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Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Ruiz ready for 7-foot, 330 lb. Russian

Associated Press

BERLIN -- WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz should have no problem finding challenger Nikolay Valuev -- a 7-footer weighing 330 pounds.

John Ruiz, Nikolai Valuev
Nikolai Valuev (right) towers over the six-foot-two John Ruiz.

"He's got a head the size of a Volkswagen," Ruiz said Wednesday. "I can't miss hitting him."

Dubbed "The Beast from the East," Valuev is 43-0 and will be the tallest and heaviest champion of all time if he beats Ruiz (42-5-1) on Saturday night.

The American, despite wins against former champions Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Andrew Golota, said beating Valuev will earn him the respect he believes he's due.

"This is an important fight for me, because after this guy it's going to be a unification fight -- and I'm the best guy to win unification," Ruiz said. "They'll be talking about me a lot more if I beat this guy."

Rahman was given the WBC title after Vitali Klitschko retired last month because of injuries.

Don King is promoting the fight Saturday, an unlikely prospect a decade ago when Valuev traveled around Russia beating up people for minuscule purses.

"I was a very experienced fighter -- all I needed was a good promoter," Valuev said.

The 32-year-old former basketball player and discus thrower found his promoter two years ago when he twice boxed on the undercard of two fights staged by Wilfried Sauerland in Germany.

Valuev's third-round knockout of Clifford Etienne was followed in October by a disputed decision against Larry Donald, which earned him the title shot.

The 6-foot-2 Ruiz, who fights at about 240 pounds, says he won't change tactics to compensate for Valuev's height advantage.

"No doubt this will be a hard fight, but I've overcome situations like this before," Ruiz said.

Valuev has a reputation of being mobile for his size, but without a big punch despite his 31 knockouts.

The Russian insists Ruiz's grab-and-hold tactics, used since David Tua knocked him out inside a minute in 1996 -- won't work this time.

"I won't give him the chance," Valuev said. "I always use my height -- I see no reason it should be different this time."

About 9,000 of the 10,000 tickets have been sold for the bout. Muhammad Ali's daughter, Laila, will fight on the undercard against Asa Sandell of Sweden.