Toney Wins Heavyweight Title, Ruiz Retires

By Francis Walker
Updated: May 1, 2005

NEW YORK — James Toney made boxing history at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Toney became only the third fighter since Bob Fitzsimmons (1897) and Roy Jones, Jr. (2003) to win both world middleweight and heavyweight championship.

Toney (69-4-2, 43 KOs) won a 12-round, unanimous decision against two-time WBA heavyweight champ, John Ruiz (41-6-1, 28 KOs) to become the fourth-oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history at 36 years, 8 months. Ruiz, the first Latino to win a heavyweight championship, retired immediately following the bout.

George Foreman became the oldest fighter to win the heavyweight title at 45 when he KO’d Michael Moorer (Nov. 1994). Evander Holyfield (38 years, 10 months) and Jersey Joe Walcott (37 years, 1 month) are the second and third oldest fighters to win a heavyweight title.

“I did just what I said I would do, get rid of [Ruiz] from the heavyweight division,” Toney was quoted. “Don King will throw him in the trashcan where he belongs!”

Age was simply a number as Toney, only the fourth boxer to have fought in a heavyweight championship match, appeared to be the better boxer, and power-counter puncher. Ruiz could not avoid Toney’s right hand. Every left-jab Toney threw, he followed with a straight right that caught Ruiz flush on his chin.

“He’s a tough guy to fight,” Ruiz said immediately following the fight. “He moves around a lot. I connected a lot. I finished stronger and I won this fight.”

Ruiz’ best offense was his defense. The 241-pound Ruiz would follow his left jab with a firm clinch in an attempt to smother and wear down the 233-pound, ex-middleweight champion. Ruiz grappled Toney in a clinch at least 40 times during the fight.

Toney pressed the action with left jabs and jaw shattering right hands that occasionally surprised Ruiz. Toney would become increasingly aggressive in the later rounds, as Ruiz’ hit and clinch style did not win much approval.

Ruiz was also warned for rabbit punching, holding and hitting during the break. Toney proved Ruiz could not frustrate him with his antics. In round 7, Toney knocked Ruiz down with a left-right combination to his chin. Ruiz argued to referee Steve Smoger that he slipped.

Ruiz jabbed, grabbed, and clinched throughout the fight. Toney boxed, slipped punched and countered effectively with his left-right combinations.

As the bout reached the ladder rounds, it was clear Ruiz’ title reign would end the same way it did in March 2003 when Jones out boxed him. Ruiz was easy to hit, he clinched and provided little offense. Ruiz, a mentally tough two-time heavyweight champ, just did not have the skills to prevent Toney from taking his title.

“I didn’t expect much from John because he is an average fighter. John Ruiz is stupid. He can’t change his style. He only knows how to fight one way.”

The judges at ringside scored the fight 116-111 (twice) and 115-112 for Toney.

Toney is one of four heavyweight champions: Lamon Brewster is the WBO champion, Chris Byrd is the IBF champion, and Vitali Klitschko, perhaps the most recognized of the heavyweight champions, is the WBC champion.

There needs to be a world heavyweight championship unification tournament.

Klitschko is injured and will not be able to meet WBC, No. 1-ranked Hasim Rahman until the Fall. Rahman could meet Monte Barrett for the “interim” WBC heavyweight title in July.

Brewster will defend his WBO title against Andrew Golota on May 21.

Toney vs. Byrd – Ideal Fight

The 34 year-old Byrd is the longest reigning of the heavyweight champions at 2 years, 5 months. He does not have a fight lined up, but the most ideal fight for Byrd would be a unification match against Toney, the newly crowned WBA heavyweight champ.

At 6’ 1,” 212 pounds, Byrd is the most skillful and most accomplished of the heavyweight champions. Byrd is the only heavyweight to have fought 12-rounds against both the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir (L 12) and Vitali (W 12) and win 12-round decisions against a prime David Tua, Evander Holyfield, Andrew Golota, and a 270-pound Jameel McCline.

Byrd and Toney can slip punches and have quick hands for heavyweights. Also, Byrd, a southpaw (left handed) has become more willing to exchange with the bigger fighters. Toney is an old school fighter who likes to talk and backup what he says.

Byrd is promoted by Don King. Toney is promoted by Dan Goosen, even though King has options to promote Toney following his victory against Ruiz, another King fighter. A Byrd-Toney unification bout is possible.

In other bouts

Heavyweight Darryl Williamson (22-3, 18 KOs) stopped Derrick Jefferson (28-4, 21 KOs) at 2:41 in the second round.

Vicente Mosquera (21-1-1, 10 KO) defeated WBA super featherweight champion Yodsanan Nanthachai (44-3-1, 36 KOs). Mosquera dropped the champion in rounds one, three, and eleven en route to a 12-round unanimous decision. The scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 118-108.

IBF junior bantamweight championship Luis Perez (23-1, 14 KOs) knocked out Luis Bolano (38-1, 28 KOs) with a body in round six.

Heavyweight Israel “King Kong” Garcia (19-1, 8 KOs) won a 6-round round decision over Andre Oliynk (10-3, 9 KOs) in an unpopular contest. The judges scored the bout 59-54, 59-55, 57-56.

Larry Donald (42-3, 2 KOs), fresh off his 12-round victory against Evander Holyfield in Nov. 2004, fought Ray Austin (22-3-3, 15 KOs) to a 12-round majority draw. Scores were 114-114 (twice) and 115-113 for Donald.

Middleweight Evans “The African Warrior” Ashira (24-1, 13 KOs) defeated previously unbeaten Quinton Smith (21-1, 14 KOs). (Scores: 98-92, 98-92, 99-91).

Also, light heavyweight Oleksandr Garaschenko (14-8, 6 KOs) won a six-round split decision over Elvir Muriqi 30-3, 18 KOs) The scores were 57-56, 57-56 (Garaschenko), 57-56 (Muriqi).