John Ruiz vs. Evander Holyfield (3rd meeting)

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John Ruiz 232 lbs drew with Evander Holyfield 219 lbs by SD in round 12 of 12

Draw Allows Ruiz to Retain Crown
By Clifton Brown, the New York Times, December 16, 2001

MASHANTUCKET, Conn., Sunday, Dec. 16— Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz fought to a draw in tonight's World Boxing Association heavyweight championship fight at Foxwoods Resort Casino, an outcome that Holyfield said was an injustice. As a result, Ruiz retained his title, although Holyfield dictated the action and appeared to land far more and cleaner punches.

This was the third Holyfield-Ruiz fight in 16 months, with Holyfield winning the first by a controversial decision and Ruiz winning their last fight by decision on March 3, knocking down Holyfield in the 11th round. The curiosity surrounding this fight concerned Holyfield -- whether a 39-year-old fighter would look his age, or whether he could cheat time and show enough flashes of his former brilliance to win.

Holyfield (37-5-2) was not brilliant, but he appeared to be good enough to beat Ruiz (37-4-1) in a fight that Holyfield controlled from the middle rounds to the end. There were no knockdowns, but Holyfield, a four-time champion, was the aggressor and landed many more clean shots.

He also broke Ruiz's nose in the first round. Ruiz believed it was a result of an elbow from Holyfield.

"Of course I think I won the fight," said Holyfield, who added that he would not retire. "I will not quit."

The 10th round was the best of the fight, with Holyfield and Ruiz exchanging punches in the middle of the ring for about 30 seconds, but Holyfield landed the cleaner blows. Holyfield appeared to hurt Ruiz in that round, and though Ruiz never shied from the action, he never mounted a sustained attack.

Knowing he needed a huge 12th round, Ruiz did little, and his nose began to bleed profusely in the round. But when the decision was announced, Julie Lederman scored the bout for Holyfield, 116-112, Donald O'Neill scored the bout for Ruiz, 115-113, and Tommy Kaczmarek scored the fight, 114-114.

After the decision was announced, there was shock in Holyfield's corner, celebration in Ruiz's camp, and a lot of booing in the arena.

Holyfield entered the ring bouncing with energy, looking more than eager and knowing what as at stake. He hoped a victory would put him in the picture for a bout against Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson next year.

While Lewis and Tyson have talked about fighting each other next spring, they have not signed a contract, and prospective Tyson fights have fallen through in the past. Holyfield has already beaten Tyson twice and has split two fights with Lewis. While the public has clamored for a Lewis-Tyson fight for years, if that fight never takes place, Lewis might have no choice but to fight Holyfield again.

Ruiz said he planned to make a mandatory defense against Kirk Johnson of Canada in March.

It was a fortunate outcome for Ruiz. He entered the bout looking for more respect, but he left with more questions to answer. Ruiz is not a big-name fighter, and he was not impressive. But, with his title intact, he remains in the picture.

The first round was more like wrestling than boxing, with both fighters holding, hitting while holding and trying to muscle each other around. An off-balance Ruiz stumbled to the canvas midway through the round, but Referee Steve Smoger quickly ruled it a slip. Smoger would have a difficult night trying to pry the two fighters apart and keeping the fight clean. Ruiz often charges ahead with his head down, while Holyfield backs down from no one -- styles that made their first two fights tedious. But while Ruiz never adjusted, Holyfield did, using more movement and more jabs to take control.

In the third round, Holyfield connected with a clean left hook, but Ruiz barely reacted. It was a good sign for Holyfield that he was able to hit Ruiz, showing hand speed that often leaves fighters his age. In the fourth round, Holyfield hit Ruiz with a right uppercut that sent perspiration flying from Ruiz's head and brought a reaction from the crowd, which was partial to Ruiz, a native of Chelsea, Mass.

Holyfield hit Ruiz with a strong right-left combination in the sixth round as he continued to beat Ruiz to the punch. Instead of using his jab, Ruiz seemed more interested in trying to load up for power punches. Holyfield usually put Ruiz on the defensive, however, and Ruiz failed to counterpunch effectively.

In the bout before the main event, Tim Austin of Cincinnati (24-0-1) retained his International Boxing Federation bantamweight title with a unanimous 12-round decision over Ratanachai Vorapin of Thailand (40-6).

It was not an easy fight for Austin, who had difficulty landing punches against his elusive opponent. Austin piled up points in the early rounds, however, and relied on his mobility against Vorapin. Vorapin's chances were further damaged in the sixth round when Referee Michael Ortega took a point from him for a low blow.

"He was a tough character," Austin said. "But I was ready for anything he was ready to bring. The media was worried about my weight, because they saw me sitting in the sauna, but I got stronger as the rounds went on." [1]

Preceded by:
Holyfield vs. Ruiz II
WBA Heavyweight Title Fight
# 75
Succeeded by:
Ruiz vs. Johnson