For the first time in his championship career, John Ruiz fought an entertaining fight.

The fans went home happy. Ruiz went home a loser.

James Toney took advantage of Ruiz’s new straight-up style, beating him to the punch and battering him with counter rights to earn a unanimous 12-round decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Toney, now a four-time world champion after winning Ruiz’s WBA heavyweight title, won by scores of 116-111 (twice) and 115-112.

“I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it,” said Toney, a stogie dangling from his lips as he talked with HBO analyst Larry Merchant. “I’m back on top of the world, and soon to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”

“HBO stands for Home Boys Only,” Toney said.

Toney, 69-4-2 (43 knockouts), used a steady diet of rights and counter rights to confuse the bigger, stronger New England-based Puerto Rican. Ruiz, looking to avoid Toney’s excellent inside fighting skills, opted to jab from the outside and unleash his powerful right hand.

But the trickier Toney avoided Ruiz’s power punches with little problem, and simply countered Ruiz with pinpoint right hands.

Ruiz, 41-6-1 (28 knockouts), did his best work to Toney’s flabby midsection, and may have hurt Toney in the second round with a pair of big body punches. But the old pro Toney, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan who now lives in Las Vegas, soaked it up and went about his game plan.

Ruiz became aggressive in spurts, and he and Toney combined for some heavy exchanges. But Toney seemed to be sharper and smarter throughout.

Toney scored a knockdown in the seventh, dropping Ruiz with a left-right combination that was helped along by a foot on Ruiz’s shoe. Referee Steve Smoger ruled it a knockdown, and Toney seemed to gain an important mental advantage.

Toney wobbled Ruiz again in the 11th to seemingly seal the win. HBO’s Harold Lederman had Toney winning by a score of 116-111.

Ruiz left the ring before he could be interviewed by Merchant.

Toney said he was happy Ruiz didn’t fight him in his customary sloppy style.

“I would’ve given him a case of whiplash,” Toney said.

Toney is now one of four recognized heavyweight champs. The others are WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko, IBF champ Chris Byrd and WBO beltholder Lamon Brewster. Toney said he’d like to fight Klitschko or Flint native Byrd in an all-Michigan shootout.

Klitschko is generally considered the most dominant of the heavyweight champs.

But James “Lights Out” Toney is in the mix.