Can Haye avert 'ground zero'?
To many fans of boxing, John Ruiz is a shuffling, grappling embodiment of everything that is wrong with the heavyweight division. No style, no slicks, no charisma, a bit like Britain's very own 'Quiet Man', former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.
"The Quiet Man is here to stay," Duncan Smith famously bellowed at one party conference. You're not, but do go on. "And he's turning up the volume." Many boxing fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that Ruiz will be rendered mute on Saturday and, like Duncan Smith, not around for much longer.
Fans of any sport can be an uncharitable bunch - after all, Ruiz is a man who has fought, and held his own against, most of the marquee names in heavyweight boxing of the last 15 years, however tattered and faded the marquee. And if he beats David Haye in Manchester, he will join an illustrious list of three-time world heavyweight champions.
"People say my style is ugly," says Ruiz, in a rare fit of pique, "but how many boxers have been called ugly and won two world championships?"
But it is the very fact that the 38-year-old from Chelsea, Massachusetts, might be added to the names of Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and, slightly lower on the illustriosity scale, Vitali Klitschko that irritates some, makes others apoplectic.
Ruiz is wearing the residual anger of a generation of fight fans who have looked on while one of the great titles in sport has been reduced to not much more than a two-paragraph newspaper sideshow. Which is where Haye comes in.
"My ambition is to go down in history as a great boxer, to do that you've got to have great performances," says Haye. "The whole thing now is about creating a legacy."
Win in style, as Haye has promised he will, and he will have averted boxing's 'ground zero', a situation whereby the three men holding portions of the world heavyweight crown are Ruiz and those nice Klitschko brothers from Kiev. You know the ones I mean? Yes you do, big chaps, they tend to fight overweight, underwhelming challengers from the United States, normally over in Germany.
A special performance will also gain the attention of the American audience, which has remained steadfastly immune to Haye's charms so far, to the extent that his WBA title defence against Ruiz won't even be shown across the pond. Haye may not admit it, but if it's greatness he craves, the Americans will need to be watching.
A special performance will also make a clash with either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko a foregone conclusion, while giving himself greater leverage around the negotiating table. He won't be able to claim he's the big draw if he only squeaks by Ruiz.
The Klitschos, particularly IBF and WBO title-holder Wladimir, have been unusually exercised by Haye of late, so imagine how irritating Haye will become if he makes short work of Ruiz. "I'd prefer to fight him in a football stadium but I'd even face him in a car park," said Wladimir recently. A Haye victory at the MEN Arena followed by the inevitable taunts and Wladimir will happily downgrade to a Dixy Fried Chicken.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves - as Duncan Smith also said, "never underestimate the determination of the Quiet Man".
The consensus seems to be - from Ruiz's trainer Miguel Diaz, from Haye's trainer Adam Booth, from Ruiz himself - that the challenger, like some banged out stockcar, has been retuned, retouched and hammered back into something like his old shape.
"You are definitely going to see something more of the old-style Ruiz where I used to box and punch, not like recently when I was leaning in too much," says Ruiz.
"He's a guy who causes upsets," says Haye, "on his day he can be a nightmare for anyone and I'm prepared for the best John Ruiz."
Haye, however, doubts Saturday night's Ruiz will be much different to the one we've grown accustomed to, and even if he does come out boxing, chances are he'll soon revert to type once Haye starts "blasting away at his head", as he is sure to do.
Haye says Ruiz "would be nuts" to stand off and box, and anyone who saw the American fight the little-known Adnan Serin on the undercard of Haye versus Nikolay Valuev last November, when Ruiz tried to do exactly that for parts of the contest, would agree he's no Sugar Ray.
Instead, Ruiz will try to make Haye fight for three minutes of every round, not allow the champion to dictate the pace, and try to draw Haye into something a bit more bar-room than he's been used to, using every little trick in his armoury to drip-drip away at Haye's defences as the fight wears on.
Haye admits he's not the most durable of heavyweights, and he's yet to stand and trade with a man as strong as Ruiz, who boasts a very respectable 30 knockouts from his 44 wins.
But that's a risk he may have to take, both in order to get Ruiz out of there early before his tricks start taking their toll, and also to deliver the "dramatic" result he and all those disaffected fans of boxing crave - no-one said being the saviour of the heavyweight division would be easy.
PS. Yes, I do know 'illustriosity' is not a real word...