Saturday, November 8, 2008

Rahman Has a Tough Row to Hoe Against Klitschko

IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko (left) and former champ Hasim "The Rock" Rahman will square off on December 13th in Mannheim, Germany.

Who knew on the day that young Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin caught his foot on a tree root while jogging that it would lead to Hasim Rahman getting beat up a couple weeks before Christmas?

In what will be a decent payday for Rahman, the former heavyweight champion was announced Friday as the dubious winner of the Wladimir Klitschko sweepstakes and will meet the IBF/WBO heavyweight champion on December 13th in Mannheim, Germany.

But here's the thing: Nobody cares about this fight.

And besides, didn't we just see this same fight a few weeks ago when Vitali Klitschko humiliated another limited, bloated, one-dimensional fighter in Samuel Peter?

Shelly Finkel, Klitschko's manager, has been working all week on a deal to salvage a fight for Wladimir in cohort with Rahman's manager Steve Nelson and his promoter Todd duBoef from Top Rank.

I queried Finkel on Monday morning as to how things were evolving and if an opponent had been finalized yet and he simply responded, "Nothing yet."

I would say that even with the selection of Hasim Rahman that boxing fans are still getting, "Nothing yet."

This fight is a mismatch.

Let's be realistic. Hasim Rahman has little chance of beating Wladimir Klitschko.

Rahman, who will turn 36 next week, has not beaten a word class heavyweight in over three years and essentially quit in his most recent skirmish, a rematch against James Toney in July.

Klitschko, on the other hand, is fighting with a newfound confidence, is probably in his prime and is coming off a one-punch knockout win over Tony Thompson.

Wladimir Klitschko is likely in his prime and is making his mark as perhaps the best heavyweight in boxing today.

But the heavy odds against him don't stop Rahman from talking about his hopes for what he believes will happen on December 13th.

"America, I promise you. I can punch with the left hook, the right hand, bodyshots, uppercuts. I got a great team. I got (trainer) Marshall Kauffman, Steve Nelson," he says with a slight degree of emphasis while pleading to the patriot in his American supporters and sounding like presidential candidates Barack Obama or John McCain.

When asked why the people should believe in him, Rahman laid 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."

But for 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.

The sweet taste of that victory was fleeting for Rahman, 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.

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.

Rahman is a powerfully built, bull of a man. But more often than not, it hasn't been enough to push him over the top in many of his biggest fights.

Rahman has 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. He looks every year of his age but he still dares to think ahead as though it was 2001 all over again.

While Rahman has the most dislike for Wladimir's older brother, Vitali, who seemingly avoided and backed out of fighting him and then suddenly retired for nearly four years before returning a few weeks ago to win the WBC title from Peter, "The Rock" is eager to be facing anybody with the last name Klitschko.

So the big question for Rahman is this: Is he ready for Wladimir, the man many consider to be the best heavyweight on the planet?

"Oh definitely, definitely," he answered. "Right now I'm on course for winning the heavyweight championship of the world."

And Rahman, whose fighting weight has fluctuated in recent years with swings as much as 40 pounds, says he'll make sure to be in shape for Klitschko.

"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. I'm not interested in just getting a world title shot – I want the title."

But lightning rarely strikes twice and 2001 was a long time ago.

And it says here that Hasim Rahman has no chance.

November 2008

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