Ruiz-Johnson makes boxing drop lower

Jul 30, 2002 3:54 AM

Boxing can fall lower, as John Ruiz can attest.

The defending WBA heavyweight champ retained the crown on a 10th round disqualification in his title matchup with Canadian Kirk Johnson after being hit with a low blow for the fourth and final time.

Ruiz won despite being better than a 2-1 underdog and was ahead on points, though there was just a one-point difference (86-85) on two of the judges’ cards. The third card had Ruiz ahead 86-83.

The bout drew a crowd of 6,572 to the Mandalay Bay Events Center, configured for the event to 8,500 seats.

"There was little interest here on the fight," said Rich Dressler, boxing analyst and linemaker at Imperial Palace. "It’s amazing that the Holmes-Butterbean fight went pay-per-view and this one didn’t. That shows the state of boxing right now. It’s bad."

Johnson had been unbeaten (32-0-1) entering the fight and opened as a —300 favorite in most of the Las Vegas and offshore books. Imperial Palace had Johnson at —270 and Ruiz at +210 prior to Saturday night’s bout.

"We pretty much had the fight sitting at 3-1 all week," Dressler said. "It’s amazing that Ruiz was that much of an underdog considering how he did against Holyfield and that Johnson (13th) wasn’t even ranked in the Top 10 by the WBC.

The Rampart in Summerlin had Johnson at —250 with Ruiz also getting a +210 buyback.

Ruiz (38-4-1) survived three grueling battles with former champ Evander Holyfield en route to inheriting the WBA version of the title.

The Massachusetts fighter was 1-1-1 in the Holyfield trilogy.

After the fight, Ruiz said he wanted to face the recognized WBC and IBF champ Lennox Lewis in a unification title matchup, but that’s not likely to happen considering the lack of interest.

Referee Joe Cortez penalized Johnson one point twice in the fight prior to the 10th round.

Turning to the Holmes-Esch fiasco, offshore books made the 52-year-old former champ a —600 favorite over the self-proclaimed king of the buffets.

Esch was a +400 underdog, but paid off at a price of +$1.05 for managing to go the 10-round distance.

The show was not part of the Mandalay Bay card and no Las Vegas book posted a line