Evander Holyfield vs. John Ruiz (1st meeting)

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Evander Holyfield 221 lbs beat John Ruiz 224 lbs by UD in round 12 of 12

Holyfield Defeats Ruiz for Fourth Heavyweight Crown
By Michael Arkush, the New York Times, August 13, 2000

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 12— With a unanimous decision tonight over John Ruiz, Evander Holyfield has done something that nobody, not even Muhammad Ali, has ever accomplished. He has won the heavyweight championship for the fourth time.

It certainly was not easy, however, and it came in a decision disputed by some who saw it.

Ruiz, an unheralded fighter from Chelsea, Mass., was aggressive throughout their World Boxing Association title fight, landing many effective jabs. Except for late in the third round, he was never really in any serious trouble from Holyfield. Even then, Ruiz managed to stay on his feet and certainly seemed to have recovered by the beginning of the next round.

Still, Judges Duane Ford and Dave Moretti gave the fight to Holyfield, 114-113, while Judge Fernando Viso ruled that Holyfield won, 116-112.

"It was highway robbery without a gun," Ruiz said. "I won the fight and he knows I won the fight."

The vacant crown, which Lennox Lewis had been stripped of, now belongs to Holyfield, who has a record of 37-4-1. Ruiz, a 4-1 underdog who was seeking to become the first Latino to win a heavyweight championship, showed the kind of grit and determination likely to land him more chances in the future.

"I was definitely robbed," the 28-year-old Ruiz (36-4) said. "I had control of the fight. I am very surprised by the judges' decision. I don't know what fight they saw. It could have been one of the fights before this. I don't know what was on their mind. Like people say, I was robbed without a gun."

Nonetheless, Holyfield, 37, who said that he would certainly grant Ruiz a rematch, is in position for another big fight. It could be against Lewis, who owns the heavyweight title in the two other major divisions, or perhaps even Mike Tyson. In boxing, of course, anything is possible.

With his fourth title, Holyfield has one more than Ali. History or not, however, Holyfield's new title will be considered tainted by some who saw the fight. After all, Lewis, who had dethroned Holyfield last November in a unanimous decision, lost his title in the courts, not in the ring. World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation championships, was stripped of the W.B.A. belt by a federal judge because he had breached a contract that he had signed with the promoter Don King that he would defend his title against the top-ranked contender, which was Ruiz. Instead, Lewis fought Michael Grant, knocking him out in the second round on April 29 in New York.

Holyfield, who received $5 million for tonight's fight, had consistently argued that his fight with Ruiz should be considered legitimate. "When you don't follow rules and regulations, then you lose your title," Holyfield said. "I follow the rules and regulations."

Furthermore, Holyfield, despite the judges' decision and the view of many ringside observers, had long maintained that he defeated Lewis in their November battle. "I feel I should be the champion now," he said recently. "The decision against Lewis just didn't swing my way. If you look at the fight and judge it, you'll see that I controlled the fight."

Not only did Holyfield lose that bout decisively, but he was also very fortunate to escape with a draw in his first fight with Lewis, at Madison Square Garden in March 1999. That decision was considered so controversial that an investigation was undertaken, though no improprieties were discovered.

Ruiz, meanwhile, had been just as adamant in validating tonight's fight.

"First of all, I wanted to fight Michael Grant and what happens next?" Ruiz said. "He decides to fight Lennox Lewis and that leaves me out there. Lennox Lewis is totally avoiding me. What am I supposed to do? I'm basically going by the rules. I was No. 1 in both the W.B.A. and W.B.C., which I earned because I came up the ladder."

Ruiz, who earned $1.1 million, his largest payday ever, came into the ring with a lot of motivation. He has had to answer constant questions about his humiliating 1996 loss to David Tua, a fight that lasted 19 seconds.

"At that point of my career I was not into it mentally like I should have been," said Ruiz, who before tonight had won 11 consecutive bouts. "Things happen in boxing and I got through it and I'm still fighting. Most people would have quit after that, but that's not my style. I definitely feel like I have a lot to prove. I know I'm a great fighter and I intend to prove it." [1]

Although the media reported that Holyfield had achieved something even Muhammad Ali didn't, in actual fact, Ali was still the only man to ever win the Lineal Heavyweight Championship 3 times, while Holyfield only won it twice. Holyfield's other two reigns as champion were as only an alphabet titlist which is not the same thing as the being the man who beat the man etc. So the record still belongs to Muhammad Ali.

Preceded by:
Lewis vs. Holyfield II
WBA Heavyweight Title Fight
# 73
Succeeded by:
Holyfield vs. Ruiz II