On April 22nd, 2001, heavyweight history was made. The defending champion, Lennox Lewis went to South Africa to take on Hasim Rahman for the title and the outcome wasn’t in question. Lewis by TKO early was the consensus, but this is boxing, and a right hand pulverized Lewis and changed the course of boxing history. From obscurity to the limelight, Rahman became a star and the future was bright, but the glory was fleeting.
Seven months after the victory, Lewis would reclaim his crown with a devastating knockout, erasing Rahman from the heavyweight scene. Evander Holyfield would head-butt Rahman into submission in his next fight, a draw with David Tua would follow and another defeat at the hands of John Ruiz would place Rahman into “spoiler” or “journeyman” position. Very few considered him a real threat to the crown anymore.
After six straight wins, Rahman would capture the WBC gold again, but it wouldn’t be considered that fantastic of an achievement. He was facing the journeyman Monte Barrett for the interim title. He beat Barrett and won the heavyweight championship, but nobody took that too seriously.
A title defense against James Toney was next and the lackluster draw didn’t convince anyone that the champ was back in his best form, but he had a chance to change that in a 2006 high profile showdown with Oleg Maskaev. Maskaev knocked Rahman out cold in 1999 in spectacular fashion, sending him crashing through the ropes and directly to the floor. This fight had a story and Rahman was an American champion which was highly publicized. He was on the verge of rebuilding his reputation to what it was when he shocked the world in 2001, but Maskaev had other plans.
In a brutal back and forth affair, Rahman tired late in the fight, and Maskaev would repeat his victory with another spectacular knockout, stopping the champion in the final round. After that fight, the career of Rahman has not impressed anyone. He struggled to beat Taurus Sykes and Zuri Lawrence before getting a title shot against Wladimir Klitschko in 2008. Klitschko had no problem controlling and stopping Rahman in seven rounds. Klitschko and his brother Vitali stand atop heavyweight boxing still, but that doesn’t mean that Rahman can’t get a title shot that he can win.
After the loss to Wlad, Rahman put together a record of 5-0, 5 KO’s, but the competition has been less than stellar. He stopped Clinton Boldridge (9-15-1), Shannon Miller (16-4), Damon Reed (46-13), Marcus McGee (22-17), and Galen Brown (35-16-1), and somehow, by stringing those victories together, has become the mandatory challenger to Alexander Povetkin’s WBA “I can’t beat Wlad so they gave me this” title.
Rahman comes into this bout on Saturday with a record of 50-7-2, 41 KO’s, and the word from his camp is that he is in the best shape of his career. He hasn’t fought since June of 2011 and he hasn’t fought any quality opposition since Wlad in 2008. He may not be sharp enough to take the title, but he is not facing a great champion either.
Alexander Povetkin, 24-0, 16 KO’s, was given the WBA title when he refused to face Wladimir Klitschko. Wlad became a “super champion” and the “regular” title was put up for grabs between Povetkin and Ruslan Chagaev. Povetkin outworked Chagaev, defended against fringe contender, Cedric Boswell (KO-8) and got a gift decision over Marco Huck (MD-12). There have been plenty of mediocre heavyweights, but Povetkin stands among the worst of the worst. He improved under the tutelage of Teddy Atlas, but has since kicked him to the curb. He’s a sucker for the right hand, is slow of foot, and doesn’t hit hard enough to worry a Klitschko. Those heavyweights that want gold may be terrified of the brothers Klitschko, but they are lining up for a crack at Povetkin.
If Rahman comes into this fight at even 50%, he has a great chance to win. I’m not convinced that he will be sharp enough to find the right hand that will knock Povetkin out, but I’m going against the odds and picking “The Rock” to find the mark and stop the champion and pick up the WBA “regular” crown in the early to middle rounds of the title fight this weekend.
This fight will be shown on EPIX, live from Germany.