- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

LAS VEGAS Tomorrow night's fight between WBA heavyweight title holder John Ruiz and light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. got a disturbing jolt yesterday.
A fight erupted between Jones trainer Alton Merkerson and Ruiz manager Norman Stone over whether Jones' gloves for the bout had been tampered with before the weigh-in at a Caesars Place ballroom. Stone had to be hospitalized shortly after the melee.
Stone was listed in stable condition yesterday afternoon at Valley Hospital and was expected to be released later in the evening, according to Nevada Athletic Comission member Flip Homansky.
The incident raised concerns about security for tomorrow night's fight at Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Jones had threatened to have associates ready to rush the ring if Ruiz, a physical fighter who has been accused of fighting dirty, engages in roughhouse tactics.
Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Mark Ratner said the commission will meet with members of both camps today during its rules session to warn them about maintaining order in the ring. He also said punishment will likely be meted out for yesterday's brawl.
"There are things that we can't let happen, and this is one of them," Ratner said. "There could be some fines."
Neither Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 knockouts) nor Jones (47-1, 38 knockouts) got close to each other or was involved in the melee. After the weigh-in, Jones came over to Ruiz, patted him on the shoulder and said, "Don't let this bother you. I'll be ready." Replied Ruiz: "I'll be ready, too."
Jones weighed in at 193 at least three pounds heavier than expected and Jones at 226.
After the weigh-in, Stone, with his mouth bloody from blows he received in the brawl, collapsed on the stage. His eyes were glazed and he complained he was having trouble breathing and had a sharp pain in his side. Stone also said his neck was bothering him from the fall he took off the stage. Homansky said last night he no longer has the pain.
"Somebody sucker-punched me," Stone said before he collapsed.
Stone, 49, lay on his back in the front corner of the stage with his shirt off and it was nearly 10 minutes before medical personnel arrived and took him out on a stretcher. Then a tense security crew cleared the room as people milled around outside still trying to sort out what had started the fight.
The scuffle took place when Stone found that the box and packaging containing the gloves Jones would be using had been opened. Stone suggested the gloves had been in Jones' possession and that they had been tampered with.
"If the gloves went to Jones' house, it should be investigated," Stone yelled. "There are all sorts of tricks you can do with gloves."
Merkerson answered back with a curse, and Stone came toward him. What happened next is unclear. There was talk that another member of the Jones camp hit Stone to start the brawl. But Merkerson could be seen on top of Stone, with his right fist coming down, as the two men went tumbling off the stage and onto the floor.
Members of both camps then rushed in, some to fight and others to try to separate Merkerson and Stone. When they finally did, blood was pouring from Stone's mouth.
Ratner insisted the security of the gloves was not a problem, saying he had opened the box of Grant gloves and the packaging they came in. Before that, the sealed gloves had been in the possession of the fighters' respective promoters Ruiz's gloves with promoter Don King, and Jones' with Square Ring, Inc.
Square Ring is owned by Jones, but Ratner did not believe the gloves had been tampered with.
"Both fighters use Grant gloves, and when I looked at them, I didn't see a problem," Ratner said. "I don't think the gloves are an issue."
The incident came at a time of heightened tension between the two fighters. "I think Stoney was frustrated because Roy Jones has not been doing anything to help promote this fight," Ruiz said.
Jones will receive a guaranteed $10million purse, while Ruiz agreed to take his payment solely from pay-per-view sales.


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