NEW YORK (AP) -- Elusive in and out of the ring, light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. dodged WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz for two hours Tuesday before showing up at the news conference for their title fight.
''I just hope he shows up for the fight,'' Ruiz said as he waited with increasing irritation. ''It was hard enough to get him to sign on for this.''
When Jones finally arrived, he defended himself against criticism that he's been unwilling to take risks in recent years against fighters who might pose a threat.
''The critics say, 'Roy won't fight. Roy won't do this. Roy won't be there.' But then, who is this?'' he said, jutting out his jaw and pointing to his chest.
''Giving up 50 pounds to a man who put (Evander) Holyfield down clean is saying a lot.
"I'm not taking the challenge because he's somebody I think is easy to beat. I'm taking the challenge because I see somebody that will fight.''
Jones, 47-1 with 38 knockouts, didn't jump at the chance for this fight, scheduled for March 1 in Las Vegas.
He kept upping his demands until he got a $10 million guaranteed purse, with a possibility of some $24 million if promoter Don King's projection of the pay-per-view audience is accurate.
Ruiz, looking for any big payday while WBC champ Lennox Lewis keeps him waiting, accepted a deal that would guarantee him nothing but could bring him and King as much as $8 million each.
As much as the money, Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 KOs) also is hoping to boost his profile against an opponent widely regarded as the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world.
That, however, carries risk for Ruiz.
''I'm taking a big chance here,'' Ruiz said. ''I have everything to lose and he has everything to gain. If I beat him, people will say that I should have because I'm bigger and stronger. If I lose, people will say I'm nothing because I lost to a light heavyweight. I've gotten to the point where I'll always get criticized.''
Ruiz, seven inches taller at 6-foot-2 and holding a seven-inch advantage in reach, plans to shed a few pounds and come into the fight at 225. Jones, who weighs 175, might beef up, but he doesn't want to gain so much that it slows him down.
''He's quick, but I don't think he's so quick that I can't catch him,'' Ruiz said. ''He has to worry that his flurries are not going to mean anything against a heavyweight like me. My main thing is to cut off the ring and work the body. You work the body and the head will fall.''
Jones knows that boxing history is littered with light heavyweights who couldn't make the move up to the heavyweight division. The exception was Michael Spinks, who beat Larry Holmes in 1985 to win the heavyweight title.
''I realize that I'm the one who stands a chance of getting hurt,'' Jones said.
The news conference was held 29 years to the day after Muhammad Ali and George Foreman appeared in the same room with King at Rockefeller Plaza to announce ''The Rumble in the Jungle.''
This bout, King claimed with his usual hyperbole, would be just as historic, carrying the possibility of Jones' becoming the first former middleweight champion in more than a century to win a heavyweight title. Bob Fitzsimmons won the middleweight title in 1891 and the heavyweight title in 1897 with a 14th round knockout of Gentleman Jim Corbett. Fitzsimmons later won the light heavyweight title after losing the heavyweight belt to Jim Jeffries.
Invoking his usual rhetoric, quoting and misquoting Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and George Bernard Shaw, among others, King portrayed Jones as ''Super Roy'' who ''draws his strength out of a mountain of blackonite.''
Ruiz, King said, is ''the losingest winningest boxer in the world, the Rodney Dangerfield of heavyweights.''
Ruiz won the title by beating Holyfield in their second fight, defended it with a draw against Holyfield and, in July, beat Kirk Johnson when Johnson was disqualified for low blows.
King plans to match the winner of the Ruiz-Jones bout against the winner of the Dec. 14 fight between Holyfield and Chris Byrd for the vacant IBF title. In King's grand scheme, the winner of the two fights would fight Lewis to unify the heavyweight title.
''I'd get Lewis $50 million for that fight,'' King said.
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