The CyberBoxingZone News
Holyfield Claims WBA Title
|JD Vena from Ringside
|LAS VEGAS, NV - During the days leading up to the
Evander Holyfield-John Ruiz fight, there were many skeptics who
questioned the legitimacy for their fight
and what it was for. Two things were proved after the hard
fought WBA Heavyweight title fight last night. One was that
Evander Holyfield, at 37 years of age, can still fight, and the
other that John "The Quiet Man" Ruiz deserved to be
where he was on Saturday night at the Paris Las Vegas Casino
Resort. After their controversial 12-round battle, Ruiz proved
that he deserves to meet the now four-time champion, Holyfield
again. In a surprise to the Showtime audience and the 8, 558
spectators in attendance at the Paris, Holyfield won a close,
unanimous decision to become only the second man in history to win
the WBA heavyweight title on four occasions. Only Muhammad
Ali had accomplished the feat before by beating Sonny Liston (in
'64), Ernie Terrell (in '66), George Foreman (in '74) and Leon
Spinks (in '78).
The win for Holyfield wasn't easy by any
stretch for a man, who was predicted by many to have an easy time
with Ruiz, the WBA number one contender. As a matter of
fact, many, including Ruiz' skeptics in the media felt that Ruiz
should have walked away with the decision. Whichever way you
saw the fight, John Ruiz shocked many people (except this writer)
in nearly sidetracking Holyfield's quest. As a 4-1 underdog,
Ruiz opened many eyes that refused to see his credibility as a
title threat. Many won't forget losing the many wages they
bet against Ruiz, who was picked by Vegas odds makers to not go
past the 8th round. Judge Fernando Viso saw Holyfield as a
116-112 winner while judges, Duane Ford and Dave Moretti scored
the fight 114-113 (as the CBZ had it) for Holyfield.
As the first round commenced, Holyfield
(37-4-1, 25 KO's), 221, was met by a fierce and determined, John
Ruiz (224) and would admittedly have a difficult time finding ways
of hitting him.
"Everyone tried to convince me that John
wasn't a good fighter but I wouldn't believe them," said
Holyfield. "Everyone always fights me tough and I knew
he'd make the best out of his opportunity. (Ruiz) was one of
the first guys I've fought where I had a tough time figuring out
how to fight him. I could never hit him with anything I wanted to
throw whether it was because he was coming in too low or because
he was just crowding me."
Ruiz began fast, just as he has in each of his
11 previous fights since his haunting 19-second loss to David Tua
in March of 1996. "The Quiet Man" forced Holyfield
backwards and landed some hard shots on the inside. After
the first two rounds, which Ruiz took on two of the judge's
scorecards, Holyfield settled into his counterpunching mode.
Midway through the 3rd round, Holyfield timed Ruiz' right hand
with one of his own. Ruiz absorbed it on the temple and
nearly crumbled to the canvas. It was the stamina and savvy
of Ruiz that kept him from bowing out early as most suspected. The
right hand that Evander hit Ruiz with was the same that knocked
Adilson Rodriguez out for several minutes in '89. It was
also the shot that sent Mike Tyson across the ring in their
classic duel four years ago. Proving his skeptics wrong,
Ruiz survived the biggest scare he would encounter for the
remainder of the night
Entering the fourth round, Ruiz altered his
game plan and began moving in circles, this time bating Holyfield
to come after him. This strategy was successful for Ruiz as
his underrated left jab bounced off the face of Holyfield.
Throughout his career, Holyfield has always had trouble fighting
opponents who don't come forward. It became increasing clear
that Holyfield was becoming frustrated with Ruiz tactics and was
in for a long night. Every time Ruiz would bend his knees
and jab Holyfield to the body, Holyfield would try to slip the
punch and grab Ruiz' arms. On at least four occasions,
Holyfield threw Ruiz to the floor without being penalized by
referee Richard Steele. As a result, both combatants had
compelling opinions about one another's style.
"He was a very awkward fighter," said
Holyfield. "He leads with his head and I wasn't able to
land the punches I wanted to because he fought a defensive
"Holyfield threw everything at me,
including elbows and head butts," said Ruiz. "I'm
surprised he didn't knee me."
What may have surprised Ruiz was how much the
Real Deal had left coming down the stretch. Behind on two of
the judge's tallies after 8 rounds, Holyfield fought successfully
as the aggressor to win over the judges.
Some however, were not impressed with
Holyfield's late effort, including Team Ruiz, who pointed to an
11th round low blow and an elbow which broke his nose in the 12th
"Plain and simple, if Richard Steele
wasn't the referee tonight, John Ruiz is the WBA champion,"
said an angered Norman Stone, the manager for Ruiz.
"I thought I won the fight," said
Ruiz. "I was very shocked at the judges' decision.
But it is up to them. Richard Steele told me he was going to
watch out for those tactics but I guess he either wasn't watching
or lied about it"
These actions could have had an effect on Ruiz'
performance in the final two rounds. Had Ford or Moretti
scored one of those rounds for Ruiz or deducted at least one point
from Holyfield, the bout would have been declared a majority draw,
guaranteeing a rematch. Holyfield also broke Ruiz nose with
an elbow something Norman Stone, Ruiz manager asked Steele to look
out for prior to the bout. Needless to say, the fight was
intriguing and close enough to merit a rematch between the two men
who are both promoted by Don King.
"I'm going to keep working on my career,
but this was a big setback," said Ruiz. "This is
something that I've been dreaming about. I want to fight him
During the post-fight press conference,
Holyfield accepted Ruiz' immediate challenge. With IBF and
WBC heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis tentatively scheduled to
face Tua in November and clearly uninterested to fight Holyfield a
third time, a rematch sounds plausible.
Though Holyfield, unlike many, considers himself a 4-time
champion, he is still adamant about unifying the three alphabet
belts before calling it quits.
"(Critics) can look at (this fight) any
way they want. It is not what people say. I'm not going
anywhere. I am the WBA champion. Lennox has two belts
and I have one. I will give John Ruiz a rematch. I'll
fight anybody. "I'll fight Lennox or Mike Tyson if
those fights can be made. If they are in a position to
fight, then I'll fight anybody. I will fight until I win
After four years, everyone now knows that John Ruiz has always
felt the same way.
Promoter - Don King Productions