John Ruiz's defense of his WBA heavyweight boxing title against Andrew Golota has the potential to be very ugly in a heavyweight extravaganza at Madison Square Garden today.
Ruiz owns a piece of the heavyweight title despite a clinching, hugging style that draws more boos than cheers from the fans he hasn't already put to sleep. Still, it has been effective enough for Ruiz to be able to claim that he is a two-time heavyweight champion.
"I'm not the prettiest fighter out there," Ruiz said. "But I come to win and I make people quit. That's what they're afraid of."
Golota, meanwhile, draws fear for a different reason. He got his nickname, the Foul Pole, for repeatedly hitting Riddick Bowe below the belt and being disqualified in fights he was winning, and even now there are questions about his mental stability in the ring.
Golota did nothing to put those questions to rest in the weeks leading up to the fight when he complained he was being forced into a fight he didn't want, and would rather retire than continue his brief comeback anyway.
The two meet in a scheduled 12-round fight which tops a card including a title defense by IBF champion Chris Byrd against his good friend, Jameel McCline, and appearances by former champions Evander Holyfield and Hasim Rahman.
"This card will be like reviving the heavyweight division and is the next step for me to unifying the titles," Ruiz said.
That's not likely, since promoter Don King controls all the fighters and won't risk losing a champion by pitting them against each other. And the heavyweight most consider the best of the three major champions, WBC champion Vitali Klitschko, isn't in any big hurry to risk his title against anyone who might beat him.
The card, though, gives a bunch of big fighters a chance to get some work, and offers the very real possibility of two of the titles changing hands.
It also offers the sad sight of the 42-year-old Holyfield fighting for the first time since taking a beating from James Toney a year ago, seemingly determined to continue with his improbable plan to become the undisputed heavyweight champion once again.
Holyfield, who has won only two of his last eight fights, meets light-hitting Larry Donald and Rahman faces Kali Meehan of Australia on the night.
"I truly believe there's no fear in me, and that's why I do what I do," Holyfield said. "I'm a smart fighter, and I realize what I've done and what I can still do in the ring."
Ruiz (40-5-1, 28 knockouts) and Golota (38-4-1, 31 knockouts) is the final fight in the crowded lineup, but the most intriguing fight will be Byrd's defense against McCline.
Byrd is a crafty southpaw who thrills in making other fighters miss, though he stood and traded punches with Golota in April when the two fought to a draw. He doesn't plan to do the same thing against McCline, who at 121kg outweighs him by 25kg and will be looking to land the big punch.
"I'm the smallest guy of the eight heavyweights on this card, but I don't care because I can beat all of them," said Byrd, who won a silver medal at 75kg in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Byrd has some experience against big guys -- he beat Klitschko when he quit with a shoulder injury a few years ago -- and they don't come much bigger than the 2.01mMcCline.
"You offend me when you hit me with a clean punch," Byrd said.