He's Taking Next Step With a Heavy Heart

Times Staff Writer

His supporters say he can beat anybody. His critics say he has beaten too many nobodies. His supporters say he is the master of ducking and bobbing and weaving. His critics say the thing he does best is simply duck whenever a meaningful fight is proposed.

Roy Jones has been a middleweight, super-middleweight and now light-heavyweight champion, yet, in the world of pay-per-view, he hasn't even been a contender. Now, he has agreed to step up to the heavyweight division and fight World Boxing Assn. champion John Ruiz. The two will meet on March 1 in Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center.

Question: Why would you give up an undisputed title to venture into the heavyweight division?

Answer: What do I live for, to be undisputed or to fight? I live to fight.

Q: Do you see a victory as finally establishing your place in boxing history, but fear that a loss could forever damage your reputation?

A: I'm going to fight a heavyweight. That can't screw up my place in history. I can only make history. I beat James Toney, a great fighter in his time. That secured my place in history. To say I need to beat a heavyweight to secure it is ridiculous.

Q: So obviously it bothers you that, to get the kind of buzz you are now receiving for the first time in your career, you have had to move out of your weight division into a division where you are vastly undersized?

A: Yes, why do I have to fight outside of my division to get credit? Why can't I get credit within my division? I have ruled three divisions. This fight should be a plus. It's as if I was an electrician, but I couldn't get paid unless I worked as a carpenter.

Q: A lot of people had trouble making sense of your controversial loss to Si-hun Park in the 1988 Olympics. How long did it take you to get over the feeling you had been robbed of a gold medal?

A: I thought about it for a long time. How can you not think about it when it was the biggest goal of my life for so long? But finally, I realized it was time to let it alone. God knows best. That made me come back and work harder when I turned professional.

Q: With all the success you have had as a professional, the only other noteworthy opponent out there for you other than Ruiz is Bernard Hopkins, whom you have already beaten. Why did that fight fall through?

A: Because he wanted too much money. The most money he had ever made in the past for a fight was $2 million. He had a chance to make $10 million fighting me. He turned it down. This is boxing, this is his career, this is his life. He's never made more than $2 million, he just lost $600,000 in a lawsuit against [advisor] Lou DiBella and he turns this down? What in the hell is he doing?

Q: Would you have preferred to fight Hopkins instead of Ruiz?

A: Do I want to fight a man who is 10 pounds lighter than me or a man 40 pounds heavier? What do you think? This is not rocket science. Fighting John Ruiz is not going to be easy.

Q: As a light-heavyweight, you fought at 175 pounds. How much will you weigh for Ruiz?

A: Hundred and ninety, maybe 192.

Q: How much do you normally weigh when you are not in training?

A: Around 189 or 190.

Q: Ruiz's fights have featured a lot of holding, head butts and low blows. Does that concern you?

A: I am a grown man. I can be as dirty as the next man. I can fight any kind of fight he wants to fight. I'm the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I can fight inside or outside.

Q: The oddsmakers have made you a 9-5 favorite because of your vastly superior speed. But there is no question Ruiz has the superior punching power. Do you think about what would happen if he caught you with a solid blow?

A: Do I think about it? No, why do I want to think about getting caught? I want to think about not getting caught.

Q: You sound as if you have no fear, but the one thing you have admitted being afraid of is earthquakes after being in Los Angeles during the 1994 Northridge quake. What are your memories of that morning?

A: It wasn't too cool. It caught me when I was sleeping. I woke up and wondered what was going on. The room was shaking back and forth. Once it stopped, I started. I got out of town right away and it took me about six months to come back.

Q: But living in Florida, you are faced with hurricanes. Why don't those bother you?

A: We can see them coming.

Q: Speaking of what's coming up, if you do indeed emerge victorious over Ruiz, will you continue to fight as a heavyweight?

A: My plan is not to be a legitimate heavyweight. I am just taking one shot at the greatest prize in sports. But if God called me and said, you need to do this, it's done, I won't think twice about it.

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