ruvalcaba. The new Ruvalcaba has a new game plan, and so far it's right on schedule.
After deciding to start matching himself more carefully and build up his record a bit, Ruvalcaba has two victories in a row -- both over fellow Carson City resident Dwayne Pope.
"The only people who should be in boxing are those who can be world champion," Ruvalcaba said. "I have to take the steps to a respectable record, first."
One of the first steps Ruvalcaba has taken is in his training. He is now at Big Bear training camp in Big Bear, Calif., which is just outside of San Bernadino. Big Bear is the preferred training camp for boxers, with Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas and Mike Tyson among the many that migrate to its 7,252-foot altitude for serious pre-fight conditioning.
Ruvalcaba will be fighting an as of yet to be named opponent on July 12 at Caesars Tahoe, and will be in Big Bear until July 2. He will be sending a journal from the camp and share with readers his experience. Here are his first impressions.
June 23. Day one:
"Today I trained at Shane Mosley's place, which is on his property. I found out that Shane and Oscar De La Hoya won't actually arrive until around July 6. Maybe next time I'll get some work with one of them.
Earlier in the day I ran four miles. I felt good. I feel right at home here. It's like Lake Tahoe, only there's nothing else but boxing. Through the run I didn't feel the altitude difference from Tahoe. People there wanted to know why I'm coming to Big Bear. They felt that fighters come to Big Bear because they don't live in Tahoe. That's true, as far as conditioning is concerned, but what I won't find in Tahoe is quality sparring.
Case in point was today, my first training day. I sparred two rounds with (welterweight prospect) Jose Celaya. This was his last day sparring before his fight on Friday.
When you are in the week of your fight, it is real light sparring. I thought I did good the first round, then all of a sudden between rounds I got a little winded. The second round, I felt sloppy, although Jose, his trainer Max, and Ryan Davis (who is in camp with Jose) said I did good. I feel I could've done better. Celaya is a smart fighter who knows how to use his height and reach. He has a very bright future in my opinion.
I felt a little pride in having the opportunity to train at Mosley's gym. He has a nice black water-filled punching bag that I did some rounds on. The bag even has Mosley's name on it. I shadow boxed in front of the window in the front of the gym. The sun was glaring straight into the window and it really was shadow boxing when I could see my shadow's reflection on the ground.
We will be in (trainer) Bob Davison's Kronk gym the rest of the week. After playing some basketball and eating dinner, Bob came into the room and Bob, Anthony and I talked boxing well into midnight before we called it a day.
Back home with my wife Nancy, the conversations at night might be about bills or about something that happened at work. Not the case here: We eat, sleep, and drink boxing.
I thought that trainers like Big Bear because it keeps the "honeys" away from the fighter. My second day here I already have a pretty brown "honey" all over me. Honey
is Bob's dog and she likes to jump on you. What? Did you think I was talking about a girl?"