Featherweight Champion From Placentia Hustles for His Pot of Gold

It’s a tough life waking at 4:30 a.m. for an hour of roadwork in Placentia, working a full day in Santa Ana, sparring at night in Chino, hoping it leads to a pot of gold.

“You train hard and you suffer through it,” said Joe Ruelaz, 23, of Placentia, who recently won the North American featherweight championship. “You get used to it (the training). Boxing is a sport you have to suffer.”

Added the soft-spoken Ruelaz: “I’m real hungry and you take it as far as you can. I want to win the world’s title. I’ve got to make it happen. The dream is there.”

A Valencia High School graduate who works as a weather stripper at the Community Development Council in Santa Ana, Ruelaz said: “I’d like to make my life easier and buy a home for my (three) daughters and wife.”


His wife, Lisa, 21, sometimes goes to his fights but doesn’t watch them. “I knew he was a boxer when I married him and I think it’s great that he’s doing what he wants to do with his life,” she said. “People warned me about being a boxer’s wife, but I accept that.”

He said his recent victory, his 18th in 20 professional fights, including 16 knockouts, puts him in line for a world title shot. However, his next fight will be a 10-rounder Nov. 23 in Reno.

Ruelaz’s share of the purse will be $5,000, the biggest in his career. He received $3,000 for his last fight.

His manager, trainer and uncle, Joe Tovar of Placentia, contends Ruelaz has a real chance to go all the way. “He seems to be dedicated,” said Tovar, a trait Ruelaz also shows at his job.


“He makes a good role model with his attitude,” said Joe Vann, director of programs at the development council where Ruelaz is a crew supervisor. “He’s a champion.”

“I’m going to see what happens for the next two years,” Ruelaz said, “and if things go right and I keep winning and doing good, I’ll fight until I’m 28 or 29.”

After that? “Who knows?” he said.

Neil Cline, secretary-manager of the Orange County Water District in Fountain Valley, has novel and clever methods of gaining the attention of his board of directors.


In his latest monthly report, for instance, he started out talking about baseball players, not water.

“You’ll remember George Herman (Babe ) Ruth, Harry (The Hat) Walker, Enos (Country) Slaughter, Ted (The Splendid Splinter) Williams and Leon (Daddy Wags) Wagner to name a sprinkling,” he wrote.

And then quoting a baseball broadcaster, Cline reported that new life could be generated in baseball circles with these catchy names: Gary (Hospital) Ward, Vance (Common) Law, Jerry (Rolls) Reuss, Bruce (Eggs) Benedict, Rupert (Along Came) Jones, Rich (Innocent) Lysander, Ron (Born in the U.S.) Cey and Butch (Oil And) Wynegar.

Now that the directors were taking notice, he rattled off a list of clever names for water district workers and then a lot of information about water district problems, accomplishments, hard facts and figures and upcoming meetings.


And he signed off this way: Very Truly yours, Neil (For Years He’s Been on the D) Cline.

Sometimes old-fashioned ways work best to collect money for charity.

Like the big wide-mouthed pickle jars that executive David Palombo had placed in his company’s 51 Orange County convenience stores to collect money for the United Cerebral Palsy Assn.

It seems that the little game people play when they put in some change has really drawn in the dimes and quarters. If the coin falls in the right place, they win such things as a bag of chips or a can of pop.


“Every other week we hold a management meeting to decide what new promotion we can run to keep money coming in,” said Palombo, 36, of Garden Grove, area manager of the Circle K convenience stores. “It’s just old-fashioned fund raising. We even hold bake sales and car washes.”

His newest venture will be a Las Vegas night.

Mind you, this is no little gimmick. In its first year in 1981, the promotion brought in $7,000. Last year, $105,000 was collected.

Acknowledgments--Andrea Robinson, 15, a Foothill High School student and resident of Santa Ana, will be one of 12 nationwide finalists featured on the December cover of ‘Teen Magazine.