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Risks In Title Fight, Jones Has A Chance To Outbox Ruiz

Jones And Ruiz See Risks In Title Fight

December 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Seven inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr., WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz still sees himself as the one taking all the risk when they meet in the ring.

Not that Ruiz expects to lose or suffer any harm at the hands of Jones in Las Vegas on March 1. The worries have more to do with Ruiz's reputation and his purse.

``I'm taking a big chance here,'' Ruiz said. ``I have everything to lose and he has everything to gain. If I beat him, people will say that I should have because I'm bigger and stronger. If I lose, people will say I'm nothing because I lost to a light heavyweight. I've gotten to the point where I'll always get criticized.''

Ruiz, 6-foot-2 with a seven-inch advantage in reach, plans to shed a few pounds and come into the fight at 225. Jones, who weighs 175, might beef up to 190, but doesn't want to gain so much that it slows him down.

``He's quick, but I don't think he's so quick that I can't catch him,'' Ruiz said. ``He has to worry that his flurries are not going to mean anything against a heavyweight like me. My main thing is to cut off the ring and work the body. You work the body and the head will fall.''

Elusive in and out of the ring, Jones dodged Ruiz for two hours Tuesday before showing up at the news conference for their title fight.

``I just hope he shows up for the fight,'' Ruiz said as he waited with increasing irritation. ``It was hard enough to get him to sign on for this.''

When Jones finally arrived, he defended himself against criticism that he's been unwilling to take risks in recent years against fighters who might pose a threat.

``The critics say, 'Roy won't fight. Roy won't do this. Roy won't be there.' But then, who is this?'' he said, jutting out his jaw and pointing to his chest.

``Giving up 50 pounds to a man who put (Evander) Holyfield down clean is saying a lot. I'm not taking the challenge because he's somebody I think is easy to beat. I'm taking the challenge because I see somebody that will fight.''

Jones, 47-1 with 38 knockouts, didn't jump at the chance for this fight. He kept upping his demands until he got a $10 million guaranteed purse, with a possibility of some $24 million if promoter Don King's projection of the pay-per-view audience is accurate.

Ruiz, looking for any big payday while WBC champ Lennox Lewis keeps him waiting, accepted a deal that would guarantee him nothing but could bring him and King perhaps $8 million each.

As much as the money, Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 KOs) also is hoping to boost his profile against an opponent widely regarded as the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world.

Jones knows that boxing history is littered with light heavyweights who couldn't make the move up to the heavyweight division. The exception was Michael Spinks, who beat Larry Holmes in 1985 to win the heavyweight title.

``I realize that I'm the one who stands a chance of getting hurt,'' Jones said.

The news conference was held 29 years to the day after Muhammad Ali and George Foreman appeared in the same room with King at Rockefeller Plaza to announce ``The Rumble in the Jungle.''

This bout, King claimed with his usual hyperbole, would be just as historic, carrying the possibility of Jones' becoming the first former middleweight champion in more than a century to win a heavyweight title. Bob Fitzsimmons won the middleweight title in 1891 and the heavyweight title in 1897 with a 14th round knockout of Gentleman Jim Corbett. Fitzsimmons later won the light heavyweight title after losing the heavyweight belt to Jim Jeffries.

Invoking his usual rhetoric, quoting and misquoting Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and George Bernard Shaw, among others, King portrayed Jones as ``Super Roy'' who ``draws his strength out of a mountain of blackonite.''

Ruiz, King said, is ``the losingest winningest boxer in the world, the Rodney Dangerfield of heavyweights.''

Ruiz won the title by beating Holyfield in their second fight, defended it with a draw against Holyfield and, in July, beat Kirk Johnson when Johnson was disqualified for low blows.

King plans to match the winner of the Ruiz-Jones bout against the winner of the Dec. 14 fight between Holyfield and Chris Byrd for the vacant IBF title. In King's grand scheme, the winner of the two fights would fight Lewis to unify the heavyweight title.

``I'd get Lewis $50 million for that fight,'' King said.

Jones Has A Chance To Outbox Ruiz


December 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

MANY people in boxing thought it would never happen: Roy Jones Jr., pound for pound and whim for whim the planet's best boxer, challenging John Ruiz, who holds the World Boxing Association heavyweight title.

And when Jones didn't appear for about 90 minutes after yesterday's news conference at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan was scheduled to begin, all those doubters really wondered if the bout would happen, if he had changed his mind. When he finally showed up and didn't have the courtesy to apologize to the 150 people he had kept waiting, he still had not autographed the contract for the March 1 bout in Las Vegas.

"The two-page agreement is signed," Jones said. "The full agreement isn't signed, but it will be. March 1, I'll be there."

Jones is still quibbling over ancillary rights with the promoter Don King, although he has been guaranteed $10 million while Ruiz hasn't been guaranteed a dime. But if the HBO pay-per-view fight nets, say, $20 million, Jones would collect $12 million. Then Ruiz and King would split the other $8 million on a 50-50 basis.

Assuming Jones is there March 1, this question persists: Will he be able to do what the light-heavyweight champion Michael Spinks did to Larry Holmes in 1985 – dethrone a reigning heavyweight champion?

Jones has the same chance Spinks did, a boxer's chance. Although Jones is not likely to weigh as much as Spinks did and is not as tall, Ruiz is hardly the polished, experienced champion that Holmes was. It's not as if Jones were going against 6-foot-5, 240-pound Lennox Lewis, the accepted champion even though he holds only the World Boxing Council title.

If Jones can stay away from Ruiz's stronger punch and use his jab to outpoint him, and perhaps cut him, Jones can win.

Although Spinks, who had bulked up to 200 pounds, was outweighed by 21 pounds, he earned a unanimous but controversial 15-round decision that spoiled Holmes's bid to tie Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record. In their 1986 rematch, also in Las Vegas, Spinks, outweighed by 18 pounds, won a split decision.

Jones wasn't sure what he would weigh against Ruiz, who intends to be 225. But if Jones comes in at, say, 190, as expected, he would still be giving away 35 pounds.

"I can't tell you exactly how I'm going to fight him," Jones said. "I've never been in a ring with a man this size. The guy's big. He's going to take my punch. I don't know if I can take his. But I'm not going to bring in bigger sparring partners. I'm just going to be Roy."

Ruiz, at a thick-shouldered 6-2, will be seven inches taller than Jones and will have a seven-and-a-half-inch advantage in reach.

"Jones isn't that quick that I can't catch him," Ruiz said. "I want to be a little bit quicker and throw a lot more punches. I got to work the body. Sooner or later, he'll be dropping his hands. The body work is going to be the thing. If I can't work the body, it'll be a decision. If I do get to work the body, it'll definitely by a K.O."

Jones's only loss in his 47-1 record (38 knockouts) was a disqualification against Montell Griffin in 1997; in their rematch, Jones scored a first-round knockout. Ruiz's record is 37-4-1 with 27 knockouts. Jones will be 34 by March 1, Ruiz will be 31. "I've got everything to lose," Ruiz said. "He's got everything to gain."

When men were smaller a century ago, Bob Fitzsimmons, at 167 pounds, scored a 14th- round knockout over James J. Corbett, the 183-pound heavyweight champion, in 1897. Fitzsimmons then lost the title to James J. Jeffries, who outweighed him by 39 pounds, in an 11th-round knockout in 1899; in their rematch, Fitzsimmons, outweighed by 47 pounds, was knocked out in the eighth round in 1902.

In more recent years, Billy Conn was knocked out by Joe Louis twice, in the 13th round in 1941 at the Polo Grounds and in the eighth round in 1946 at Yankee Stadium. Conn weighed 174, Louis 199 for their first fight; Conn 187, Louis 207 for their second.

Bob Foster, the lean light-heavyweight champion who was a pulverizing pound-for-pound puncher, couldn't get through two rounds with Joe Frazier in 1970 in Detroit's Cobo Hall. Foster was 188, Frazier 209. In a nontitle bout in 1972 in Lake Tahoe, Nev., Foster was the first to cut Muhammad Ali (over the eye) but was knocked out in eight rounds.

Except for Spinks's two victories over Holmes, a light-heavyweight champion trying to dethrone a heavyweight champion has usually involved one of boxing's oldest tenets: a good big man will always beat a good little man. But with Roy Jones Jr. against John Ruiz, there's a chance that a great little man will beat a not-so-great big man.

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