With every dazzling move, Roy Jones Jr. mocked the doubters who predicted he wouldn't go through with this fight. With every devastating uppercut, he proved wrong those who say he refuses to fight credible opponents. With every smug smile, he laughed in the face of those who said he was too small, too light to fight a heavyweight. With every decisive round, he conjured up the ghost of Bob Fitzsimmons.
And finally, when the bell rang to end the 12th round Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, and Jones was declared the unanimous winner over John Ruiz, there were nothing but cheers for Jones from a crowd that also celebrated the fact they had sat in on history.
For the first time in over a century, a former middleweight champion had beaten a heavyweight champion, Fitzsimmons being the last to do it when he knocked out Jim Corbett in the 14th round in 1897.
For only the second time in history, a light-heavyweight champion had beaten a heavyweight champ, the first being Michael Spinks, sitting ringside Saturday, who won a decision over Larry Holmes in 1985.
Jones has been ranked at the top or near the top of the list of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Now the designation is not necessary. He has beaten the best at any weight by defeating Ruiz, the World Boxing Assn. heavyweight title-holder.
Granted, Lennox Lewis is the recognized heavyweight champion, but Ruiz had a bona fide title.
"Everyone said I couldn't take a punch," a jubilant Jones said. "I don't give a damn about no punch."
Although Jones was the slight favorite going in, there were two big surprises right at the start.
When Jones weighed in at 193 pounds Thursday wearing a sweat suit and perhaps a weighted belt underneath, it was assumed that he probably weighed no more than 188, giving away almost 40 pounds to the 226-pound Ruiz.
But when he agreed to be weighed again just before the fight, Jones tipped the scales at 199.
The other assumption was Jones' only chance was to stay on his toes and stay out of the way of the heavier Ruiz.
But right from the beginning, Jones planted his feet and made it clear he was not in awe of Ruiz, that he was willing to trade punches when necessary.
"I said I wasn't going to change my style," Jones said. "Until somebody beats Roy Jones, Jr., I'm not going to change my style.
"People said I would never be able to hit a heavyweight. Everybody said I was going to run, but I knew I was not going to run."
Jones, a master boxer with a wide array of punches thrown from various angles, used his whole arsenal against Ruiz in improving to 48-1 with 38 knockouts. Jones used his quickness, his dancing ability, his razor-sharp jab, his overhand right and even his bolo punch a few times.
"I felt I had control early," Jones said, "but you have to remember, he is a heavyweight with a heavy punch. John fights on his front foot. You can box him."
Judge Jerry Roth had it 116-112, Duane Ford 117-111 and Stan Christodoulou 118-112. The Times scored it 116-112 for Jones.
After Ruiz, whose nose bled heavily through much of the fight and never seemed to adjust to Jones' style, blamed referee Jay Nady for the defeat.
"I just couldn't get my punches off," said Ruiz (38-5-1). "I felt every time I went in, the ref broke it up. The ref said no hitting and holding, but that's what Roy was doing to me. I wanted to get in there. I wanted to fight as a heavyweight, to use my weight to put pressure on him, but I felt like I never got chance.
"I would give Jones more credit if I felt I was given the same advantage he was."
In the years to come, Ruiz' complaints will go down as nothing more than a footnote. A footnote to history.
In an earlier title fight, Winky Wright (45-3), who has been trying to lure Oscar De La Hoya into the ring, showed that he needs to spend more time watching his opponents and less time gazing enviously at De Hoya.
Wright defended his International Boxing Federation junior-middleweight title with an unanimous decision over J.C. Candelo (25-5-3). But Wright, who had hoped to finish off Candelo early and in impressive fashion in order to boost his image, instead struggled to pull out the decision.
"It was tough and I'm glad he was tough," Wright said. "It will make me more ready when I face De La Hoya."
Earlier in the evening, Jean-Marc Mormeck of France defended his WBA cruiserweight title with a TKO over Alexander Gurov of Ukraine. Mormeck (29-2, 21) stopped Gurov (32-4-1) 32 seconds into the eighth round.
And in a heavyweight elimination bout for the IBF title, Fres Oquendo (24-1, 15) knocked out Maurice Harris (19-13-2) at 2:12 of the 10th round of a scheduled 12-rounder.