|I don't want to hear anyone talking about
"another black eye for boxing." Last I checked,
there is only one "I" in boxing, and it's been
blackened, cut and swollen shut for some time now. Boxing
fans have become as grizzled as veteran homicide detectives, not
even flinching at the atrocities. Surely that was the case
at the Paris Hotel Ballroom in Las Vegas. There, after Jimmy
Lennon Jr. announced that Evander Holyfield had won a unanimous
decision over John Ruiz, the crowd briefly gasped, but then just
stood there in stony silence. No one threw objects into the
ring, nor did anyone boo. They certainly weren't chanting
"Hole-lee-field," as they had in the first round of the
fight. Instead they quietly turned their backs on the ring
and walked away. It was a perfect metaphor for the
disillusioned fans of the once great sport of boxing.
Holyfield-Ruiz was a no-win proposition to begin with.
Fighting for a WBA title that was stripped off of Lewis' waist in
the courts, we were guaranteed to get either an aging Holyfield
laying fraudulent claim to a fourth heavyweight championship, or
the equally unbearable thought of mediocre contender John
Ruiz forever being introduced as heavyweight champion of the
world. Who knew it could get any worse than that?
The fight began with Ruiz easily sweeping the first two rounds
against a Holyfield who had less life than the wax replica of him
standing in Madame Tussaud's museum. As Ruiz grunted
with every jab, he peppered the aging great with a series of clean
punches. Holyfield blocked a lot of these blows with a
cross-armed defense, but by the second round, Ruiz was following
his jabs with some straight right hands. Nothing too
spectacular, but unanswered points nonetheless. Holyfield
simply looked annoyed at Ruiz, like a father impatiently waiting
for his child to stop a tantrum.
The entire fight turned around in the third round. Holyfield
used what he had learned in the first six minutes to time Ruiz
with a left and right uppercut combination. The punches got
Ruiz' attention, but not as much as the big counter right Ruiz
walked into a moment later. The punch made Ruiz stand erect,
and as he retreated to a neutral corner, his knees were wobbling
like a 1920s showgirl on crystal meth. Holyfield attacked
and the gangly Ruiz, made extra gangly with the loss of all
equilibrium, managed to tie Holyfield up enough to survive.
Holyfield looked like a man trying to avoid the hug of a drunk
buddy, but couldn't free himself from Ruiz' holds long enough to
finish the job.
Holyfield came at Ruiz in the opening seconds of round four,
looking to test what Ruiz had left. He launched a wicked
right lead that stunned Ruiz, and for the first time all night,
Holyfield grinned. Now bouncing on his toes, Holyfield
looked ready to end the matter at hand. And then... nothing.
For the rest of the round, Holyfield threw almost no punches.
At first Ruiz was content to coast, but after 90 seconds, Ruiz
seemed to snap out of it and began firing back at Evander.
Holyfield ate two flush right hands at center ring, and didn't
answer any of the sloppy combinations Ruiz was throwing his way.
After scoring a 10-8 without a knockdown in the third, and seeming
to have his man on the way out, the veteran ex-champ let a golden
opportunity slip by.
It's possible that Holyfield was hurt. At his age, injuries
are to be expected. Holyfield was not throwing his right at
all, and after missing a long right uppercut at the top of the
fifth, he grimaced and stretched out his shoulder. Doing
little more than take Ruiz' jabs and one-twos, Holyfield was
dropping rounds the way De la Hoya drops trainers. Make no
mistake, Ruiz was there to be beat. Although he landed clean
on Holyfield throughout the night, his punches lacked any real
power. He was frequently off balance after missing, and
Holyfield missed chance after chance to counter and stagger him.
Ruiz continued with his gameplan in the sixth round, but was again
rocked. This time it was a Holyfield left hook that caught
Ruiz coming in. The punch opened a small cut over Ruiz'
right eye and stiffened his back leg. Ruiz allowed Holyfield
to steal the round with the brief flurry that followed, but Ruiz
again was able to unceremoniously tie Holyfield up. If
anything, Ruiz was beating Holyfield the same way that Holyfield
had beaten Tyson: Keep putting punches, any punches, in his
face, and then tie up and push backwards. It was working.
Holyfield miffed another opportunity in the seventh, when after
taking a number of Ruiz punches, he landed a beautiful
uppercut-left hook combination. Ruiz seemed to be hurt every
time Holyfield landed, although that was almost never. But
in the ensuing clinch, Holyfield pushed Ruiz to the canvas.
Ruiz took his sweet time getting up and then punctuated the end of
the round by driving Holyfield back into a corner with two big
right hands that filled the ballroom with the loud slap of
leather. Ruiz was getting tired, but he was banking a solid
Ruiz peppered Holyfield in the eighth. The Quiet Man's
punches didn't do much damage, and so Holyfield took the round on
our scorecard by fighting in short spurts. Although
Holyfield only fired a few punches at a time, when he landed, Ruiz
seemed hurt. In professional boxing, volume doesn't always
win, and Holyfield's crunching shots did damage while Ruiz' shots
Both fighters took the first half of the ninth round off.
Neither man threw a punch. Holyfield looked obsessed with
finding only the perfect opening (which never came) while Ruiz
finally caught his breath. Ruiz began nailing Holyfield at
the halfway mark, however. And although Holyfield had
absolutely no problem taking Ruiz' best shots, his head was now
snapping with almost every landed blow. Holyfield had no
head movement and his arms refused to block punches. Evander
did land a half dozen crunching body shots to close out the round,
but it wasn't enough. Even his corner was telling him flat
out that he had only won a single round.
Holyfield had another chance to snatch a victory in the tenth
stanza, but a crafty Ruiz was saved by a little acting. As
Holyfield upped the aggression, a left hook again straightened out
Ruiz' back knee and Evander attacked. But only a few punches
into a flurry that had Ruiz reeling, Holyfield landed a low blow.
It wasn't a Golota low blow, or even a Rosendo Alvarez low blow
(Alvarez was DQ'd for repeated low shots on the undercard), but it
was enough for referee Richard Steele to break the action for a
warning. Ruiz didn't skip a beat, and immediately began
wincing and even lowered himself to one knee. Maybe the low
blow really hurt him, but it seemed like he was taking a free
break at a time when he needed to clear his head. But you
can't fault him for using Holyfield's accidental foul to his
advantage. Holyfield whacked Ruiz some more when he got up,
but the momentum had been killed.
Holyfield handed Ruiz the eleventh round as he saved up his energy
for what would surely be a desperation twelve frame. Indeed,
Holyfield let what little he has left hang out in the final round.
After a slow start, Holyfield began landing on an exhausted Ruiz.
As Ruiz again used his octopus grabs to tie Evander up, Holyfield
ripped some brutal uppercuts in and had Ruiz backing off.
Ruiz' nose poured out blood, and Holyfield wasn't afraid to throw
a blatant elbow at it just to make sure Ruiz didn't stop bleeding
any time soon. The crowd roared at one of the fight's few
exciting moments, and in the last 30 seconds it looked like
Holyfield just might be able to pull off the miracle kayo.
He really only needed to land two punches in a row... but he
couldn't. Ruiz managed to survive, and despite dropping two
of the final three rounds, looked to have it all sewn up.
BoxingChronicle.com had the fight scored 114-113 for Ruiz. (7
rounds to 5 with a 2-pt round in the third) Normally a
one-point card can swing either way, but the 114-113 we had
already seemed to give Holyfield every benefit of the doubt in
close rounds. 114-113 seemed to be generous, as Ruiz could
easily have been credited with 8 or 9 rounds.
But everyone knew what was going to happen. When there was a
slight delay in announcing the scores, it only confirmed what we
suspected: Holyfield was going to get it, by hook or by
crook... and there were few hooks in sight. The decision was
announced as unanimous: 114-113 twice and 116-112 for... Evander
Holyfield. Unbelievable. 116-112 for Holyfield was a
than ten Lewis-Holyfield draws combined. John Ruiz left the
ring in disgust. Holyfield had the audacity to say he
deserved the win. Disgusting.
What a difference a divorce makes. After spending the last
several years saying that he would not fight Mike Tyson again,
that he would only fight Tyson if Tyson had a title, and that he
might only fight Tyson if Tyson put together a few significant
wins, Evander Holyfield showed nothing but eagerness to get it on
with his demented rival. Some reports have Holyfield p aying
his ex-wife over $70 million, not including the tens of hundreds
of thousands of dollars in child support he's been forced to fork
out. Suddenly that potential $30 million payday seems a lot
more important than your integrity, your place in history, or your
one good ear. Holyfield, who twice has been on the verge of
retirement, now has a full-blown case of denial. Vowing to
fight on no matter what, Holyfield (37-4-1/25) proved this evening
that he has nothing left. He is shot. He should
retire. He is a paper champion. The great warrior is
doing what all great warriors end up doing: selling their
name for a few dollars more.
You gotta feel for John Ruiz (now 36-4/27). Although he
certainly isn't a great fighter, he deserved the win this evening.
Although his technique is unimpressive and he probably still
doesn't deserve a top-ten rating, he acquitted himself nicely in a
fight that no one gave him a chance to win. After the fight,
he certainly looked the worse for wear and tear. While
Holyfield looked only slightly puffy, Ruiz' face was a map of
scuffs, cuts, blood, bruises and swelling. He ate a minimum
of punches but looked like he had been in a war. But despite
his courageous effort, and despite getting gypped of his just
reward, does anyone think Ruiz could beat a legit top ten fighter?
Lennox Lewis, David Tua, Oleg Maskaev... even Michael Grant, Mike
Tyson and Hasim Rahman would destroy Ruiz. At least Ruiz got
a fat payday, and the possibility of a rematch if the Holyfield-Tyson
trilogy can't be made right away.
Where does boxing go from here? The public almost
unanimously views the sport as fixed. Time and again the
winner is denied a win. The corrupt IBF seems headed for a
hung jury in their racketeering trial, and the other sanctioning
bodies are laughing all the way to the bank. In a year that
was supposed to see the genesis of boxing reform, it looks like
things are more the same than they've ever been.