Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"The Rock" Keeps Rolling Along


Former heavyweight champion of the world, Hasim "The Rock" Rahman.

For Hasim “The Rock” Rahman, life has never been as good as the night in 2001 when he shocked the planet, and Lennox Lewis, to win the heavyweight championship of the world.

For Rahman the sweet taste of the championship was fleeting, but on that night he was able to overcome 15-1 odds to unseat Lewis in five rounds at Johannesburg, South Africa in one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history. And although nobody knew it then, it would be three more years before Hasim Rahman would win another fight.

When he came home from South Africa after having beaten Lewis, the people of Baltimore paraded him through the streets in a long caravan of joy. He had to drive himself to the parade mind you, but when he eventually got there he was given a key to the city and he addressed throngs of supporters from the steps of city hall on a warm spring day.

Hasim Rahman had come a long way. When the good citizens of the city used to see him coming, they locked their doors. Once a teenage thug, Rahman used to inhabit the dimly lit street corners of inner city Baltimore and he controlled his turf with a simple tactic - intimidation. Before he found boxing his rap sheet of arrests included grand theft auto and drug dealing, yet few of the cases ever made it to court. A gunman shot him in the early 1990’s.

His brief championship rein was a roller coaster ride filled with a series of shrewd and conniving moves for control of his promotional rights. What immediately followed was turmoil among his confidants, a televised in-studio brawl with Lewis on ESPN that made headlines around the world when he called Lewis “gay” to his face. He turned down a $20 million contract offer from HBO, brokered by his then promoter Cedric Kushner, in favor of a duffel bag containing half a million dollars in cash given to him in the back room of a restaurant by promoter Don King.

He managed to keep Lewis’ championship belts warm for only 178 days before Lennox took them back with a right hand in the fourth round of the rematch that smashed Rahman’s chin like a cannon ball careening through the side of a pirate ship. The force of the blow sent Rahman crashing to the deck, laid out, glassy-eyed and flat on his back. The championship belts were lost the same way they were won and Hasim Rahman’s life would be changed forever. On the night that he was knocked out by Lewis he was not even on speaking terms with his trainer, Adrian Davis. A few years later he would be bankrupt.

He tried to get his boxing career and life back on track. He bounced around from trainer to trainer and moved his family to Las Vegas to get away from the old friends and the new friends that suddenly appear when you’re the heavyweight champion of the world.

His first fight after the loss to Lewis was a disaster against the ancient and creaking, yet still dangerous former champion Evander Holyfield. Rahman was outclassed by Holyfield and suffered a hematoma on his forehead (courtesy of a well-placed Holyfield headbutt) that made him look like the Elephant Man. Up next was an uninspiring draw in a rematch with David Tua in which Rahman was a bloated 260-pound version of his former self. When he finally dropped a lazy decision to the haplessly incompetent Johnny Ruiz at the end of 2003, it appeared to most observers that “The Rock’s” days as a top-10 contender were over.


Rahman was stopped in this fight against Evander Holyfield in June of 2002.

Which brings us back to the rematch in 2001 when Lewis erased all that Rahman had accomplished. Ever since then, Hasim Rahman has been fighting to get back to where he once was.

In a 2004 barnstorming tour, he put together a series of five comeback wins against increasingly better opposition and the next year he won the WBC interim heavyweight title against Monte Barrett. But in 2006, after having been anointed the full WBC champion, he was frustrated against James Toney and was lucky to escape with a draw and his title.

In August of 2006, in his new hometown of Las Vegas, Rahman would be knocked out in the twelfth and final round by Oleg Maskaev in a very close fight. If the end of his career wasn’t in 2003, most thought that at age 33 and having lost to the limited Maskaev, that this was surely the end.

But now Hasim Rahman wants you to know that he is back once again. At age 35 this is likely the last run that he will have at the heavyweight championship. Since the loss to Maskaev, he has put together three wins against non-descript opposition and on Thursday night in Reading, Pennsylvania he’ll take another step in his comeback against sometime spoiler Zuri Lawrence. The fight will be televised live on the VERSUS television network.

Rahman has always been an optimistic sort and maybe that’s why he has been able to continue on when all has seemed lost on so many fronts. He is a thick waisted man with wide, chunky shoulders and arms the circumference of most people’s legs. His hands are the size of small hams and he has forearms like bowling pins. The right side of his face bears the scar from the 500 stitches he received in 1992 when the speeding pick-up truck he was a passenger in rolled over, pinning him underneath the vehicle. The driver of the truck was killed in the accident.

He’s got a great sense of humor and a quick tongue that can fire out one liners that can double you over in laughter like a left hook to the body. Rahman looks every year of his age but he still dares to think ahead as though it was 2001 all over again.


The Champion as he was, enjoying the spoils of being on top of the world.

“Well, I feel like I’m about six months away from winning the heavyweight championship of the world,” says a cheerful Rahman, who will meet Lawrence for the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight belt. “I’m not interested in just getting a world title shot – I want the title.”

His opposition this year hasn’t exactly been a murderer’s row. Names like Taurus “The Bull” Sykes, Dicky “The Raging Bull” Ryan and Cerrone Fox, who had lost six of his last seven fights before meeting Rahman, have been his fodder.

When asked why he fights these types of fights in out of the way places like Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Reading, Rahman explains his master comeback plan. “These are the necessary steps I need to take toward succeeding and getting a title,” he convincingly says. “I gotta’ win the title, I don’t just want a title shot. My name could have gotten me a title shot last year. After any fight I lost I could have come right back and gotten a title shot. But I want the title, so I think I need to take these fights and stay in the gym and try to look better and better every time out and show the public that I’m serious about trying to regain the heavyweight championship and making some history.”

Thus far, the plan seems to be working. After appearing dull and uninspired in winning a close decision over Sykes in which he scaled a career high 261 pounds, Rahman has progressively weighed less and less for each fight. He was 250 when he stopped Dicky Ryan in two rounds in September and 240 in a one round blowout against the helpless Fox just last month. For Lawrence he tipped the scales at 242.

“These fights are ultimately important because without winning these fights I can never even fathom being a three-time heavyweight champion of the world,” Rahman says. “Not only do I have to win these fights, but I have to win these fights impressively.”

So far, the fights haven’t gained Rahman the publicity that he needs to get his title hopes on track. He has fought mainly off television or on tape delay, so here is his plea directly to the people.

“America, I promise you. I can punch with the left hook, the right hand, bodyshots, uppercuts. I got a great team. I got Marshall Kauffman, Steve Nelson,” he says with a slight degree of emphasis.

When asked why the people should believe in him, Rahman lays it all out on the line.

“Don’t count me out,” he says. “They’ve been counting me out from day one and that’s why it don’t bother me. They told me when I turned pro that I was a big waste of money. When I lost the title the first time they said I was a waste of money and to let me go. But my team has stayed behind me and they believe in me, and more importantly, I believe in myself. I think I can beat any one of these guys on any given day and I’ll be here to back everything I’m saying up.”

The Rock was on a roll now and they say that moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone. He has the most dislike for Vitali Klitschko who avoided and backed out of fighting him and then suddenly retired. So the big question: Is he ready for the Klitschko brothers?

“Oh definitely, definitely,” he answered. “I would like something like that maybe early next year. I need another fight or two just to get my conditioning and my weight where it needs to be. And right now I’m on course for winning the heavyweight championship of the world. I wanna be more trim, tight, focused. I wanna’ dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. That way I don’t have to second guess anything.”

And if he gets by Zuri Lawrence, what will be Rahman’s plans after Thursday night?

“To keep busy,” he says. “You can give me five dollars and I’ll be there. It’s not a money thing. It’s a getting’ in the ring thing. I’m like the bounty hunter. I’m coming to get everybody! Anybody got a title or anybody that got a rankin’ above me, I’m comin’ to get ya’!

“The Rock” is rollin’ again. So get out of the way.


November 2007

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe Rahman had no amateur background so he gets credit for that but he's as dumb as a bag of hammers and the 2nd knockout loss to a very slow Maskaev shows his limitations. Very questionable chin. Eddie Chambers would toy with him and maybe even stop him. Any ot the 3 Euro champs knock him out.

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