Holyfield Tries For Fourth Title

Saturday, August 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Evander Holyfield knows a little something about coming back. Doing it against John Ruiz simply presents a different challenge.

Holyfield was written off as a fighter and thought to be retired after he was diagnosed with a heart problem after he lost to Michael Moorer and later was stopped in his third fight with Riddick Bowe.

Concerns about his health prompted Nevada boxing officials to order a battery of tests before allowing him to fight Mike Tyson the first time. Even then, many in boxing feared for his safety in the ring.

He shocked the boxing world by stopping Tyson, of course. And when he steps into the ring Saturday night against Ruiz, he will have made some $100 million in purses since beating Tyson in one of the sport's biggest upsets.

At the age of 37, he is aging and showing signs of deteriorating in the ring and is coming off a disputed draw and a loss to Lennox Lewis. But don't write him off just yet.

``I never thought I'd be in this position because I never thought anyone could beat me,'' Holyfield said. ``I know what my destiny is now. My destiny is to become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, and I will be.''

If Holyfield beats Ruiz — and he is a 4-1 favorite to do so — he would win the WBA title become the first fighter ever to hold pieces of the heavyweight title four times. Lewis holds the WBC and IBF versions, and most in boxing consider him the true champion based on his two wins over Holyfield.

It is the 20th title fight for Holyfield, who has been a warrior in the ring, but suffered the consequences several times for it. Ruiz, on the other hand, will be fighting for a title for the first time.

``This is his golden opportunity, but it's my golden opportunity, too,'' Holyfield said.

Lewis believes it isn't much of an opportunity at all, since the public considers him the real champion and the only reason the WBA title was taken from Lewis was because he defended it against Michael Grant instead of Ruiz, the No. 1 contender.

``The people know there's only one real heavyweight champion,'' Lewis said this week. ``Deep down, Evander knows I've beaten him twice. He went to court to get one of these shots at one of the belts because he couldn't beat me in the ring.''

Holyfield weighed 221 pounds, the heaviest of his career, at Thursday's weigh-in, while Ruiz was 224 pounds.

The scheduled 12-round fight at the Paris hotel-casino, which will be televised by Showtime about 11:30 p.m. EDT, is notable only because the winner will be able to claim a piece of the heavyweight championship both so desperately want.

Holyfield (36-4-1) is a favorite mainly because the 28-year-old Ruiz (36-3, 27 knockouts) has done little to distinguish himself outside his native Massachusetts and is known mostly for a 19-second knockout loss to David Tua nearly four years ago.

``I feel I deserve this. I worked my way into the No. 1 position,'' Ruiz said. ``There's nothing I can do to change anyone's mind until I win and keep on winning.''

Holyfield, in fact, would rather not fight Ruiz at all. But the lure of a vacant title means he must face the obscure fighter if he is to reach his goal of becoming the undisputed champion once again.

``My whole thing is that I end up as a champion,'' Holyfield said. ``I wouldn't be fighting John Ruiz if it weren't for the title.''