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PUERTO RICO HERALD
Radcliffe Sets World Mark At Moscoso Bridge 10K, Ruiz Puts Heavyweight Title On The Line
By Gabrielle Paese
February 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
From its inception in 1998, the Moscoso Bridge 10K and its race director Rafael Acosta aspired to greatness. Acosta had no ordinary 6.2-mile foot race in mind for mid-February in San Juan and he made it known by listing his race as the "Worlds Best 10K."
Last Sunday, the event lived up to its billing. Great Britains Paula Radcliffe won the race in a world record 30 minutes, 21 seconds that left former world-record holder Asmae Leghzaoui, of Morocco, eating her wake at about the three-kilometer mark.
Puerto Rico has hosted its share of world record holders both at this race and at the San Blas International Half Marathon (mens marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi being the most recent example). But Acosta scored a major victory for this 2003 edition when he tapped into the cream of womens elite running, a market the venerable Coamo race has ignored for the past 40 years.
While he wasnt able to get them all on the starting line together (Kenyas Lornah Kiplagat pulled out at the last minute with a sore hamstring), Acosta deserves credit for assembling the three best female runners on the planet in the same place at the same time. Radcliffe was four seconds short of the 10K world record here last year and is the world record holder in the womens marathon (set in 2002 at Chicago in 2:17.70). Leghzaoui, had set the 10K standard this past summer in New York in 30:29. Kiplagat was runner-up to Radcliffe in the 2002 road race rankings, having lost only two races all year one to Radcliffe in San Juan on the bridge and the second to Leghzaoui in New York for what was the 10K world record.
Acosta says he pays no appearance money to the elite runners (although he does arrange travel and hotels). He says the runners show up because the race offers $20,000 for first place plus a $100,000 to any runner who sets a world record. Theres no doubt that a potential $120,000 payday for 30 minutes (or less) of work is attractive (and Radcliffe collected it all last week). But theres another reason the worlds best runners show up on the bridge over the San Jose Lagoon every year and that is Acosta himself.
In 1994, Acosta was given the challenge of making the novel toll bridge a financial success. Three years later, with the bridge turning a profit, Acosta decided to organize an event to commemorate the endeavor. Although he had no prior experience in putting together sporting events, he decided upon a 10K with the goal of making it a major participatory event. After two years, the race went international and along the way, Acosta learned the ins and outs of the elite road racing scene.
He would take his promotional material to the major stateside road races, set up a booth and simply charm the elite runners and their agents into visiting Puerto Rico for his road race.
One of Acostas favorite stories (now folklore) is of how he used to court runners at the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta only to have the Atlanta race directors run him out of the pre-race expo. Thanks to his persistence and professional attitude, the "World Best 10K" enjoys a permanent spot on the international road racing scene (and Acosta is welcomed with open arms in Atlanta).
Nor has Acosta ignored the participatory angle in favor of the elite runners. Last Sunday, the 10K set a record with nearly 8,000 runners and walkers taking part. In conjunction with one of the Spanish-language newspapers, Acosta also spearheaded a fitness effort to encourage Puerto Ricans to walk the course as part of a weight-loss campaign (the Puerto Rico Health Department estimates that 67 percent of Puerto Ricans living on the island are overweight).
Ruiz risks his money and his reputation versus Roy Jones Jr.
What do you do when you are the heavyweight champion of the world (albeit in the World Boxing Association) and you get no respect? Well, if you are John Ruiz, you line up anybody but Evander Holyfield for your next fight. Having already beaten Holyfield three times and holding the WBA title, Ruiz has spent the past year in search of a multi-million dollar payday befitting of the first Latin heavyweight champion of the world.
Nothing emerged. To hear Ruizs manager, Norman Stone, tell it, no one wanted to fight Ruiz. A Mike Tyson fight got bogged down in a Don King legal squabble. Neither the Klitschko brothers nor Lennox Lewis were offering enough money and Chris Byrd said no.
So whats left? Only-in-Americas own Don King came up with what well see on Saturday: Ruiz versus undisputed light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. for Ruizs WBA belt. In typical King fashion, a sequel is already planned. The winner fights IBF champion Chris Byrd and the winner of that fight takes on Lennox Lewis for the undisputed heavyweight title.
If the fight sells at least 400,000 homes in HBO pay-per-view, Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 KO) stands to gain a reported $2.5 million. No matter what the fight sells, Jones Jr. is already getting a guaranteed $10 million just for getting into the ring. Hell also get 60 percent of the net pay-per-view profits. Ruiz will be splitting the remaining 40 percent with King. He has no guaranteed purse and the only sweet part of the deal so far for Ruiz has been the yellow Lamborghini King gave him two weeks ago.
If Jones Jr. (44-1, 36 KO) loses the fight, he can go back to Pensacola, Fla., and say he was a much smaller guy (185 pounds) fighting a much bigger guy (Ruiz will probably weigh in at 225). If Ruiz loses the fight, his career is pretty much over. In Vegas this week, Jones Jr. is the 9 to 5 favorite in the betting odds.
Its a big gamble, but if Ruiz wins Saturday, hes guaranteed a multi-million dollar payday versus Byrd and then, if he survives, Lewis.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.