January 17, 2003

Heavyweight Champion John Ruiz - Under Siege By Roy Jones Jr And Don King

By Fiona Manning

WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz is the world’s first Hispanic heavyweight champion - but the Puerto Rican born Ruiz who descended on Los Angeles this week to promote his upcoming March 1 fight with Roy Jones Jr, said he still feels he is fighting for respect.

Ruiz, who goes by the ring name “The Quiet Man” really is quiet outside of the ring. Completely overshadowed by his gaudy promoter Don King who ran the press conference Wednesday (January 8th) like a full-decibel car auction, was probably, single-handedly more action than the sedate and elegant Baltimore Hotel in downtown LA has seen in more than 60 years.

The Baltimore has had more than its hair, er fair share of infamy before: it was the last known place that glamorous, bouffant-haired Elizabeth Short, the famed “Black Dahlia” was seen before her discarded, bisected body was found dumped on a vacant lot in 1946.

Wednesday marked another weird chapter in the hotel’s brush with the dark side of fame, only this time, the perpetrator, the intended victim and the alleged crime which is yet to take place, are hardly mysterious.

The public has been warned: Don King is Roy Jones Jr’s target - after John Ruiz, that is.

“I’m going to give Don a new haircut,” were the surprising first words out of Jones’ mouth.

Ruiz looked stunned, as did the press which had gathered to hear the details of the upcoming fight.

Jones, considered to be one of the most gifted fighters of his generation, is poised to leap from his comfortable light-heavyweight throne on March 1, in an effort to dismantle John Ruiz’s reign live on PPV at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Sponsored and hosted by Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino, this seems apt considering the dort of political skullduggery (associated with Caesar’s consorts) which has gone on in an effort to make this fight happen.

Jones has changed his mind more times on this fight than most people change their socks in a single week.

Many of those who attended the odd press conference were still debating whether in fact the fight would even happen at all.

Jones is after all the man who signed to fight former heavyweight champion Buster Douglas, then abruptly pulled out saying his father talked him out of taking the fight saying he could get hurt.

It was Jones who uncharacteristically took charge of the presser, announcing that he will give uber-promoter King a new haircut if he delivers on his promise and becomes the next heavyweight champion of the world.

What’s it all got to do with boxing? Not much.

These strange antics to which no promotional company really actually staged, show you exactly where Jones’ er...head is at regarding what is the riskiest fight he has ever taken.

Jones might make history - by being one of the few fighters to traverse the waters of middle weight, super middle, light heavy then grass-hoppering up to heavyweight - but he seemed oddly way too whimsical for a man about to take the plunge into new and potentially catastrophic depths.

Who cares about King’s hair? Come to think of it, his fabled crown has been looking a bit flat in recent months. The cigars get bigger, the clothes, jewels and American flags more outlandish. Maybe he needs to drag a hair dresser around in his ever-increasing entourage.

As boxing aficionados shuffled in the for the press breakfast/lunch announcing the next world heavyweight championship fight, cups of coffee and finger foods seemed more important than the facts.

Mowhawk or flattop was the hot topic?

What about the burning issue like has Jones finally signed all the contracts, long, short or whatever? Is he still the light heavyweight championship of the world? What will he do if he loses to Ruiz?

Apparently he’s contemplating a career at Fantastic Sam’s, judging by his endless talk of King getting a new look.

“He should give him a perm,” said one fighter (who asked not to be named), filling his pockets with croissants. “Then Don King will really look like the brother from another planet.”

Meanwhile up on the dais, Jones displayed large posters of what he would like to do to King who chuckled and suckled the end of his unlit cigar.

His laughter seemed almost hysterical as Jones waved around a pair of scissors, threatening to do the deed - in front of live witnesses. Mohawk? Those tresses need a tomahawk.

King seemed more than happy to be the center of attention, however. Basking in the glow of what he promises to be a sold-out show, he positively giggled at the notion of Jones running his fingers through his hair.

John Ruiz (they don’t call him the Quiet Man for nothing) finally spoke up after sitting in calm silence for more than an hour.

“Don doesn’t have to worry about a haircut,” he said. “Because Roy Jones Jr. will never beat me.

I am the heavyweight champion of the world. The pressure is all on Roy. He has to come up and meet me.”

Jones laughed and looked at his projected images of how King will look. It didn’t seem like this was the same man who has struggled so valiantly to keep his collective light heavyweight belts intact that he’s been known to pay his opponents’ sanctioning fees just to make a fight happen.

The IBF (International Boxing Federation) stripped Jones of that particular title when he announced his intention to fight Ruiz.

Jones didn’t let the prestigious belt go without a fight but you can be sure his other titles will follow should the fight actually take place.

King meanwhile, wanted the attention back on his favorite subject, him.

He and Jones made lots of jokes, more and more jokes about the hair. You could tell Jones was itching to start hacking away right there and then at King’s infamous ‘do.’

“Mohawk,” he said with satisfaction. “Definitely the Mohawk. He can carry a look like that.”

“Only Roy Jones can say something like that,” said King, his diamond rings blinding those in close proximity. “Only Roy.”

John Ruiz rolled his eyes.

As King himself is fond of saying, Only In America.

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