Originally created 12/14/01

Ruiz happy to be fighting before New England fans



MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- The bout has moved from the Great Wall to a bingo hall, but John Ruiz is happy to be fighting Evander Holyfield in New England.

"It's an honor," said the WBA heavyweight champion from Chelsea, Mass. "It's a way for me to thank all of my fans. I wish all of them could be here."

The third consecutive fight between the two men will be held Saturday night in a room at Foxwoods Resort Casino that holds about 4,200 people and usually is used for bingo. It originally was scheduled for Aug. 5 in a 17,000-seat arena in Beijing.

Fighting in front of a predominantly Ruiz crowd does not concern Holyfield.

"Not at all," he said Thursday. "That is part of the competition. Whoever wins will have the fans."

At age 39, Holyfield cannot afford a defeat if he is to reach his goal of becoming the undisputed champion again. He has held pieces of the title on three occasions.

Ruiz, who will turn 30 on Jan. 4, needs to win if he hopes emerge from the shadows of Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.

"It's not going to go 12 rounds," Ruiz said of fight No. 3."We've already gone 24 rounds and we're tired of each other."

"I will knock him out," Holyfield said.

In their first meeting, Holyfield became a champion for the fourth time by winning the vacant WBA title on points over Ruiz on Aug. 12, 2000, at Las Vegas. Ruiz became champion when he knocked down Holyfield in the 11th round and outpointed him March 3 at Las Vegas.

The third fight was scheduled for Beijing on Aug. 5, but it was postponed when Ruiz injured his neck. It was rescheduled for Nov. 24 in China, but then canceled because HBO did not want to send its people to that part of the world in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While Ruiz wants a knockout, he'd settle for a decision victory.

"I just have to win," said Ruiz (37-4, 27 knockouts). "I think Holyfield (37-5-1, 25 knockouts) is the toughest guy out there. If I beat him, I can beat Tyson and Lewis. ...

"I saw the last Lewis-Rahman fight. I was not impressed. If Lewis had fought that way against Holyfield, he would have been knocked out."

Lewis, who fought a disputed draw with Holyfield and became undisputed champion by outpointing him in 1999, regained the WBC and IBF titles by knocking out Hasim Rahman in the fourth round Nov. 17 at Las Vegas. Lewis is expected to fight Tyson in April.

The Ruiz-Holyfield fight will be the second half of an HBO doubleheader, and is expected to begin between 11:45 p.m. and midnight EST.

The telecast will begin at 10:30 p.m. EDT, and the first fight will be an IBF bantamweight title defense by Tim Austin of Cincinnati against Ratanachai Vorapin of Thailand.



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