Why Hasim Rahman will not defeat Vitali Klitschko
By Sean Newman (Aug 19, 2005) 
Photo © HoganPhotos.com
Okay, here it is, we finally got what we all (or most of us) wanted: a heavyweight championship fight between The Ring Magazine Champion Vitali Klitschko and the holder of some meaningless organization’s meaningless ‘interim’ belt, Hasim Rahman. After numerous delays brought about by injuries to the champion and haggling with alphabet bandits over mandatory defenses, there is nothing left but the buildup and the fight itself. This, friends, is what qualifies as a big time heavyweight fight in today’s era. Someone shoot me now, please.

There are a number of fans and experts who believe that Rahman stands a very good to excellent chance of unseating Klitschko as World Heavyweight Champion. Rahman talks up an excellent game and has been chasing Klitschko for what seems like ages. And why shouldn’t these experts and fans like his chances? Well, I’ll give you several good reasons.

Rahman is a very charismatic and likeable personality. He can insult you and make everyone laugh along with him. Who can forget the verbal thrashing he gave Lennox Lewis before Lewis thrashed him in the ring in their rematch? “I’d like to thank you, Lennox. Thank you for my house, thank you for my cars. I even had ‘Lennox’ put on my license plate,” Rahman said.

And after he fought David Tua to a controversial draw? In a postfight interview, Rahman, perhaps not even trying to be funny or likeable, complained, “I done beat this man twice and I ain’t got no win on my record!”

Perhaps it is the unconscious desire of many to see Rahman become the champion again. We know he is capable of giving the sport a mainstream-friendly persona. This unconscious desire may fog the thought processes of those who think he will actually beat Vitali.

It is those types of actions and Rahman’s quotability that makes him so popular, although this does not win fights. On a larger worldly and political scale, Muhammad Ali used the same charm that, in retrospect, more than likely enhanced his legend. Riddick Bowe was another funny, personable champion, but he blew it by coming into the ring out of shape and putting forth sub-par performances, a danger that faces Rahman if he is unable to capitalize in this fight with Klitschko, which may be his last chance. Which leads to the next point.

It’s hard to get excited about a fighter whose reputation has been built on a lottery punch he landed on a great champion one night in South Africa. Make no mistake, Rahman is a good fighter and has always had potential. However, it isn’t as if he went in there and gave Lewis hell for four plus rounds before cranking him out of there with one punch. The fight was relatively close, but Lewis was out of shape and hadn’t expected much in the way of a long night’s work. No excuse to be sure, but when Lewis decided to get serious, we saw what happened in the rematch as Lewis bested Rahman’s performance in the first fight.

He struggled with and lost to an aged Evander Holyfield, and then battled with his weight, and even though he beat David Tua in the eyes of most, he was woefully out of shape and didn’t even seem to mind. He even said something to the effect that ‘whatever I weigh, if I’m in shape, that’s what I weigh.’ He seems to have changed his tune about that lately, however, having come in for his last two fights in the 230-240 pound range, as opposed to the nearly 260 he weighed vs. Tua.

He hit ‘rock’ bottom, if you’ll pardon the pun, when he turned in a horrible performance in a losing effort against (ugh) John Ruiz. Well, maybe that wasn’t quite the bottom. Maybe the bottom was laboring to win a razor thin decision over a shot former cruiserweight champion in Al Cole in his next fight. Rahman remained on the ham-and-egger circuit for the next three fights, bona fide ho-hummers over Mario Cawley, Rob Calloway, and Terrence Lewis.

Then we all got excited when he aggressively dispatched Kali Meehan in four rounds. Kali who? Oh yeah, that guy who Danny Williams knocked out in 30 seconds. Sure, Meehan gave a good account of himself against Lamon Brewster, but Brewster was clearly passive against his friend and former sparring mate. It is doubtful that the Brewster who demolished Andrew Golota would have been so gentlemanly to Meehan.

Most recently, Rahman won a clear decision over Monte Barrett. No disrespect to Barrett, who has come a long way, but in retrospect, don’t his wins over unproven Dominick Guinn and Owen Beck, along with his near miss against Joe Mesi, look a little less impressive? Guinn subsequently lost another fight and had a draw with an unknown, and Beck has yet to fight since, though he is scheduled to take on Sergui Lyakhovich in September. Mesi was knocked down three times by Vassiliy Jirov in his next bout, and although he won, he might have fought his last fight. Barrett, though improved, might simply have just had good timing, i.e., he exposed the aforementioned trio before anyone else could. The fact that a stand-up arm puncher (but still somewhat powerful) like Wladimir Klitschko can put Barrett down five times tells you that maybe Rahman doesn’t punch as hard as we all thought.

Some of you will certainly say, ‘yes, but we can dissect Vitali’s fights all day long as well.’ And that’s true. We could do that. However, it seems fairly clear to an unbiased observer that Rahman’s faults are many more than those of the Ukrainian. Klitschko does have two losses on his record, but as it has been pointed out, no fighter has ever bested him on the cards at the time the fight was stopped. Klitschko looks ponderous at times, always awkward, and often vulnerable. But here is some food for thought:

In 1999, Hasim Rahman, younger and in excellent shape, had a give and take brawl with a Russian named Oleg Maskaev. You might have heard of this guy. In that fight, Rahman was ultimately knocked clean out of the ring in the ninth round with a single straight right hand. Vitali Klitschko is a taller, faster, stronger-jawed and more powerful version of Oleg Maskaev, and he has an axe to grind with the media. It’s the same axe that he took out to sharpen in his absolute war with Lennox Lewis, in the wake of criticism of his retirement against Chris Byrd.

The good news for Rahman is that the odds are against him being knocked out of the ring twice in his career. The bad news is that the odds of him being knocked out again are excellent.
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