Boxing: Nothing for Lewis to fear as low blows benefit Ruiz

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The Independent Online

Lennox Lewis, somewhere in Stockholm with friends, probably did not get to see the man who disputes his being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world fight here on Saturday night.

The American John Ruiz will probably feel it is just as well as he was given scant opportunity to back up his statement, or further his chances of meeting Lewis, as he successfully defended his World Boxing Association heavyweight title against Kirk Johnson. Johnson was disqualified in the 10th round for repeated low blows in an artless exhibition of heavyweight boxing that would probably have made Lewis laugh.

What may not be so funny for Lewis, though, is that he may now be locked into his mandatory International Boxing Federation defence against the elusive Chris Byrd. Or, and he certainly would perish the thought, a third meeting with Evander Holyfield.

No question, Lewis would have been rooting for the previously undefeated Johnson, his successor as Canada's Olympic heavyweight representative, to score a spectacular victory over the plodding, awkward eyesore named Ruiz. However, Johnson beat himself. The fight was only moments old when he landed a border-line left hook and Ruiz complained to referee Joe Cortez. A few seconds after receiving a warning, Johnson lowered the boom again, sending Ruiz to the canvas with an unquestionably low blow.

Ruiz had to wait five minutes before being able to carry on. "I don't know what he was thinking," Ruiz said. "I came out fighting clean, and he hit me low and I had to catch my breath. It took me out of my game plan."

Johnson lost a point for the punch and was lucky when Cortez chose not to dock him another when Ruiz was sent sprawling again in the fourth round. However, it prompted one of his co-managers, Chris Seeger, to yell up to him: "They're going to take this from us, don't throw any more body shots." Johnson nodded in agreement and then went on to use his superior footspeed and jab to outbox Ruiz in the next two rounds. However, in the seventh, the Canadian went low again, this time landing on Ruiz's right leg and lost a second point.

He outboxed Ruiz again in the eighth round, but in the ninth the man who holds the WBA belt, finally showed some of his ability. Ruiz hurt Johnson with a right hand. The challenger tried to hold on so Ruiz threw him to the canvas. No knockdown, Cortez ruled. "I caught him with a good right and I was trying to let loose and I pushed him off me and he just fell down," Ruiz said.

Johnson was sent to the canvas again after a chopping right hand from Ruiz, but it came after the bell at the end of the ninth. No knockdown was the ruling once more.

In the 10th, Ruiz started to go after his man when Johnson stopped and went low again. Cortez immediately waved the fight over two minutes 17 seconds into the round. Ruiz, ahead on all three cards, got his 38th victory against four losses and a draw. "He just kept hitting me low. There is only so much I can take. I had to restrain myself," Ruiz said afterwards.

Somewhere in Stockholm, after he stops laughing, Lewis must be appalled. But who else is there?