David Haye promised drama and he gave us that in abundance in making the first defence of his World Boxing Association world heavyweight title last night. Moreover, London's Hayemaker proved himself beyond doubt the most exciting heavyweight in the world as he blasted American challenger John Ruiz to defeat in nine blistering rounds before a 20,000 crowd at Manchester's MEN Arena.
Ruiz, one of the most hardened and experienced heavyweights around, found himself peppered with punches, some of which were almost Ali-like in their delivery and selection. He was on the floor four times – once illegally – before the Panamanian referee eventually intervened, Ruiz's corner having thrown a towel into the ring after two minutes and one second of the ninth round.
According to Ali's 88-year-old former trainer Angelo Dundee, Haye has "lit up the heavyweight division and brought into it a breath of fresh air". Haye certainly proved himself in this fight a worthy contender to challenge the supremacy of the Klitschko brothers providing he can disentangle himself from the contractual agreement of a return with the lumbering giant Nikolay Valuev, from whom he impudently snatched this title four months ago.
Then it was a case of hit and run. Last night Haye returned to the sort of style of his dashing, crashing cruiserweight days, spiced up with speed and skill. By the end the brave 38-year-old Ruiz, who was having his 11th world title fight, looked as if he had been hit by a truck rather than a succession of Haye's thunderous right-hand punches. To his credit Ruiz kept ploughing forward and it was a new experience for Haye to find someone who could keep taking those punches and keep coming at him.
In the first home defence made by a British world heavyweight champion in a decade, Haye decked Ruiz with one of those right hands when the fight was only a few seconds old. Ruiz took an eight-count and was down again moments later after being bundled over the ropes but he rightly claimed that one of Haye's blows was a rabbit-punch and the champion was deducted a point.
Ruiz was put down again in the fifth round, this time unsuccessfully claiming a rabbit-punch, and again in the sixth. By now his nose was broken and both eyes bruised and swollen. But still he courageously plodded forward, only to be picked off almost at will by Haye's accurate jab and whiplash right.
At the end of this session, he was told "one more round" by his corner. In fact, he was allowed a couple more and at the end of the eighth another Haye right hand thundered into his face. A replica blow brought about the end in the ninth, blood spurting from Ruiz's cheek. Officially the result was given as a retirement by Ruiz. It also may have brought about the closure of his 18-year career for it was only the second time in 55 contests that he had been stopped. The last time was 14 years ago by David Tua.
The Valuev fight may well have been a freak show but this was an entirely different test for Haye. He said afterwards: "It didn't go quite as I planned because I would have liked to knock him clean out but he was strong and durable. I didn't think I would get hit as much as I did but once I started to land my punches I knew I would have him in the end."
The Haye protégé George Groves became the new Commonwealth super-middleweight champion after only 17 months and eight fights as a professional, stopping the Ghanaian holder Charles Adamu midway through the sixth round. In doing so the 22-year-old Londoner beat his rival James DeGale, the Olympic Gold medallist, who he defeated as an amateur, in the race for a title.
It was a bit of a gamble for Groves against a highly seasoned opponent but he kept his cool, picked his shots and had Adamu on the floor three times, once in the first and twice in the fourth before referee Victor Louhran halted the one-way traffic.
"I was totally comfortable," said Groves, who now wants to fight British champion Paul Smith, and ultimately DeGale. "I knew I could hurt him and I was hoping for a knock-out. But I wanted to be as clinical as possible."
There was no such success for another Briton challenging for a Commonwealth title. Colin Lynes was outclassed by the flashy London-based Nigerian light-welterweight title-holder Ajose Olusegun and the fight ended bizarrely when he was counted out after sinking to one knee in a corner in the eighth round. At the end of the seventh the 32-year-old seemed to be retching as he sat on the stool in his own corner after a series of body blows from Olusegun.Reuse content