Zahir Raheem has Arrived... Finally!
By Jeff Mayweather (September 12, 2005)
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Saturday night was a defining moment in the career of Zahir Raheem, the once highly touted amateur star and member of the 1996 Olympic Team. Raheem had almost become an afterthought nine years removed from the amateurs and never winning a significant professional fight with the exception of a 2002 TKO victory over Luisito Espinosa. Losing a close fight to 2000 Olympian Rocky Juarez, not because of his lack of talent but because what appeared to be a lack of heart, as he constantly looked for help from the referee and alluded to his legs not being there because of the weight he had to lose.

The events of Saturday night at the Staples Center will erase all that happened on July 17, 2004, the night he went against Juarez. One would be inclined to believe that weight loss was a determining factor in Raheem's only loss. The challenge put before Raheem on Saturday night was against a solid, proven champion and future Hall of Famer, a world champion of three different weight classes. Raheem was not to be denied. Many critics will point to Morales' vicious wars against Barrera and his battle with Pacquiao as the reason why Raheem emerged victorious. I'm sure that may have played a part, but it was not the sole reason behind Raheem's victory.

Raheem was always a talented fighter, good enough to make an Olympic team that has yielded five World Champions. Raheem would have given the pre-Barerra Morales trouble; styles make fights and Morales has never faced a good slick boxer in his career and it was obvious why he hasn't. It seems as though Raheem had his own inner battles that slowed his progress as a professional. But, better late than never. On Saturday night Raheem delivered in a big way, leaving no doubts that he too can possibly add another Championship Belt to the Class of 1996. He proved to the boxing world that he belongs in the higher echelon.

Raheem may very well reach the potential that was once expected of him by most who knew of him, but most importantly, he must reach it for himself. Although I'm pretty good friends with Erik Morales I have also known Raheem a very long time and consider him to be a pretty good friend as well. I'm happy for him; Morales has had a great career and has made a great living as a prize fighter, Morales still may even have a few more great performances left in him, but he needs to stay away from slick boxers. He got as far as did without facing any, so one would have to wonder why now, this late in the game? The flip side of that argument is this, maybe all that Morales has accomplished may have never happened if early on he would have faced a fighter like Raheem.

I have always said that whenever fighters are fighting for greatness they continue to challenge themselves and will eventually run into a wall. Morales hit his wall against Raheem, be it a matter of styles or it being the weight or a matter of Morales being battle worn. Nevertheless, Zahir Raheem has arrived... Finally!

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