Jones takes belt from Ruiz

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Roy Jones Jr. surprised John Ruiz by not running. There was nothing surprising about the masterful skills he used to become a heavyweight champion.

So confident in his heavyweight debut that he was mocking Ruiz much of the fight, Jones stood in front of Ruiz and simply outboxed him Saturday night to win the WBA heavyweight title.

Jones not only made history by becoming the second light heavyweight champion to win a piece of the heavyweight title, he did it with seeming ease against a man who outweighed him by 33 pounds.

''This means that I am the baddest,'' Jones said. ''Only Ali can shock the world like I did.''

In a fight that had moments of action and long lulls between punches, Jones won a unanimous -- and lopsided -- 12-round decision to take the WBA title against a bigger man who was never able to use his size to his advantage.

It was enough to impress another heavyweight champion at ringside, Lennox Lewis, though it may have been Jones' only fight as a heavyweight.

''Roy Jones is a worthy heavyweight,'' Lewis said. ''I was very impressed with the way he handled himself. Whether he can do that against me is another matter entirely.''

Jones stood in the middle of the ring and outpunched Ruiz, though neither fighter was very busy in a fight that drew occasional boos from a crowd eager for action.

''Everybody said I was going to run. I knew I wasn't going to run,'' Jones said.

Jones not only didn't run, but he stood and mocked Ruiz, finally smiling and laughing at him as the final minute ticked down.

It wasn't always spectacular, but it was good enough to give him a piece of the fractured title.

''I did this fight to make history,'' Jones said. ''I said I wasn't going to change my style. Roy Jones doesn't change his style until he loses.''

By the middle rounds, Jones (48-1) was taunting Ruiz (38-5-1) and standing in front of him, daring him to trade punches. When Ruiz did manage to land anything, Jones usually got out of the way quickly before returning for another flurry.

Ruiz complained that referee Jay Nady told him he couldn't hit on the break and didn't allow him to fight his kind of fight.

''How can I give him (Jones) any credit when the referee wouldn't let me fight my fight?'' Ruiz said. ''Everytime I went in, the referee was accusing me of holding.''

Jones became the first light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title since Michael Spinks did it in 1985 against Larry Holmes.

But he said he doubted he would remain champion long. Jones, who weighed 199 before the fight, said his move to the heavyweight ranks was likely a one-time deal.

''I didn't want to become a heavyweight,'' Jones said. ''I just wanted one fight. I have to see what's on the table for me.''

Spinks watched from ringside as the fight unfolded in a predictable pattern with Jones landing easily with his left hand and Ruiz unable to do much except push him in the ropes.

One ringside judge had Jones winning 118-110, while a second had it 117-111 and a third 116-112. The Associated Press had Jones ahead 116-112.

Ruiz was so eager to fight he almost ran into the ring, then paced back and forth waiting for the bell.

And he carried that energy into a first round where he rocked Jones with a big right hand and landed hard shots to the body.

But Ruiz would not find his target very easy the rest of the night, despite the fact Jones stood in front of him most of the fight.

''I just couldn't get my punches off,'' Ruiz said.

The lack of action at times was reflected in ringside punching statistics which showed Jones landing 134 punches -- about 11 a round -- to 89 for Ruiz.

By the fourth round, Ruiz had blood coming from his nose and his corner was pleading with him to put more pressure on Jones and throw more punches.

''What are you doing waiting? What are you waiting on this stiff for?'' manager Norman Stone asked after the fourth round.

It didn't get much better. Jones began showboating, secure in the knowledge Ruiz couldn't hurt him, and spent much of the fight circling slowly and throwing his left jab and left hook.

Neither fighter was knocked down and neither ever seemed to be in any serious trouble in a fight that drew boos at times from the crowd at the UNLV campus arena because of a lack of action.

Jones became the lightest fighter to win a heavyweight title since 182-pound Floyd Patterson beat Archie Moore in 1956. But he was not likely to remain in the heavyweight ranks, saying before the fight his move up in weight was a one-time affair.

Jones weighed 193 pounds at Thursday's weigh-in, but was 199 in his locker room before the fight. Ruiz, surprisingly, lost two pounds from 226 to 224, trimming what had been a 33-pound advantage to 25 pounds by fight time.

Of the 13 light heavyweight champions who challenged for the heavyweight title before Jones, only Spinks had been successful. And, unlike Jones, Spinks had the size of a heavyweight when he beat Holmes in 1985.

Still, Jones entered the ring as a 9-5 favorite, mainly because of his masterful boxing skills but partly because Ruiz was not considered by many to be a legitimate heavyweight champion.

While Jones was taking a big gamble, so was Ruiz. He was so desperate to get a fight against a name fighter that he agreed to fight for a percentage of the profits. Jones was guaranteed $10 million, but Ruiz needed pay-per-view sales to be strong to earn anything.

Jones was widely regarded as perhaps the best pure boxer of his era, losing only once on a disputed disqualification since being robbed of the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics.

But he was a reluctant warrior at times, winning titles while never taking big chances in picking his opponent or fighting in the ring. At the age of 34, he finally took a calculated risk that his critics claimed he never would.



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