By Scott Shaffer @ MSG
Despite two knockdowns, a point deduction and the mid-fight ejection of his chief second, John Ruiz walked out of New York City's Madison Square Garden with the WBA heavyweight belt still around his waist on Saturday. Ruiz closed promoter Don King's pay-per-view telecast by winning a twelve-round decision over Andrew Golota despite suffering two official knockdowns in the second round. Like every Ruiz fight, the constant clinching made the close rounds difficult to score, and the problem was compounded by referee Randy Neumann, who incorrectly signalled a second knockdown when Ruiz fell down without being hit by a punch. Nonetheless, Ruiz won a unanimous decision by scores of 114-111 (twice) and 113-112.
Boxingtalk's panel of unofficial judges favored Golota by a majority: 114-113 (Scott Shaffer), 113-112 (Ray Campbell) and 113-113 (Greg Leon). According to Compubox, Golota landed 152 punches to 121 by Ruiz. Ruiz is now 41-5-1 and since losing to Roy Jones in March 2003, he has run off wins over Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo and now Golota. After years of falling apart in big fights, Golota can now point to his April 2004 draw with Chris Byrd and this loss to Ruiz and make a strong argument that he should own both the WBA and IBF heavyweight championships. Immediately after the decision Golota said, "I thought I won the fight... I am confused."
Given the reputations of both men, the bout started exactly as expected when Golota punched Ruiz in the back of the head and Ruiz put Golota in a headlock in the first round. But things quickly got exciting. When the bell ended the first round, the boxers kept fighting, and as the pro-Golota crowd of 12,777 rose to its feet, Ruiz's out-of-control trainer Norman Stone crossed the ring and popped one of his counterparts in the chest. In the second round, a sweeping right hand by Golota put Ruiz on the canvas. Golota was credited with a second knockdown in the same round, although replays showed it was not deserved. In fact, as Ruiz fell down as he came forward, Golota hit Ruiz while he was down. But the rugged Ruiz got up and even staggered Golota before the end of the action-packed second round. Both men were bleeding by the third, Golota from the nose and Ruiz from the forehead. In the fourth round, referee Randy Neumann deducted a point from Ruiz for hitting behind the head, but Golota was using similar tactics. The next few rounds settled into the ugly clinch-fest that has become Ruiz's trademark. When Neumann stopped the action and ordered Stone to repair loose tape hanging from Ruiz's glove, Stone had words with Neumann for the second time of the bout, and the veteran referee, a former heavyweight himself, quickly ejected Stone and signalled for security to take Stone back to the dressing room. Even without Stone in his corner, Ruiz is one of the toughest men in the sport and he stayed right in front of Golota face, staggering the taller boxer twice in the ninth round and opening a new cut over Golota's right eye. The cut worsened in the tenth, but Golota held his own in what was another ugly round. There was confusion at the end of the tenth when Ruiz hit the deck just after the bell sounded, but scoring wise, it was a non-event. Ruiz won the twelfth round on all three scorecards, but the last round was not a deciding factor because Ruiz would have won a decision even if the last round went to Golota.