<
>

Haye's first title defense a hit

MANCHESTER, England -- David Haye made a successful first defense of his WBA heavyweight title, knocking down John Ruiz four times Saturday before the American challenger's corner stopped the fight in the ninth round.

The Englishman sent Ruiz to the canvas twice in the first round, but Ruiz survived until his trainer waved the white towel 2 minutes, 1 second into the ninth.

"I knew he would keep getting up, he's that type of guy with resilience and drive," Haye said. "He wobbled, but he was still there and even when he was hurt, he kept chucking good shots back. But there wasn't a shot that bothered me."

After his 24th victory of a 25-fight career, Haye now wants to unite the heavyweight belts by fighting either of the Klitschko brothers -- Vitali or Wladimir -- who between them hold the WBC, IBF and minor WBO titles.

"My duty now is to provide excitement and entertainment," the 29-year-old said. "I'm nowhere near the complete article, but I'm getting there."

Haye, who won the heavyweight title from Russia's Nikolai Valuev in November, hadn't managed to spar for the last month after cutting his right hand in training.

"We were close to rearranging the fight a few weeks ago because David cut his hand sparring," trainer Adam Booth said. "But David was very confident he could win it without sparring properly and that's what he did."

For Ruiz, who held and lost the WBA title twice, it was the ninth defeat of a 55-fight career that could be drawing to close.

"It was a good match and he was the best man," the 38-year-old American said. "You can't win them all, you have to keep moving forward -- that's my philosophy.

"Most definitely I will take some time off and spend time with the family and regroup. I've been around this game a little too long, you realize you have to move on with your life and maybe this is the time."

So relaxed was Haye in the buildup to the fight that he spent the afternoon at Old Trafford watching Manchester United lose to Chelsea in the Premier League.

Haye -- a former cruiserweight champion -- didn't waste any time getting started in the first heavyweight title fight staged in Britain for a decade. He knocked Ruiz down in the opening 30 seconds, but the American got up on a count of seven.

Ruiz was on the canvas again before the end of the round, and much to Haye's disbelief managed to survive an onslaught of speedy combinations. Haye had two points deducted for hitting on the back of the head.

"In the first round I wasn't trying to knock him out," Haye said. "I tried a little too hard, whenever I try and knock someone out it never happens."

Ruiz's experience -- this was his 11th world title bout -- began to tell as he looked resilient in the face of the punishment Haye was delivering.

He continued to face a barrage of heavy blows and went down again in the fifth and sixth rounds -- rising on a count of eight each time as he refused to capitulate.

"I knew he would be tough and durable," Haye said. "It was a good learning experience. I really enjoyed it in there. I like the way I landed my bombs and he kept coming forward. ... I tried to take the sting out of his shots and relax."

Ruiz, though, could take no more of Haye's speed and accuracy and in the ninth the Londoner won by technical knockout.

That ended Ruiz's hopes of joining Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield as three-time world heavyweight champions.