Klitschko vs. Rahman: Can Hasim Repeat his feat From South Africa?

Hasim RahmanBy Geoffrey Ciani: On April 22, 2001, Hasim Rahman shocked the boxing world when he knocked out heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. The bout, which took place in South Africa, was supposed to be nothing more than a tune-up for the champ as he prepared for a long-awaited showdown with “Iron” Mike Tyson. Unfortunately for Lewis, Rahman had other plans. With the exception of Tyson’s stunning loss at the hands of one James “Buster” Douglas some eleven years earlier, Rahman’s victory was the biggest upset in heavyweight history.

Here we are, over seven years later, and Rahman is getting a crack against another dominant champion trained by Manny Steward. This time it will be against Wladimir Klitschko. Like Lewis before him, Klitschko has emerged as the best of the bunch in the heavyweight landscape. Perhaps the talent in not quite as deep as when Lewis reigned supreme, but nonetheless, few would argue against Wladimir’s status as the best heavyweight on the planet (although a few fans of his brother might respectfully disagree).

It is rather ironic that Rahman is now squaring off against the man whom many considered to be Lewis’s main distraction heading into South Africa. Of course, I am referring to the scene from the movie Ocean’s 11, where Klitschko and Lewis were both inside the ring together. Many boxing enthusiasts think that this, along with other distractions in Lewis’s life at that time, was the main reason he lost to Rahman in the first place. The champ lacked focus, did not train properly, and ultimately paid a hefty price.

Going into his bout with Lewis, not many were giving Rahman much of a chance. After all, he had been bested by the likes of Oleg Maskaev and he barely survived future Wlad-conqueror Corrie Sanders, so the feeling was that Lewis would not have much trouble dispatching him. However, one thing few people were counting on was Rahman’s punching power. This, and the fact that Lewis was never known for a having spectacular chin, should have been enough reason to cause some doubt. However, despite this and the distractions Lewis had going into the bout, common wisdom throughout the boxing community suggested a Lewis victory was all but inevitable.

Going into his bout with Klitschko, the prevailing feeling throughout the boxing community is eerily similar to the lead up in his fight with Lewis. Most aren’t giving Rahman much of a chance against Klitschko, and not without good reason. After all, Rahman has not had too many meaningful wins since his upset victory against Lewis and he has also had a fair share of disappointing performances along the way. His best win since then was probably against Monte Barret, whom he had beaten for the vacant interim WBC title. He would ultimately lose this belt to Oleg Maskaev—the same man who had knocked him out of the ring a year and a half prior to his bout with Lewis. So it is easy to write Rahman’s victory over Lewis off as little more than a fluke.

However, one thing being overlooked here, perhaps, is the many similarities in the fighting styles of Lewis and Klitschko. The three big ones that jump to mind are: (1) both of them like to work behind a stiff jab, (2) both have tremendous power in their right hand, and (3) both have questionable chins which could be compromised by a big puncher. It is also probably no coincidence that both of these fighters were trained by the legendary Emmanuel Steward, and I am fairly certain that he has not forgotten the debacle in South Africa.

The question becomes, can Rahman repeat his feat from over seven years ago, and take out Wladimir Klitschko in the same fashion he took out Lennox Lewis? To me, it certainly seems plausible, and yet, nary a word is spoken about this possibility. Perhaps much of this stems from the hype surrounding the De La Hoya-Pacquiao mega fight has taken center stage? Or perhaps it could be because people are once again underestimating Rahman? Or maybe it is just a matter of people gauging this fight correctly, and recognizing Rahman for the one-hit wonder he was?

Personally, I tend to believe Klitschko will get the job done. Unlike Lewis, Wlad is not the type to get distracted when he should be training. He always seems to come into contests in tip-top shape and he never underestimates his opponents, especially since his fiasco against the aforementioned Corrie Sanders (who, incidentally, was stopped by Rahman in a give and take war not long before he fought Lewis). To be sure, Rahman has the type of skills and power that could enable him to land a nice right hand on Klitschko’s chin, and if he manages to do that, it very well might be lights out for Wlad. On the flipside, Rahman is no stranger to the canvas either, so he needs to be weary of Klitschko’s power, too.

I reckon Klitschko will probably take Rahman out in five or six rounds. That would seem to be the most likely outcome. At the same time, however, a repeat of South Africa would not completely shock me. An awful lot of fans seem to be sleeping on Rahman in this one. He does have a chance, and perhaps a better chance than any seem to realize, but at the end of the day, I believe Klitschko’s superior skills should see him to victory.

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Article posted on 09.12.2008

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