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Sunday, August 13, 2000
Holyfield edges Ruiz in tightly contested bout


LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- Evander Holyfield made a little history Saturday night.

In a lackluster effort, Holyfield scored a controversial unanimous decision over fringe contender John Ruiz and captured the vacant WBA heavyweight title at the Paris Resort and Casino.

Holyfield (37-4-1) became the first heavyweight to regain the championship a third time. But in an era of multiple titles, nobody is taking the 37-year-old's latest reign seriously, especially after Saturday's unimpressive victory.

"There is no doubt I won the fight," Holyfield said. "Everybody fights me hard. The guy was awkward, he keeps his hands close so I could hit him with a right hand. He fought a very defensive fight, which keeps you from getting knocked out.

"I basically was in control of the fight, I was the aggressor in there," said Ruiz, who fell to 36-4. "I was very surprised. That is up to the judges when it comes into the 12th round. Whatever they think they saw, whatever they saw, it's in their eyes -- I don't know what they were seeing."

Ruiz came out like a man on a mission in the first 2 1/2 rounds as he took the fight to the lethargic Holyfield. He applied pressure with his straightforward style, working behind the jab and an in-your-face ethic.

But late in the third round, Holyfield landed an overhand right to the head over the jab of Ruiz, who was in trouble. But Ruiz weathered the storm, holding onto Holyfield until the end of the round.

"I was caught, but I stayed on my feet," Ruiz said.

Sensing an early knockout, Holyfield came out fast in the fourth and drove Ruiz to the ropes with a left-right combination. But Ruiz regained his senses and changed strategy. He began to land single rights to the head as he began to outhustle and outbox Holyfield. After six rounds, Holyfield's corner was telling him he had won just one round.

Holyfied fought with urgency in the seventh and pressed the action while landing few punches. He continued to stalk Ruiz and tried to seize control.

But Ruiz continued to dominate with quick darting lead rights to the head.

Not known for his one-punch power, Holyfield stunned Ruiz with a grazing left hook to the head a minute into the 10th round. Ruiz slipped on the advertisement in the middle of the ring and was visibly hurt. But a left hook below the belt by Holyfield gave Ruiz time to regroup as the bout was stopped so he could regain his senses.

"He hit me with a couple of shots below the belt," Ruiz said. "(Referee) Richard Steele came before the fight, telling me anything below the belt or head-butt or elbow, he was going to take away points. I didn't see one point taken away. I guess he came into my room and lied to my face, so he wasn't really watching the fight."

In the final round, Holyfield land a left hook that bloodied Ruiz's nose. The tiring Ruiz clutched and grabbed Holyfield, who had little strength behind his punches. At the conclusion of the fight, Ruiz's cornerman Norman Stone berated Steele about his officiating and Holyfield's tactics.

Judges Duane Ford and Dave Morretti gave Holyfield the final round and scored the bout, 114-113. But Venezuelan judge Fernando Viso mysteriously had Holyfield ahead, 116-112.

"Like people say, it is like a robbery without a gun," Ruiz said. "I got to keep going with my career. It's a setback.

"I will fight him tomorrow, the (next) day. I don't care where I fight him, I will fight him in the streets. I won the fight, and he knows it."

On the undercard, undefeated Beibis Mendoza of Colombia captured the vacant WBA 108-pound light flyweight title when referee Mitch Halpern disqualified Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua.

A former strawweight titleholder, Alvarez repeatedly was warned by Halpern and had points deducted in the second and third rounds. Early in the sixth, Halpern again warned Alvarez, later taking matters into his own hands when he disqualified the Nicaraguan after he landed a soft, lunging left hook below the belt 62 seconds into the round.

"I took two points away and warned him five times, and then I saw enough," Halpern said. "I gave him warning and felt it was enough to disqualify him. You have to follow the rules and regulations, period."

At the time of the stoppage, Mendoza was ahead on two of the three scorecards, 57-55. The third judge had the Colombian winning by a wide margin, 59-54.

"The referee knew about the low blow," Mendoza said through an interpreter. "I knew I was going to win a unanimous decision or by disqualification."

Mendoza, who represented Colombia at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, improved to 26-0.

"He had his trunks high and I was hitting him in the stomach," Alvarez said through an interpreter. "I want a rematch. It was a matter of time before the fight would have been over."