NEW YORK, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Trying to fill a vacant title, boxing promoter Don King had to deal with a noticeable vacancy Thursday as he announced plans for a heavyweight doubleheader featuring two of the sport's biggest names.
Flanked by WBC champion Lennox Lewis at the Plaza Hotel, King unveiled plans for bouts pitting Roy Jones Jr. against WBA champion John Ruiz and 40-year-old Evander Holyfield and Chris Byrd for the vacant IBF title.
But Jones did not attend the news conference, instead practicing with the Mobile Revelers of the National Basketball Development League. He issued a statement Wednesday saying he would not attend any functions until he was "completely satisfied with the terms of the contract."
Ruiz attributed Jones' absence to something else.
"I feel that he's still searching for a way to get out of this fight," Ruiz said. "I hope this happens, but I'm not holding my breath for it."
Jones (47-1, 38 KOs) is trying to become just the second light heavyweight champion to win a heavyweight title. He is slated to face Ruiz, who outweighs him by 30 pounds, on March 1 in Las Vegas.
Michael Spinks is the only light heavyweight champion to win a heavyweight belt. The former Olympian won a decision against Larry Holmes to capture the IBF title in September 1985. With a win over Ruiz, Jones would be the first man to win a middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight title.
Holyfield predicted it won't be easy for Jones to make the jump.
"You have to be able to take some punches. That's part of being heavyweight champion of the world," Holyfield said. "Can you take the punishment?"
Holyfield (38-5-2, 25 KOs) should know. He will battle Byrd (35-2, 20 KOs) on Dec. 14 in Atlantic City with a chance to become champion for a fifth time.
Lewis was little more than window dressing at Thursday's news conference. Regarded as the true heavyweight champion, although he holds only the WBC version of the title, he will serve as a color commentator for telecasts of both bouts.