Ring futures may hang in Atlantic City balance

Ex-champs Rahman, Ruiz look past 'interim' prize Boxing

December 13, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - The winner of tonight's heavyweight title fight between Hasim Rahman and John Ruiz will have a future in boxing; the loser, said Ruiz's trainer, Norman Stone, "might as well get a job at McDonald's."

"I like Rock. He's tremendously strong, got a tremendous right hand. But Johnny Ruiz can box, or do whatever he has to in the ring," Stone said at Thursday's weigh-in, predicting the 246-pound Rahman wouldn't last five rounds with the 241-pound Ruiz.

The former world champions will meet at the Boardwalk Hall for the World Boxing Association's interim heavyweight title.

Ruiz lost his title last March to Roy Jones, who dropped to light heavyweight but was given the WBA's blessing to return - as defending champion - to the heavyweight ranks to fight the Rahman-Ruiz winner. Should Jones refuse, tonight's winner will be declared the outright champion.

"We've been the underdog from Day One and will continue to be," Stone said Thursday. "But I'm telling you, the only one who will beat Johnny Ruiz is Johnny Ruiz."

Rahman and his trainer, Roger Mayweather, envision a victory over Ruiz as a chance to distinguish Rahman in a heavyweight division lacking a bonafide star.

'This is going to be one of my best fights," said the Baltimore native. "I'm looking forward to putting on an exciting fight and giving the fans something to look forward to in the heavyweight division."

In two fights with Lennox Lewis over the span of seven months in 2001, Rahman (35-4-1, 29 knockouts) won and lost his undisputed world title.

In the same year, Ruiz (38-5-1, 27 KOs) took the WBA crown in March from Evander Holyfield and retained it in a draw that December. Ruiz is coming off a lopsided loss to a smaller Jones, whose boxing style Rahman aims to duplicate.

"When I look at the Ruiz-Jones fight," said Mayweather, "shoot, Rahman will whup him easier than Roy Jones did.

"Rahman has the ability Jones has for a big man, so it's a case where Ruiz is fighting a bigger guy with more ability than he has," said Mayweather. "What he [Rahman] has to do with Ruiz is keep his hands busy. John Ruiz ain't going to take the punches from Hasim Rahman that he took from Roy Jones. I can't see the fight going more than six, seven rounds, if that far."

`The fighters' common opponents have been David Tua and Holyfield.

Tua knocked out Ruiz in 19 seconds in 1996. Two years later, Tua trailed in his controversial 10th-round knockout of Rahman, who appeared to dominate their March return bout this past March, a 12-round draw.

"[The Tua fight] is something that I carry with me. That woke me up," said Ruiz. "It tells me to be ready for every fight."

Ruiz won 11 straight bouts - 10 by knockout - before losing to Holyfield in August 2000. His record against Holyfield is 1-1-1.

In Rahman's eighth-round, technical decision loss to Holyfield in June 2002 - Rahman's last appearance at the Boardwalk Hall - he was outhustled before an accidental head-butt put a baseball-sized lump on his head.

"John Ruiz fought Evander in three hard fights; I fought Evander in a fight that was very difficult for me," Rahman said. "So this is my chance to show there's a difference."

Rahman was bothered by the rough-and-tumble style of Holyfield, whom Ruiz matched forearm-for-forearm and elbow-for-elbow while mixing in a stiff jab and a brutal overhand right.

Stone said, "Holyfield covers up, uses elbows, bangs you, and Rahman's not used to that." In devising tonight's strategy, he went on, "I've brought back the Ruiz from the second Holyfield fight. We've got to use that; maybe turn it up even more."

Ruiz is one of only three fighters to floor Holyfield, which he did with a looping right in the 11th round.

"I'm going to try to do the same things I did with Holyfield," Ruiz said, predicting "a physical fight, giving and taking."

Ruiz likened Rahman to Julian Francis and Tony Tucker, wide bodies he knocked out in four and 12 rounds, respectively.

"The main thing is to be ready to go 12 hard rounds, and to have power in the late rounds, because that's when big heavyweights get tired," Ruiz said.

Rahman comes off his draw with Tua, where his hard right hand and piston-like jab caused bleeding from the Samoan's nose and eyes. Rahman floored Tua at the bell ending the 12th.

"But the opportunities will be different against Ruiz because he throws more of an arsenal of punches than David Tua," said Rahman, whose sparring partners have emulated what he calls Ruiz's "herky-jerky style."

He is also happy to face an opponent who has fought Holyfield.

"I feel like I'm better than Evander and Ruiz. This is my chance to shine by doing something that Evander didn't do to Ruiz," he said.

Fight glance

What:Five bouts, including Hasim Rahman (35-4-1, 29 KOs) vs. John Ruiz (38-5-1, 27 KOs), heavyweights, in third bout

Site:Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

When:Tonight, first bout at 8

TV:Pay-per-view

Fight facts

Site:Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

When:Tonight, 8

Bouts:In order of scheduled appearance:

Zab Judah (29-1, 21 KOs) vs. Jaime Rangel (29-4, 25 KOs), junior welterweights

Alejandro Garcia (22-0, 21 KOs) vs. Travis Samms (22-0, 17 KOs), super welterweights

Hasim Rahman (35-4-1, 29 KOs) vs. John Ruiz (38-5-1, 27 KOs), heavyweights

Ricardo Mayorga (25-3-2, 22 KOs) vs. Cory Spinks (31-2, 11 KOs), welterweights

William Joppy (34-2-1, 25 KOs) vs. Bernard Hopkins (42-2-1, 31 KOs), middleweights

TV: Pay-per-view

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