CANCUN, Mexico - Former heavyweight champ John Ruiz won a unanimous decision over Jameel McCline last night before Oleg Maskaev's World Boxing Council heavyweight title belt was stripped by Samuel Peter at Plaza de Toros in the main event.
The undercard bout featured much of the clutching and grabbing expected from Ruiz (43-7-1) and McCline (38-9-3), but the aging veterans also provided many moments of good action as they tried to keep their title dreams alive. McCline lost to Peter in his last bout despite flooring the Nigerian star three times in the first three rounds, while Ruiz was winless in three straight bouts before an easy victory last October.
Ruiz, a former Chelsea, Mass., resident and former World Boxing Association heavyweight champ known for his unattractive style, was more active and accurate in nearly every round, though every round also featured multiple shoving matches and clinches.
Ruiz landed many of his best punches in the 11th round to punctuate his easy win by judges' scores of 119-109, 118-110, and 117-111. He became the WBC's No. 3 challenger with the win.
Peter let out a joyous cry as he left the Mexican bullfighting ring with the WBC heavyweight title belt draped over his hulking shoulders.
The Nigerian Nightmare had finally achieved his sweetest dream, winning his first championship after years as a promising prospect. He did it with no matador theatrics - just the blistering punches that make him the heavyweight division's most exciting coming attraction.
Peter stopped Maskaev in the final seconds of the sixth round, claiming Maskaev's belt with one last punishing flurry.
Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) is widely considered the next big heavyweight in a division that desperately needs a dynamo, but his progression was slowed by politics, a few tame performances, and Maskaev's injuries that forced this bout to be postponed from October. After all that waiting, nothing could stop Peter, 27, when he finally got in the ring with the 39-year-old champion.
"I knew he can't stand my power," Peter said. "I'm the best heavyweight in the world. I'm undisputed. I can beat anyone. All of them are going down."
Peter's coronation was viewed by a lively sellout crowd at Plaza de Toros, the unlikely site of boxing-mad Mexico's first heavyweight title fight. The fans got heavyweight-quality entertainment: Maskaev (34-6) and Peter both rocked each other with tremendous punches in the third round, but Peter eventually shredded Maskaev's defenses with a sixth-round flurry.
The four major heavyweight titles have been dispersed among several relatively unknown Eastern Europeans in recent years, but now an African has joined them - albeit an African who lives and trains in Las Vegas. Though he still lacks some technique, he finally has a belt and a shot at bigger fights - even an eventual rematch with International Boxing Federation champion Wladimir Klitschko, the only man to beat him.
Boxing's erstwhile glamour division also should get a boost from a competitive, engaging fight just two weeks after Klitschko's dull decision over Sultan Ibragimov in Madison Square Garden.
"I'm going to get him," Peter said. "I'm going to beat his brother [Vitali]. I'm going to tell him that I'm coming."
After two slow opening rounds, Peter stunned and staggered Maskaev with a prolonged burst of power punches, chasing him from one post to the next. Maskaev's knees buckled, but he stayed up - and then he knocked Peter silly with a brutal left hand moments later.
In the sixth, Peter landed a devastating right hand. Maskaev came up woozy, and Peter pursued him relentlessly, landing more than a dozen shots before the referee stepped in.