Heavy-duty task

Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 12:53 a.m.

When Roy Jones Jr. was young, he used to beat up bigger kids all the time. It was no big deal, though he eventually grew tired of doing it for just fun.

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John Ruiz, left, faces off with Roy Jones Jr. after a news conference Wedensday at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Ruiz defends his WBA heavyweight title against Jones Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Jones is moving up in weight class to meet Ruiz.

(AP Photo)

``I stopped because one day I wanted to get paid for it,'' Jones said.

That day comes tonight when Jones finally takes the chance his critics said he wouldn't, fighting John Ruiz in an intriguing matchup of sizes and styles for the WBA heavyweight title.

It won't be as easy as it was in the old neighborhood. History indicates it is nearly impossible.

Of the 13 light heavyweight champions who challenged for the heavyweight title, only Michael Spinks was successful. And, unlike Jones, Spinks had the size of a heavyweight when he beat Larry Holmes in 1985.

To beat a strong fighter who outweighs him by 33 pounds, Jones will need all of his considerable boxing skills and more. He'll have to fight Ruiz from the outside and stay away from him as deep as he can into the scheduled 12-round bout.

At some point, though, he's simply going to have to fight him.

``You're going to get tired. The guy is going to catch up with you, and you've got to deal with the guy,'' Jones said. ``That's what you have fights for - to find out how you deal with it.''

Oddsmakers think Jones will deal with it well, making him a 9-5 favorite to become only the second light heavyweight champion to win a piece of the heavyweight title.

``He'll find these guys punch real, real hard,'' IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd said. ``John Ruiz is not known as a big puncher, but he'll be a huge puncher compared to Roy.''

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