December 7, 2001

Resolute Ruiz in home arena

He says Holyfield will be next stop

By Ron Borges

BOSTON, December 4, 2001 - The Quiet Man spoke loudly yesterday.

An emotional John Ruiz returned to Boston to begin final preparation for the biggest fight of his life - the Dec. 15 rubber match with Evander Holyfield - and showed unusual emotion during a welcoming press conference at the Sports Club/LA, a chic gym that could never produce the kind of fighters Ruiz and Holyfield are.

Ruiz has done most of his preparation in his adopted home of Las Vegas, where he has been training for nearly two months at the gritty Golden Gloves gym, a place where hundreds of world champions have worked over the years. Tonight he will begin his final week of hard sparring at a similarly hardscrabble place, the Somerville Boxing Club, where he met the men who helped take him from the streets of Chelsea to the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship.

Ruiz, manager Norman Stone, and trainer Gabe LaMarca will put in a final week of hard work before they move to Foxwoods, the glittery Connecticut casino where Ruiz will try to rid himself of Holyfield for the last time.

`'I've seen enough of Evander Holyfield to last a lifetime,'' Ruiz said. `'We have one last big fight coming up and I know it will be a tough fight. After it's over, I'll be glad not to see him again.''

If Ruiz wins for the second straight time, he likely will face a mandatory defense against WBA No. 1 contender Kirk Johnson before going after a unification fight with Lennox Lewis, a mega-fight with Mike Tyson, or perhaps a massive payday to defend the WBA heavyweight crown against light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr.

Before any of those fights can come about, Ruiz must retire the 39-year-old Holyfield, who promised Saturday night during an interview on HBO that he intends to win back not only the WBA title but also the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation ones held by Lewis. Those comments caused some concern in the boxing world because there is a widely held belief that Holyfield is at the end of a brilliant career and now at risk of not only embarrassment but perhaps serious damage.

As for Ruiz, he couldn't care less about any of that because he learned long ago that the less he listens to the people around his sport, the better off he is.

`'I try to stay away from watching boxing because the odds are that I'll hear I'm the worst person in the heavyweight division,'' Ruiz said, his bitterness evident behind his thin smile.

`'The hard part to swallow is I fought Holyfield twice and I did what only two other men did. I dropped him [in the 11th round of their second fight].

`'But people in boxing always try to make some excuse - he's too old or I was lucky that day. But when [Hasim] Rahman beat Lennox after there were rumors all over that Lewis wasn't even training for the fight, they put Rahman up as the next god in the division. I don't know what it is.''

What he does know is that he's happy to be back in Chelsea, near family and friends, and happy to be running the same streets each morning that he has trod since he took up boxing in earnest 15 years ago. He is, in fact, happy about everything except for his standing in the sport in which he holds the biggest title there is.

`'Maybe it's because I'm Puerto Rican,'' said Ruiz, the first Latino heavyweight champion in boxing history. `'Maybe that will take time for people to get used to and recognize.''

Judging by the emotion and resolve in his voice yesterday, Ruiz intends to give people plenty of time to get used to the notion.

(Reprinted from the "Boston Globe".)

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