LAS VEGAS -- John Ruiz didn't look much like a champion, but he was. Evander Holyfield looked like he should retire, but said he wasn't.
An ugly but interesting fight ended with Ruiz winning the WBA heavyweight title Saturday night, and in the process exposing Holyfield even further as an aging fighter with declining skills.
A bloodied Ruiz became the first Hispanic heavyweight champion by knocking Holyfield down with a huge right hand in the 11th round to blunt a rally by the champion and win a unanimous 12-round decision.
Ruiz was cut under both eyes and on his forehead and looked as if he had been in several fights. But he wore the WBA belt around his waist proudly as the first Hispanic heavyweight champion, even though most in boxing consider Lennox Lewis the true heavyweight champion.
''I know I beat him the first time and this time proved it,'' a jubilant Ruiz said. ''I came and got what I wanted.''
The 38-year-old Holyfield was hanging on desperately for his boxing life for most of the 11th round after a right cross by Ruiz put him down on the canvas. He would have gone down again, but held on as Ruiz knocked him across the ring.
The fight had been close until then, with Holyfield ahead on one scorecard. But Holyfield looked like a shell of the fighter who beat Mike Tyson twice four years ago as he got into position but couldn't seem to bring himself to punch.
Still, he said he would not retire and would continue to pursue his goal of winning the undisputed title once again.
''It looks like I'm going to have to get back in line,'' Holyfield said. ''I was a four-time champion and now I'm going to have to become a five-time champion.''
Ruiz, a 2-1 underdog, screamed in delight as the decision of the three judges went his way, in contrast to the narrow decision loss he suffered when the two first met in August.
Judge Stanley Christodoulou scored it 116-110, while Chuck Giampa had it 115-111 and Patricia Jarman-Manning had it 114-111. The Associated Press scored it 115-111.
The fight was filled with holding and clinching, but it was close going into the final rounds. Holyfield appeared to be getting the better of Ruiz in the ninth and 10th rounds but lost a point due to a low blow that sent Ruiz to the canvas in the 10th round.
Ruiz was on his back for a few minutes and given time to continue, but Holyfield was all over him the rest of the round and seemed to have the upper hand.
That changed seconds later, though, when Ruiz landed the right hand that turned the fight around.
''He was coming at me with jabs and I got him with a right to the temple,'' Ruiz said.
A round earlier, Ruiz was down on the canvas, but it was from a low blow that he needed about three minutes to recover from. Holyfield claimed the punch wasn't really low, but said the right hand that Ruiz threw certainly was.
''He cracked me with a good shot, and I didn't see it coming,'' Holyfield said. ''It's a fact of life you can get cracked with good shots.''
It was the fifth straight fight for Holyfield that went the distance. After beating Tyson for a second time in 1997, he followed it with an eighth-round knockout of Michael Moorer a few months later but has not stopped anyone since.
Ruiz, who was born in Massachusetts but lived part of his childhood in Puerto Rico, was little more than a journeyman heavyweight before being given a chance to fight for the vacant title in August.
In that fight, Ruiz claimed he was robbed by the ringside judges, who scored it narrowly in Holyfield's favor. But he got the better decision this time around, despite having a busted-up face.
''The last two rounds were mine, and that's what brought me this,'' Ruiz said, pointing to the title belt.
Holyfield, who fell to 37-5-1, had said he would continue fighting to try to unify his title with the two that Lewis holds. That plan was set back, though, in a fight that was filled with holding and fouls but had the fans on their feet in the final rounds.
Referee Joe Cortez had his hands full all night, separating fighters and trying to figure out who was fouled and when. After Holyfield threw the low blow that put Ruiz down, Ruiz retaliated with one of his own but was not penalized.
''That inspired me,'' Ruiz said. ''I had to go out and get him back.''
Holyfield, 217, earned $5 million for the fight, which drew a less- than-capacity crowd to the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino arena. Ruiz, 227 (37-4) was paid $1 million.
More importantly to Ruiz, though, it gave him a piece of the heavyweight title to defend for a bigger payday. Promoter Don King had promised the winner a title defense in China in June, although that is still up in the air.
''I'm just going to go home and rest and see my family,'' Ruiz said. ''I want to celebrate for a while.''
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