The CyberBoxingZone News

Holyfield, Ruiz: Etched In Stone
JD Vena

March 30, 2000

For several years Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis bellowed to unify the three major (I know it doesn't sound right) titles. Although he finally unified the titles this past November, Lewis may no longer reign as the undisputed heavyweight champion if a federal court decides to strip him of at least one of his three belts. Whether he knows his role as the undisputed champion or not, someone should tell poor Lennox that he must obey the rules of the governing bodies if he wants to remain as such.

Over the past couple of weeks, attorney's representing a slew of top heavyweights argued their case for the right to fight for the titles. The WBA's number one contender, who happens to be Johnny Ruiz of Chelsea, MA was to challenge for the heavyweight title within six months after the date Lewis won that version as well as the IBF title from Evander Holyfield on November 13th. Unfortunately for Ruiz, he wasn't able to secure a match with Lewis since Henry Akinwande was the WBA's mandatory. Lewis, who had already defeated Akinwande in 1997 and opted for Michael Grant, another opponent who Ruiz' management targeted.

"None of this bulls**t ever would have happened had Grant fought Johnny," said Norman Stone, the manager for Ruiz.

Prior to Grant's late round stoppage of Andrew Golota, Ruiz' management begged for the opportunity to fight Grant assuming that he was victorious over Golota. The effort to make such a match was to not only earn Ruiz sizable payday, but also to eliminate the talk of him not being a deserving challenger.

"You'd think that (David) Tua would have wanted to fight us so that he could step ahead of us for a title shot, but he turned us down," said Stone. "We've tried to get Tua, Grant, none of 'em wanted any piece of John."

Apparently, neither does Lennox Lewis. After Golota quit in his fight with Grant, Lewis saw an opportunity to eliminate Grant as a threat before he became more seasoned. Up until Golota's shocking submission, Grant needed a win inside the distance. As a result, Ruiz who at the time was only the WBC's number one contender would be left without an opponent to prove his status to his critics.

On June 3rd that won't be the case when Ruiz squares off with Evander Holyfield, the triple crowned heavyweight champion who has previously benefited from the same strategy as Ruiz. During 1989 while crusading for the first of his three titles, "The Real Deal" decided to eliminate the contenders who Mike Tyson's management was considering for title challengers. In doing so, Holyfield wiped out Michael Dokes, who was then rated 3rd by the WBA, Adilson Rodriguez who was then rated 2nd by the WBC and Alex Stewart who was then rated 2nd by the WBA. Holyfield nearly cleaned out the heavyweight division before eventually removing Buster Douglas from the throne in late 1990.

Though Holyfield recently lost to Lennox Lewis in his attempt to unify the titles, he is returning to his contender mentality by fighting Ruiz in hopes of securing another crack at Lewis or whoever possesses the championship belts. Due to Akinwande's two-year battle with hepatitis B, the WBA moved Ruiz to the number one slot making him the mandatory challenger. With Holyfield ranked second, the winner of their June 3rd bout will either determine the new WBA champion or the next challenger for the undisputed title.

Ruiz 28, is the first number one contender from Massachusetts since Rocky Marciano earned that distinction in late 1951. Marciano was also 28 years old when he became the division's number one contender by defeating the legendary Joe Louis. Coincidentally enough, like Louis, Holyfield will be a ring-worn 37 when he steps in with the "Quiet Man." The main difference between the two match-ups is that the Marciano-Louis bout wasn't for a vacant title.

"We can't just sit around and wait for Lewis to fight us," said Stone. "He won't fight Johnny because he knows he'll lose and he won't get the Tyson fight that he's waiting around for."

Ruiz, who was promoted by Panos Eliades, Lewis' promoter, had previously spent time with the champion while the champion was preparing for a fight.

"Whenever the British press came to see Lewis spar, Lewis would never get in the ring with (Ruiz)," recalls Stone. " Johnny made him look so bad they kicked him out of camp. If Lewis wasn't scared of (Ruiz), then why didn't he make a stink about having to fight (Zeljko) Mavrovic?"

Who knows? It must not have anything to do with wanting to be the undisputed champion. Months after Mike Tyson knocked out Frank Bruno for the WBC title in 1996, Lennox Lewis, the number one contender at the time was offered $4 million to allow Tyson to fight with then WBA champion Bruce Seldon. Now instead of dishing out "step aside money," Lewis is willing to allow two combatants fight for one of the titles he so wanted to consolidate.


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