“They Call Me Cobra,” Adelaida Ruiz
By David A. Avila
Adelaida Ruiz lives a double life.
Monday through Friday the bantamweight fighter Ruiz works at a medical center in a sterile environment where paperwork and well-lit rooms are normal.
On weekends, Ruiz works at a darkly lit East L.A. bar. Though it’s in a dangerous part of town and not conducive to the life of a boxer, she likes it.
“Everybody knows my name,” Ruiz says of the East L.A. version of Cheers. “They call me Cobra.”
Even as a youngster people in the amateur boxing world knew Ruiz as “Cobra” because of those fast hands and very strong will. It’s a nickname that stuck despite her vanishing from the boxing game for more than a decade.
But now she’s back. And she’s hungry.
Ruiz (5-0, 2 KOs) fights Karla Valenzuela (3-19-3) in the co-main event at Pacific Palms Resort in City of Industry on Friday June 15. The All Star Boxing bantamweight fight will be streamed live on Facebook.
As a youngster Ruiz was part of a thriving amateur boxing scene in the Los Angeles area and participated in numerous boxing tournaments. Crowds would gather to watch the girl with the fast hands and heavy punches. It was common to see dozens of people appear at her fights.
“I remember (Ruiz) having this speed that was untouchable. She was ahead of her time 15 years ago and there wasn’t anyone that could beat her,” said Katherine Rodriguez, who also boxed amateurs during that same period. “She trained and was dedicated just like any male boxer in the game.”
But when she became pregnant as a teen the boxing days were suspended.
“My last tournament was the US Nationals against Christina Cruz in Colorado. I lost by one point,” remembers Ruiz. “It was my last tournament before I left.”
The next two years were spent caring for the newborn boy and finding ways to make ends meet. Boxing was always on her mind so when she felt she could return to the gym, she did.
“I did try going back and maybe it took 3 days when I knew I couldn’t do it. It was too much. I couldn’t do it. I really had no one to help,” said Ruiz. And she also was pregnant again.
The years passed by. She needed a job meanwhile to help keep her family that had grown to three intact. One day her mom found a job listing in the newspaper.
“I got a job landscaping with the California Conservancy Corps. I worked there like three years and a half, for minimum wages, eight dollars an hour,” said Ruiz about working with the CCC. “We worked in the rain and the sun. We used to go all over even stayed in San Diego, Castaic all over…during forest fires we would stay out there for two weeks just rolling up the water hose for the firefighters. A nice experience but it was hard, but a nice thing to say what I did. I learned a lot from them; from landscaping to sandbagging during floods.”
While lifting sand bags and carrying them to flood zones the male workers noticed she was capable of carrying more bags than the usual load females could carry.
“A lot of people used to say damn you’re strong,” Ruiz says. “I’m different from my sisters. My sisters they say swear I’m a he/she because I’m strong.”
That strength has translated into the boxing ring.
Though Ruiz has a slim figure and very feminine appearance, both inside and out of the boxing ring, once the bell rings she slips into a menacing fighting machine. Winning is all that she cares about. It’s always been her way remembers one former foe.
“I remember the first time I fought her and beat her and going into the bathroom hearing her cry. Then we re-matched and she went after me and beat me,” said Kaliesha West a former bantamweight and super bantamweight world champion about their first meetings more than 15 years ago. “We went on to fight a few more times. Every fight was a war and could have gone either way.”
That was a very long time ago and a lot has changed for Ruiz the mother of three. For one thing her children are grown. It makes a difference for Ruiz who trains twice a day and realizes where she belongs in the grand scheme of women’s boxing.
“Everything happens for a reason. I flew back at the right time with women’s boxing finally rising,” said Ruiz who always followed boxing even when in limbo.
When Ruiz officially returned to boxing as a pro on April 2017, those that knew her from her younger days spread the word. Her family especially was hyped that the quick-fisted boxer was putting on the boxing gloves again.
A large crowd of followers arrived at Ruiz’s pro debut at the Quiet Cannon. Loud cheers and screams greeted her as she entered the boxing ring to fight Rebecca Light who was also making her pro debut. But Ruiz says it’s difficult to look at the tape of that fight that she eventually won.
“My coach said ‘who was that girl in the ring that day.’ My eyes started closing. It was because of the nerves even after the fight,” said Ruiz about her pro debut. “My coach said ‘I never seen you nervous the way you were.’ I wasn’t there, that wasn’t me fighting. It was just my body reacting to punches. But I wasn’t there.”
“I think that’s why I got nervous because of the crowd. People were like Delilah is going back to the ring,” said Ruiz whose pet nickname is Delilah to friends. “People were waiting for that for many, many years. They expected me to drop the girl.”
The second fight on September 2017 took place at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A. against Haley Pasion who weighed 122. Ruiz weighed 117 after weighing 125 in her debut. It’s her proper weight she claims.
Ruiz displayed solid boxing skills with ample mobility. Though she won the fight on her jab, her legs still seemed a little jittery. Despite no knockdowns against the strong Pasion, she won a clear cut decision.
Next for Ruiz was a match against Northern California’ s Dalia Gomez. Each showed superior boxing skills but Ruiz was slightly busier and more accurate over the four round bantamweight clash. She won by unanimous decision.
The army of Ruiz fans waiting for the old Ruiz to show up got the watershed moment this March at the Commerce Casino against Brenda Enriquez. After an entire year had passed with the Lynwood fighter shaking off her decade’s worth of rust, the sparkling well-oiled version showed up and she brought along those heavy hands that had been missing.
Enriquez, an MMA fighter out of Utah, might have expected a different kind of fighter that night. Once the bell rang Ruiz was in no mood to dance around giving angles. She walked in with the look of a hungry wolf and battered Enriquez quickly with one-two combinations. Enriquez survived the first round. Barely.
Ruiz had found her rhythm and Enriquez was floored twice in the second round. The last knockdown via left hook sent Enriquez down in a heap through the ropes and into the lap of a photographer. She was out for more than two minutes.
It was a scary scene for Ruiz, but that fear later turned to smiles once Enriquez regained her senses.
“I was a little worried till I saw her get up,” Ruiz said.
This past April at the Bonaventure Hotel, Ruiz faced Mexico’s undefeated Reyna Cotija of Mexico City. When Ruiz’s first opponent pulled out and word spread that an L.A. fighter was seeking an opponent, a Mexico City manager approached Cotija who asked for the fight.
“They said we heard your opponent dropped out. Do you want to fight?” said Ruiz of Cotija’s team. “We found out she was saying she was coming out here and going to beat me.”
Both undefeated fighters entered the ring with a look of confidence. Each eyed the other quickly and touched gloves. When the bell rang they circled each other skillfully and with feints and jabs. Neither was hesitant in firing counters. Ruiz seemed to take the initiative and fired first. When one fighter landed a blow the other quickly countered. After two rounds Cotija was bleeding slightly after a furious exchange. Things were heating up. At the end of the third round a body shot by Ruiz seemed to blow the steam out of Cotija’s bravado and the Mexican puncher moved backward for the first time. That’s when Ruiz slipped into another gear and moved in for the kill while totally disregarding defense. Cotija tried to fire back and did but Ruiz ignored the incoming fire and concentrated on releasing her won strikes. A one-two combination by Ruiz connected and Cotija returned fire. Ruiz then connected again with a sweeping left hook that seemed to send Cotija flying and down in a heap. She tried getting up but couldn’t as the referee waved the fight over.
“When she went down I was thank goodness. Stay down. When I knew she got up I seen she got hurt. If they continued the fight I didn’t think she would come harder so I was going to go for it. But I knew she was going to get knocked down again. If they let us fight. But when she went down, she stayed down,” said Ruiz.
It was pandemonium as people rushed to the ring and her coach hoisted her high. People screamed and approached as close as they could to the boxing ring.
“My coach, how happy he was. My dad and my coach were kind of nervous before the fight,” said Ruiz. “My dad, his happiness stands out for me. He was watching the fight and he was crying after. I asked him why he was crying and my dad said this (Cotija) was a girl in the Mexico team. Not just anybody gets to the team. She was good. You beat a very good girl.”
That win put Ruiz on the rankings of the top bantamweights in the world. She’s currently ranked number two in the U.S. by the computerized rankings. It’s a lofty ranking for a fighter who began fighting professionally little over a year ago.
“I’m really happy. I was thinking of only going temporarily for a few years and retire at 32 or 33, try to fight for world title. Now I think I’m going to do this for more years, I want to do this at least until I’m 38 and 39,” she says.
Next for Ruiz will be Durango, Mexico’s Karla Valenzuela (3-19-3) a veteran fighter who has fought many of the best in the world including former Olympian Marlen Esparza. She lasted all six rounds.
“I’m not going based on her record. I’m not underestimating her. It’s who she fought with. She has fought with good boxers so she’s a good boxer,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz knows her life has changed now. After waiting for more than a decade she is back where she belongs inside the boxing ring.
“I don’t see anything stopping me at all. I’m not going to let it happen. I was stopped before. The pregnancy stopped me, work stopped me, now I’m very focused. I know what I want and there isn’t anything that can stop me right now,” she said. “I’m very hungry.”
And if you see Ruiz walking around Los Angeles and forget her name just call her Cobra, everybody else does.
(Photo by Carlos Angel)