- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

LAS VEGAS Roy Jones Jr. used his superior hand speed and solid punching power to silence his critics and take the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship from a bloodied John Ruiz in a unanimous decision last night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Judge Duane Ford scored the fight 117-111, while judge Jerry Roth had it 116-112 and judge Stanley Christodoulou scored the bout 118-110, all in favor of Jones, who peppered Ruiz all night with sharp and powerful lefts and rights.
Jones (48-1) became the first fighter to rise from middleweight champion to the heavyweight title since Englishman Robert Fitzsimmons knocked out Gentleman Jim Corbett in Carson City, Nev., in 1897.
He also became the second light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight crown. Michael Spinks was first when he defeated Larry Holmes in 1985. Of the 14 light heavyweights who have tried to make the move up to heavyweight, only Spinks and Jones have been successful.
It remains to be seen whether Jones, 34, will follow the same path as Spinks, who remained heavyweight champion until he was knocked out by Mike Tyson in 91 seconds in 1988.
Spinks weighed 205 pounds when he fought for the heavyweight title. Jones came into the fight weighing 193 pounds, and the division, with the likes of World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali all 6-foot-5 or bigger and 250 pounds or more is much bigger than it was when Spinks made his move. Ruiz (38-5) is 6-foot-4 and weighed 226 pounds for last night's fight.
Jones, who won the middleweight championship by outpointing Bernard Hopkins at RFK Stadium in May 1993 and went on to win the super middleweight and light heavyweight titles, has said he had no interest in being a heavyweight.
"My point is not to become a legitimate heavyweight," he said. "It is just to take that one challenge for the most coveted crown in sports."
The victory should quiet some of Jones' critics who have accused the talented fighter over the years of avoiding a tough fight.
The Ruiz-Jones fight was supposed to be part of a so-called heavyweight tournament orchestrated by promoter Don King. The promoter put it together to carve out a piece of the division for himself while he was on the outside looking in at fights involving Lewis and Mike Tyson, the two most dominant figures in the division.
King paid Lewis $1million to give up his International Boxing Federation title, then set up a fight for the vacant crown between Evander Holyfield and Chris Byrd last December. The other part of the tournament was last night's Ruiz-Jones fight.
Byrd defeated Holyfield and, based on King's plans, is supposed to fight the winner of last night's bout. But it is unlikely that Jones, who drew a guaranteed $10million purse as opposed to Ruiz's cut based solely on pay-per-view revenue, will fight Byrd, if for no other reason than he would not likely get anything close to a $10million purse. Jones could simply drop back down to the light heavyweight division, where he retains the WBC and WBA titles.
For Ruiz, the loss likely means fading back into heavyweight obscurity. He came by the belt only through the influence of King, his promoter, getting him the No.1 ranking in the WBA and then getting Lewis stripped of that title and setting up a fight between Ruiz and Holyfield for the vacant belt.
Holyfield won the first fight in a close decision, and Ruiz won the second. They met once more in a bout that ended in a draw.

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