Simon says it’s time to turn pro |

Simon says it’s time to turn pro

As Simon Ruvalcaba’s three-year stint in the Army drew to a close, the 22-year-old realized that the prospects of launching a pro boxing career were brighter outside of South Lake Tahoe.

Even though boxing cards are periodically hosted by the Stateline casinos, the absence of a ring, boxing gym and cadre of sparring partners persuades fighters to set up camp elsewhere. But Ruvalcaba has seen pro predecessors Juan and Hector Torres overcome these deficiencies, and loves the area too much to let workouts confined to his residential garages dissuade him from staying.

“My goal is to do what Tony Lopez did for Sacramento,” said the 135-pound lightweight. “Tony never had to leave Sacramento. He brought in the fans. He was a hometown hero.

“And Roy Jones has a lot of fights in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla. He’s doing it there for the people he has to see all the time. I’m just up here chasing my dream and I’m here to represent Tahoe.”

In order to pursue his goals, the former Army petroleum supply specialist left behind Nancy, his wife of a year, in Killeen Texas. Nancy’s commitment to the Army lasts through June, and the medic is thinking of re-enlisting.

“It is hard on me being here and not having her here, but I’m going to support her in whatever she does,” Ruvalcaba said. “We’re young enough to where we can go for our careers without having any regrets later on.”

The failed pro career of Ruvalcaba’s cousin, Arnulfo Bravo, also influenced him to start his career in Tahoe.

“He was a wasted talent,” Ruvalcaba said. “He experimented with acting, got into the fast lifestyle with clubs and I think he lost that commitment to boxing.

“I’m staying here in a small town, and all I’m going to have is my boxing.”

Bravo has returned to boxing, but without his gloves. He’s learning the managing side of the sport with Top Rank Boxing, according to Ruvalcaba.

It’s uncertain if the cousins will ever work together in the fight game. Ruvalcaba is grateful that he can draw on retired boxer turned trainer Juan Torres to manage his career from the outset.

“I want to surround myself with people who are going to protect me. Right now it’s going to be dangerous if I don’t stay away from the Olympians. Me not being a national champion or amateur champion, they’re really going to push for a fight with me. That’s where Juan’s skills will come in handy to protect me,” Ruvalcaba said.

Ruvalcaba and Torres have known each other for more than a decade. The 5-foot-9 Ruvalcaba remembers taking karate lessons from Torres and later gaining tactical wisdom from the “Ghost Warrior.”

“The direction he gave me in sparring sessions, it’s helped me a lot,” Ruvalcaba said. “He taught me a lot – strategy in the corners. He’s a skilled guy at combat, even though his background is in kickboxing and then converted to boxing.”

Their business association is only in the preliminary stages, but Torres sees no reason why he can’t add Ruvalcaba to his stable of seven fighters, including three from the area.

“He wants to come check it out. I told him I’d be more than happy to launch his career, but it’s really up to him,” Torres said. “He’s definitely dedicated to the boxing, so hopefully he can do something with it.”

For a while, it appeared that Ruvalcaba was going to remain in Texas and open his pro career with Tony Ayala’s family managing him. But Ruvalcaba became wary of the family’s business dealings.

Last April, Tony Ayala Jr. completed a 16-year prison sentence for raping a New Jersey schoolteacher. But Ayala’s legal troubles didn’t cease there. On Dec. 12 he broke into the home of an 18-year-old woman and was shot in the shoulder. Ayala has since been charged with burglary and intent to commit assault and was released after posting a $100,000 bond.

“I don’t want any corrupt people associated with my boxing career, but I know that’s hard to do in professional sports and it could hurt me financially,” Ruvalcaba said. “They do what they’ve got to do. I think morals and values are important, and I want to be a role model if nothing else.”

Earlier this month Ruvalcaba concluded his amateur career as a runner-up in the Texas State Championships. He brings a 54-17 record into the pro ranks.

“I’m going to have a real size advantage against the lightweights because I’m the size of a welterweight,” Ruvalcaba said. “I have a few years to build a winning record. I plan to fight 10 times next year, eight in 2002 and then I can fight four or five times a year until I get a big fight.”

If all goes according to plan, Ruvalcaba will make his pro debut Feb. 9 at the Reno Hilton.

Anyone interested in helping Ruvalcaba launch his pro career through sponsorships, can reach him at (530) 542-1545.

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