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Sabana Grande

Celebrates Ruiz Win


John Ruiz, left, scored with a hard left to Evander Holyfield's head Saturday night. (PHOTO: Agence France-Presse)


March 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SABANA GRANDE -- After her son went 12 rounds to beat Evander Holyfield for the WBA heavyweight title, Gladys Ruiz made good on her promise: She walked 12 miles to a religious shrine to give thanks.

``I did it happily,'' the 52-year-old woman said Sunday from her home in Sabana Grande in western Puerto Rico.

John Ruiz may have been born in the Boston area but he's still Sabana Grande's hometown hero. Thousands danced and cheered in the streets as the fight in Las Vegas ended around 2 a.m. Sunday in Puerto Rico.

``The people didn't sleep in Sabana Grande because after John beat Evander Holyfield, thousands of people ran out into the streets to celebrate the triumph of this illustrious Puerto Rican,'' Mayor Miguel Ortiz said.

A bloodied Ruiz became the first Hispanic heavyweight champion. He knocked down Holyfield with a right hand in the 11th round to blunt a rally by the champion. He won the 12-round bout by unanimous decision.

Ruiz was cut under both eyes and on his forehead, but wore the WBA belt around his waist proudly. A 2-1 underdog, Ruiz screamed in delight as the decision went his way, in contrast to his narrow loss when he first fought Holyfield in August.

The town plans a celebration next week and a proclamation naming Ruiz a favorite son, Ortiz said. Ruiz said before the fight he would celebrate in Sabana Grande if he won.

Although many in town watched the televised fight, Ruiz's mother did not. She said she could not stand to watch her son be punched.

``My son is a true boricua,'' she said, using a local term for islanders.

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