By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Boxing Writer
For most of 11 rounds Saturday night, it seemed John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo would never hit each other. When Ruiz finally did manage to land a few
serious blows, an ugly fight was suddenly over.
A fight booed loudly from the opening round for a lack of action came to a crashing close late in the 11th round when Ruiz landed a series of head
punches that prompted referee Wayne Kelly to stop the fight.
Oquendo had taken about six punches to the head but was still on his feet and his corner protested the stoppage. But the fight went into the books as
a TKO at 2:33 of the 11th round.
"This is bad for boxing," Oquendo said. "They stopped a great fighter in the last round."
The end of the fight was stunning only because the previous 10-plus rounds were filled with more holding, clinching and posing than any real
"It's my job to protect the safety of the fighters. He took five or six shots and failed to defend himself," Kelly said. "He said he was fine after
the fight and he was. But if he had taken three more shots he wouldn't be."
By the end of the 10th round, an unofficial count showed the referee had been forced to separate the fighters 62 different times, and the crowd of
15,195 at Madison Square Garden booed almost from the opening bell until the end.
"I was taking it," Ruiz said. "But I knew sooner or later he was going to give up."
The fight preceded the IBF heavyweight title fight between Chris Byrd and Andrew Golota.
The fight between Ruiz and Oquendo was billed as the first between two Latinos for the heavyweight title. But it turned out they had more in common
with the way they both fought than the fact both had Puerto Rican parents.
Both held and mauled and held and mauled some more. When they weren't holding, they were posing in the center of the ring, seemingly unable to pull
the trigger on any punches.
"He was moving around a lot and I tried to run and chase him down," Ruiz said.
As the rounds wore on, and the booing got even louder, Kelly implored the two fighters to do something.
"You got to start boxing," Kelly told them midway through the fifth round.
Before the final series of punches, the only real action came at the end of the ninth round when Ruiz landed two or three punches to Oquendo's
Ruiz, who earned $450,000, said he was willing to face any of the top fighters in a division decimated by the retirement of Lennox Lewis. Next week,
Vitali Klitschko fights Corrie Sanders for the title vacated by the retirement of Lewis.
"I want to unify the title," Ruiz said. "I will fight anyone."
Both Lewis and Mike Tyson were in attendance, though Lewis left after the seventh round of an increasingly bad fight.
Tyson drew cheers and standing ovations from some of the same fans who were booing the fighters in the ring.
"This is the worse fight I've ever seen," a fan yelled loudly during the sixth round. "I want my money back."
Ruiz, 240, improved to 39-4-1 while Oquendo, 222 1/2, fell to 24-3.
It was the second straight title loss for Oquendo, who was beaten by Byrd last September.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.