This Saturday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the defending WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz (41-5-1 28 KOs) defends his crown against James “Lights Out” Toney (68-4-2 43 KOs). We may witness an ugly fight, but we may also witness a changing of the guard in the heavyweight division. How do the writers of The Sweet Science see it?

Ruiz by decision.
Mitch Abramson

Toney is among the craftiest and smartest fighters in boxing, and, though he's at a height and reach disadvantage, Ruiz isn't exactly a cutie. This will be rough and ugly inside warfare from the get-go, but Toney is the superior fighter. He's got better speed and better reflexes. He'll frustrate and confuse poor Ruiz with his counterpunching ability and make him look even more amateurish than he is anyway. If his body holds up, Toney by unanimous decision.
Matt Aguilar

I picked James Toney to beat John Ruiz on the day the fight was made. I felt that this was an easy decision. As of late I read a couple of articles by two writers I have a tremendous amount of respect for, Frank Lotierzo and Tom Donelson. They both have picked Ruiz to win and provided some intersting arguements. It was definitely food for thought. I know John is tough, I'll give him his due there. If an underconditioned and lazy Toney enters the ring, I can see him being outworked. I think James will be in great shape. If he is he should use his boxing skills to hammer out a decision. Maybe a late TKO. Just maybe now I'm not quite as sure…
Jim Amato

I'd tell Ruiz not to change anything. Jab and clutch and use his strength to wear Toney down. Once he gets him a little tired, and falls into a rhythm, then sneak in the left-right, the one-two, because Toney will be standing right in front of him. I'd tell Toney to punch from the outside, not to box, but to step back and throw his punches in combinations. I'd also tell him to throw them from different angles. And when he softens up Ruiz with outside shots – Toney is a terrific body puncher – that's when he should shift his attack to the body. I like Toney by a twelfth round TKO. I think he'll overwhelm Ruiz with punches. Toney won’t get tangled in Ruiz's web. Not only is Toney fast, he's slick. That combination of hand speed and his ability to slip is what gets him by. The one thing that concerns me is Toney's weight. That can hurt him. At 233, it could hurt him in a 12-round fight.
“Irish” Bobby Cassidy

I believe that, pound-for-pound, James Toney is a better fighter that John Ruiz. But we are talking extra pounds here. A lot of extra pounds. Roy Jones Jr. demonstrated how best to beat Ruiz. He boxed magnificently. Toney claims he will not do that. He will stand and fight. He also argues that he has more knockouts (43) than Ruiz has wins (41). But Ruiz is a strong and sturdy heavyweight. Toney will not knock him out. And since he will not try to outbox him, the pick here is Ruiz by decision. John Ruiz has weathered a lot of storms as heavyweight champion. He's tough and sturdy and somehow finds a way to win. He'll do it again at the Garden.
Robert Cassidy Jr.

I keep going round and round on this fight. My head tells me Ruiz. My heart says Toney. But both my head and heart have led me astray before (and not for the last time). Seeing the two men next to each other, the difference in size is not so pronounced, and watching them work out at the Trinity Boxing Club in New York this week convinced me that Toney has the speed, the pop in his punches, and the will to do some serious damage. Not that Ruiz is without gifts. Johnny is a great fighter, but not much of a boxer. Toney is a great fighter and a great boxer. I predict Toney works his magic on Ruiz and outsmarts him on the inside. James can’t pull off a Roy Jones – even Roy Jones can’t pull off a Roy Jones any longer – but I believe he can pull off a James Toney. Toney by unanimous decision after twelve.
Robert Ecksel

In what threatens to be an ugly fight, Toney should win this one just by avoiding the punch-and-hug style of Ruiz. If Toney fights a smart fight and somehow stays out of the clinches, he wins by knockout in the later rounds.
Rick Folstad

James Toney has the know-how to defeat John Ruiz. Say what you will about Toney's stoppage of Evander Holyfield, but that James Toney beats John Ruiz. Freddy Roach aside, the wild card in this fight is the conditioning of “Lights Out.” This should be cause for concern for Toney, despite the bravado. It’s certainly a concern for me in trying to make a pick. Ruiz came out against Andrew Golota to make a fight of it and ended up on the canvas. He then reverted to his patented jab and grab anti-tactics, which he rode all the way to another victory. I fear Ruiz does the same here, as Toney's conditioning fails him down the stretch. John Ruiz by split decision.
Chris Gielty

Not that James Toney is a change for the better, it's just that it's time for Ruiz & Stoney to disappear. So, with that said, and rooting strongly for Toney to (somewhat) change the face of the heavyweight picture, it's Toney by decision.
Randy Gordon

Ruiz, unanimous decision. I can't see either fighter dominating this bout, but Ruiz will squash much of Toney's offense with hugs and the occasional half-nelson. I'm giving this one to Ruiz on guile alone.
Tim Graham

John Ruiz, a heavyweight with a solid physical appearance, is a stab-and-grab artist whose primary skill appears to be finding inartful ways to win. And win he does. James Toney is a heavyweight who will win no body beautiful contests, but wins with as much artistry as anyone in the game today. His only problem going into this bout is that all of the masterpieces were created on middleweight through cruiserweight canvases. He has scored exactly two wins in the heavyweight division: he stopped a 40-something Evander Holyfield, merely confirming, again, what most of us have known for the last several years – Evander is way past his day. The other fight, against Rydell Booker, proved nothing. Toney is also starting to fall apart. A series of injuries has to catch up to him soon. April 30th will prove to be that day. Ruiz will punch, push, and mangle his way to a lackluster 12-round decision.
J.E. Grant

James Toney will rise to the occasion and dig into his bag of tricks, pull out all the stops and defeat John Ruiz midway through the fight. Afterwards, he will engage in some post-fight action with Stoney (Norman Stone) and give him some much deserved business for the press conference remark. Toney is my winner for both events!
Amy Green

Once all the trash-talking ends there will only be John Ruiz and James Toney in the Madison Square Garden ring this Saturday night. Besides being the current and two-time heavyweight champion, Ruiz is – by far- the more accomplished “heavyweight” fighter. James Toney's mouth has written a check that his body can't cash. Ruiz's body attack and relentless style will be too much for the unprepared future hall of fame fighter. John Ruiz over James Toney via late round stoppage.
Mike Indri

Watching John Ruiz's hand raised after an inaesthetic win at Madison Square Garden? Is this getting to be like Groundhog Day or what? When this fight was made we considered James Toney better-equipped than Fres Oquendo or Andrew Golota to reverse the trend, but we envisioned a 215-pound Toney, not one who had eaten half of Southern California to match Ruiz' heft. Ruiz by decision, in a fight so ugly it will make last year's Oquendo and Golota fights look like Hagler-Hearns.
George Kimball

Ruiz doesn't get much credit – whether it be from the media or the general public – and most of it is well deserved due to his style . . . which is more accurate to suggest he has none. While he was outclassed by Roy Jones, who was simply too fast to catch, he shouldn't have that type of problem with Toney. Since the Jones bout, let's not forget that Ruiz has defeated Rahman, Oquendo and Golota . . . not bad, not bad at all. I'll confess to not being the biggest fan of James Toney as a heavyweight – yet. The reason for that is he hasn't really fought a true heavyweight in my eyes. Having defeated former cruiserweight and a very old Holyfield and then another cruiserweight Rydell Booker doesn't say much about him as a heavyweight so far. I think Ruiz will be very strong and awkward for Toney. “Lights Out” has been fighting for a long time with 74 bouts under his ample belt and started out as 160-pounder. Ruiz ain't pretty, but he does win. Let's call it Ruiz by split decision, but a draw would be no surprise in a fight that may be very difficult to score.
Joey Knish

I think Ruiz will be too big and unorthodox for Toney. “Lights Out” has tremendous skills and heart, but I suspect he Ruiz's clutch-punch-clutch style will be too difficult for Toney to overcome. I see him getting frustrated at times and trying to slug it out which would play to Ruiz's advantage. That being said, Ruiz is one fighter I can't game for the life of me. I am consistently wrong on his fights, so bet the rent money on Toney.
Marc Lichtenfeld

I am sick and tired of hearing writers make fun of Ruiz. If he's as bad as everyone asserts, he deserves even more accolades for beating more legitimate challengers than any other titlist. He might not look pretty, but he's a winner at heart. Ruiz by decision
Bob Mladinich

I'm trying not to write off John Ruiz because of his unhappy knack of finding a way to win despite apparently lacking the requisite power, speed or guile to compete at this top level. In fact, such is the length of his winning streak, I've begun to wonder if the Tua fight ever actually happened or whether it was a figment of my imagination. Oquendo should have been too quick for him, Holyfield too tough, Golota too strong and well-schooled, Rahman too much power . . . but Ruiz keeps hanging on. Literally. But I'm going to try one more time not to curse his opponent by still plumping (is that a Freudian slip or what) for James Toney, the quietly spoken and shy challenger, who surely has the ideal game to shake the Ruiz curse from the heavyweight title picture. If Ruiz tries to jab and hold he's going to be on the inside with arguably the most gifted inside fighter in the sport today. My only concern is Toney's stamina and whether his ageing and injury prone frame can carry his own poundage, plus the Ruiz overcoat through twelve rounds, because I just don't see Toney stopping the champion. And if it goes the distance, which I suspect it will, then anything can happen. Ruiz has survived some scorecard squeaks before. But surely, surely, surely Ruiz cannot hang on again. Toney UD12 .
David Payne

The Whales are killing me. Unaware that Wladamir Klitschko’s people had discovered that Elieso Castillo was being trained by Mother Teresa, last week I picked the Fred Astaire of Cuban heavyweights to defeat old Wlaldo the Horrible. I don’t know which was worse: watching Klitschko using his jab to do his impression of Tamara Press putting a 16-pound shot, or waiting in vain for Castillo to take off the handcuffs. At least this week, I get to pick a real fighter when James Toney introduces John “The Boston Bore” Ruiz to Reality Heavyweight Boxing in Madison Square Garden. Toney by decision.
Pat Putnam

No matter how many ways I look at this, unless Toney's excesses finally catch up with him Saturday, I can only see Ruiz taking punishment until the ref steps in, or he takes a fearful beating, losing a one-sided decision.
Joe Rein

Difficult but one should always remember that Toney is not as big as his mouth, or as Ruiz, who must be doing something right, even if it is difficult to discern exactly what. So Ruiz on points in an almost certainly extremely unedifying spectacle.
Jonathan Rendall

This is James Toney's fight to lose. An in shape and fully prepared Toney will slip, slide, counter, and dominate John Ruiz. He actually has a better chance at putting Ruiz on the deck than a lot of big heavyweights because he sets traps and utilizes different angles to land blind shots. It is indeed the blind shots that do the most damage, and Toney's underrated punching power can end this before the twelfth round if he's at or near his best. Ruiz will try to do what Jirov failed to do. Jirov's punch output was prodigious, but he had more guts than sense. He threw too many punches, and didn't have enough in the gas tank when it counted most. Ruiz will try to do what Ruiz does best – win ugly and dirty. Two to three punches combinations and WWE tactics. It's up to the ref to keep control and allow both combatants to work legally so the best boxer prevails; not the best wrestler. In the end, the outcome depends on Toney's physical conditioning. Toney is a master at the art of economy of motion, and can rest while he's standing right in front of you. However, Ruiz's style and temperament are such that he'll make Toney fight, and Toney needs to be in good shape. Toney has been injury prone over the last few years, and that can take more of a toll than people realize in many ways. If Toney isn't prepared, this will be an ugly fight he might lose. If he's prepared, I like Toney on a clear unanimous decision or even a late stoppage.
Greg Smith

John Ruiz is the benefactor of a weak era in the heavyweight division, but then again so is James Toney. However, the Quiet Man has developed a style that can only be thwarted by a one punch knockout or continuous movement for 12 straight rounds. I do not think Toney is capable of either. Ruiz by unanimous decision.
Aaron Tallent

Toney starts believing his own hype; gets a little too over-confident and then get nailed. Ruiz by TKO in 10 or less.
Scott Yaniga