LAS VEGAS (AP) -- WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz, floored in three earlier rounds by low blows, was declared the winner in his title defense against Kirk Johnson on Saturday night when the challenger threw yet another punch below the belt in the 10th round.
Referee Joe Cortez, who had already penalized Johnson one point on two occasions, halted it by disqualifying Johnson at 2:17 of the 10th.
Ruiz was winning the fight on all the judges' cards despite having to take time out the three earlier times he was hit low.
He also had the previously unbeaten Johnson reeling late in the ninth round.
A round earlier, Ruiz had to wait five minutes to resume after Johnson hit him low.
''I don't know what he was thinking,'' Ruiz said after the fight. ''I came out fighting clean, and he hit me low and I had to catch my breath. It took me out of my game plan.''
Johnson said: ''I was starting to feel good, but then I don't know what happened. It was terrible, man. It was my fault.''
The bout turned nasty in the fourth, when Johnson -- for the second time in the fight -- hit Ruiz below the belt with a hard left hook. Ruiz went to a knee, then, after resting briefly, motioned to Cortez that he was ready to resume.
Ruiz then charged Johnson, with the two reeling into the ropes, where the fighters appeared to exchange head butts. Cortez separated and warned them both.
Ruiz also went down from a low blow in the first, with Cortez giving him a few moments to recover and also penalizing Johnson for the hard left hook below the champion's belt.
Johnson was warned but not penalized for the low blow in the fourth round of the fight, which drew a crowd of some 6,000 to the arena configured for 8,500 seats at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Ruiz, from Chelsea, Mass., improved to 38-4-1, with 27 knockouts. Johnson, from North Preston, Nova Scotia, dropped to 32-1-1.
Ruiz earned $1.5 million for the fight, and Johnson got $1 million.
Holmes calls it quits, again -- for now
NORFOLK, Va. -- When Larry Holmes entered the ring, ''Ain't No Stopping Us Now'' blared from the speakers and the crowd roared its approval. It was just like old times for Holmes.
But it didn't take long for the 52-year-old to show his age against Eric ''Butterbean'' Esch on Saturday night.
When Holmes danced in his corner during introductions, his flabby midsection jiggled. When he fired off his once-lethal left jab, his opponent shook it off as if his nose itched.
And when he sat on the stool in his corner between rounds, he panted like a dog in afternoon heat, his stomach jutting out, the sweat pouring off his brow.
There was no stopping the former champion.
He won a unanimous decision over Esch in a 10-round sideshow that pitted a graying grandfather against a blubbery, baldheaded brawler who had never fought more than four rounds.
If boxing had a senior tour, Holmes would be a champion again.
But it doesn't, so the proud, paunchy former heavyweight is hanging up his gloves -- for now. Again.
After the victory, he said it would be his last fight. But he's said that before -- seven times, by his count. He says that, for the right money, he'd be happy to climb back into the ring again.
''As far as I'm concerned, this is it,'' he said. ''I don't think anyone's going to offer me a lot of money.''
He made $250,000 for the fight, to $100,000 for Esch.
Holmes, who insists that he has fought into his 50s because he loves it, criticized promoters Don King and Bob Arum for not promoting his last fight.
''I've made a lot of people a lot of money in my 33 years of boxing. Don King, Bob Arum and other promoters benefitted from me. But these guys didn't have the guts enough to send me off properly in my last fight,'' he said.
It was the first fight for Holmes (69-6) in nearly two years -- since he beat 49-year-old Mike Weaver. His rust was surpassed only by his slow feet, wooden gait and timid approach to the wild-swinging Esch.
He opened the fight with 10 consecutive jabs, but none did any damage. Both fighters seemed afraid of each other: Esch refusing to attack until Holmes did, and Holmes circling while he gathered the energy to punch again.
By the end of the round, the crowd of 7,097 at Norfolk Scope arena was booing the lack of action. The boos continued through the fifth round.
Neither fighter was ever in trouble. By the sixth round, Esch (63-3-3) was bleeding from a cut over his left eye, but it wasn't serious.
In the 10th, a haymaker by Esch knocked Holmes backward and he appeared to trip, falling into the ropes in the corner. Referee Chris Wollesen gave him a standing eight-count.
''The ref started counting and I thought, 'Are you drunk?' I've been in this game 33 years and I know whether I fell or not,'' he said.
As for Esch, Holmes was impressed with the guy he once described as a ''fat slob impersonating a fighter.''
''He's more than a four-round fighter,'' Holmes said. ''He did not sit down once tonight. He's big, he's heavy. He doesn't have all the skills, but he has the heart to fight 10 rounds.''
In an undercard bout, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde stopped Heidi Hartmann in the third round of a super middleweight fight.
Frazier-Lyde, the 40-year-old daughter of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, improved to 9-1 with the victory.
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