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Boxing: Former Champs Square Off in Bid to Return to Top

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posted on Dec, 10 2003 @ 07:02 PM
Associated Press - December 10, 2003

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (AP) - Hasim Rahman and John Ruiz both won heavyweight titles they would lose in lackluster showings against big-name opponents.

Now they're both fighting for a chance to return to the top.

Rahman and Ruiz face each other Saturday in a 12-round bout that will determine whose career is revived and whose fizzles out.

The fight is a co-feature on the Bernard Hopkins-William Joppy middleweight championship card at Boardwalk Hall.

``This fight is my career,'' Rahman said Wednesday. ``It's a must-win fight for me. If I can't beat him, I can't be heavyweight champion.''

For seven months in 2001, he was.

In April 2001, Rahman stunned the sports world with a fifth-round knockout of heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. But Lewis drubbed him in the rematch, and Rahman hasn't won since, losing to an aging Evander Holyfield and then fighting to a draw against David Tua.

Since the bout against Tua, Rahman (35-1-4) has dropped about 20 pounds (9 kilograms), moved his family to Las Vegas and replaced his trainer - it's now Roger Mayweather.

``This is a rejuvenated Rock who's looking to do what he can to be a two-time champion. He's in the best shape of his entire life,'' co-manager Steve Nelson said. ``He knows he had a missed opportunity.''

Some see Rahman as a one-hit wonder who got lucky against Lewis. Rahman and his corner men see it the other way around; it was Lewis who got lucky in the rematch.

Rahman said he wasn't mentally prepared for Lewis the second time.

``We both fought in the first fight. I didn't throw hardly any punches in the second fight. I wasn't even into it. Physically, I was in shape, but mentally, I was somewhere else. I just felt like as soon as I hit him, the fight would be over,'' Rahman said.

Rahman weighed 259.5 pounds (116.8 kilograms) for the Tua fight and is below 240 pounds (108 kilograms) now.

Ruiz lost his WBA title to light heavyweight Roy Jones Jr. in March. After rocking Jones in the first round with a right, Ruiz struggled to find any rhythm against his quicker, more aggressive opponent.

Outweighed by 33 pounds (14.85 kilograms), Jones coasted to a unanimous 12-round decision. Ruiz, who was in the midst of a breakup with his wife, said later he wasn't emotionally fit to fight that night.

Ruiz since has divorced and says he'll have a clearer head Saturday.

``My strategy is to throw a lot of punches, of course, move around, which is what I didn't do last time, and just box,'' said Ruiz (38-1-5).

The winner earns the right to fight WBA champion Jones or assume his title if Jones refuses to defend it within four months.

As for the loser?

As Ruiz's trainer Norman Stone put it: ``If he loses, he goes to McDonald's for an application.''


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