Free agent Ruiz signs with Golden Boy

Free agent and former two-time heavyweight titlist John Ruiz signed with Golden Boy Promotions on Tuesday.

Ruiz, whose contract with Don King expired, is due to challenge England's David Haye for a version of the heavyweight title, probably on April 3 in London. Golden Boy also promotes Haye.

"I'm excited to become a member of the Golden Boy Promotions family and know that I have a great future ahead of me. I'm going to continue to make history and break records one fight at a time, starting with David Haye this spring," said Ruiz, who became the first Hispanic heavyweight titleholder when he outpointed Evander Holyfield for a belt in 2001. "I know Golden Boy will help get me back to the top of the heavyweight division and to secure my place in the boxing history books."

Ruiz (44-8-1, 30 KOs) was due a mandatory title shot against Nikolai Valuev last fall, but stepped aside to allow Haye to challenge Valuev instead with the guarantee that he would get the first shot at the winner.

Haye won a majority decision against Valuev on Nov. 7 in Germany to claim the title while Ruiz, 38, scored a seventh-round knockout of Adnan Serin on the undercard.

"John Ruiz is a very skilled and talented heavyweight and we are very excited to add him to our elite stable of fighters," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said. "He has proven time and time again that he has what it takes to battle with the top guys in the division and will continue to do so in 2010 and beyond."

Although Ruiz has faced numerous top opponents during his 18-year professional career, his awkward, grappling style and penchant for clinching opponents has made him a virtual persona non grata on the American television networks, which is why five of his last six bouts have been outside the United States.

But Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who was ringside for Ruiz's last fight while attending Haye's title victory, said he liked what he saw.

"I saw him fight in Germany and everyone had told me how boring he was," Schaefer said. "But I thought it was an entertaining fight. Ruiz was the first Hispanic heavyweight champion and we are very involved in the Hispanic marketplace and we think John Ruiz hasn't been properly exposed in that market. We want to increase his profile in the Hispanic market. That's really the idea.

"He's been more fan friendly in his recent fights and I think his new trainer, Miguel Diaz, is part of that."

With Ruiz due to face Haye, Schaefer said that also played into the decision to sign him, because whatever happens in the fight, Golden Boy will have the winner under contract.

"That certainly didn't hurt," Schaefer said. "I'd be lying if I would say something different. But I discussed this with Adam Booth, David Haye's manager and trainer. I informed him before we signed Ruiz and he was OK with it. Numerous promoters were after Ruiz after it became known he was no longer under contract with Don King. Frank Warren from England pursued him. If Hayemaker [Haye's company] and Golden Boy were doing the Ruiz fight together it made sense for us to also work with Ruiz."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.