Ruiz gets best of Rahman

Baltimore fighter loses bid for WBA interim title in unanimous decision

Claiming `fix,' Rahman to appeal

Jones might fight Ruiz in rematch

Rahman falls to 0-3-1 in past 4 bouts

December 14, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - On Friday, John Ruiz's trainer, Norman Stone, handed someone an invitation to a party.

"Are you going to this?" asked Stone, referring to a post-fight get-together slated for Ruiz's opponent, Baltimore's Hasim Rahman, after the latter's anticipated win in their World Boxing Association interim championship bout.

"I'm going to a party," Stone assured. "But it won't be this one."

Stone was indeed the one celebrating last night after Ruiz gutted out a 12-round unanimous decision over the former heavyweight champion before 12,346 at the sold-out Boardwalk Hall.

Rahman won only two rounds on the card of judge Joseph Pasquale, who had it 118-110. Barbara Perez scored it 116-112, and John Poturaj scored it 115-114 as the awkward Ruiz dictated his rugged style throughout the fight.

Rahman (35-5-1) was hurt in the second round when he tried to jab his way in to start the round, but instead caught a left-right combination from Ruiz (39-5-1) that staggered him and drove him to the ropes. Ruiz, luring Rahman into his rough-and-tumble style, nailed Rahman with a clubbing right in close.

"After the second round, I knew I had him. But I just kept boxing him," Ruiz, 31, said. "But even though I wobbled him, I needed to be careful. Because every time I hit him hard, he came after me with wild right hands."

Rahman, 31, said he will appeal the decision on the grounds that "the fix was in."

Rahman said it was the erroneous announcement that George Hill would be one of the judges that aroused his suspicion. According to Rahman's manager, Stan Hoffman, public address announcer Michael Buffer had read from an old and incorrect sheet, and that Perez had, indeed, replaced Hill for the fight.

Hill was the judge who had David Tua winning in Rahman's draw against the Samoan fighter in March, which most ringside observers thought Rahman won.

"George Hill gave Tua the fight when I beat him with the jab," Rahman said. "So I told my managers to address that and get rid of him. My managers told me he wouldn't be one of the judges because I told them that I don't want this man judging my fight."

Ruiz, who was coming off a lopsided loss to Roy Jones Jr. that cost him his WBA crown in March, called for a rematch with Jones.

Jones had the WBA's blessing to drop into the light heavyweight division, where he has since lifted the World Boxing Council crown from Antonio Tarver.

The organization allowed Jones to retain the WBA heavyweight crown, with the stipulation that he agree to fight the Ruiz-Rahman winner within 120 days of last night's fight.

If Jones chooses not to, the WBA belt is permanent for Ruiz.

But Jones is rumored to be pursuing a bout with Mike Tyson or a rematch with Tarver.

"I definitely want Roy Jones Jr. in the rematch," said Ruiz, who was an 8-to-5 underdog against Rahman.

Rahman entered the bout as one of the most marketable fighters in a heavyweight division devoid of bonafide stars.

Rahman blamed referee Randy Neumann for allowing Ruiz's roughhouse tactics, which earned Ruiz the momentum through the middle rounds.

"The ref kept telling me if I threw punches when he was holding, he'd take away a point," said Rahman, who is 0-3-1 in his past four bouts.

"Look at his face, it's all busted up. How can you say he won the fight? I couldn't do nothing with that. That was as ugly as can be."

Having moved with his family to Las Vegas, Rahman had worked his weight down to 246 pounds - he was a career-high 259 for his last bout, a draw with Tua - through training he began in August with Trainer of the Year nominee Roger Mayweather.

But Mayweather, who promised that Rahman would be the busier fighter, instead watched as Rahman allowed Ruiz to dictate the pace, often out-jabbing him and eluding Rahman's right hands - all from a crouched position - before grabbing him.

Pasquale had Ruiz winning the first six rounds. Poturaj and Hill had Ruiz winning four of the first five.

Ruiz wobbled Rahman in the second, sixth and eighth rounds, when the Baltimore fighter abandoned his jab and retreated to the ropes.

"I jabbed him the whole fight and beat him to the punch," said Ruiz, who was knocked out in 19 seconds by Tua in his previous appearance at the Boardwalk Hall. "I felt good for the first few rounds, and I just settled into the fight."

Rahman, who weighed 1 pound more than in his seventh-round knockout of Corrie Sanders in 2000, bloodied Ruiz's nose with his jab, which he used to control rounds 9, 10 and 11 when Ruiz was largely inactive.

But entering the 12th round, Rahman needed a knockout to win on two of the three judges' cards. Ruiz won the round largely on the strength of two hard jabs that sent a mostly retreating Rahman to the ropes.

"They can't all be pretty fights," said Ruiz, when asked about winning ugly. "I can't always look good. Some fights are grueling. I need an easier fight to look pretty."

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