Tonight Oleg Maskaev will give it one more shot!

11.11.05 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: Tomorrow night in Germany, Oleg the big “O” Maskaev, will face Turkish Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title eliminator to face newly crowned Hasim Rahman. Naturally, cheering for the big “O” to score the big win, as based on our somewhat common cultural heritage, the first thought that sprang to mind after Rahman was awarded the title, was can we see Maskaev-Rahman 2?

If you’re a fan of boxing then your collection of devastating knockouts is, to put it simply, worthless without the ending to the first showdown between these two. Personally, I think the Maskaev vs. Rahman fight was one of the best fights I've ever seen. I cherish that ending not only because of the unique and spectacular way in which Oleg laid Rahman out but also because of who Oleg was and what he had overcome to get that tremendous knockout.

Sometimes when I am walking down the street, thinking about some random subject, the echoing of Lampley’s stunned and excited voice repeating, “Maskaev lands again,” and “Oh! Right hand puts Rahman on the floor right next to me!

Right next to me! Right Next to me!” surprises me just as much as that right hand surprised current champ Rahman. Ultimately, what I like most about that ending is the fact that the victory couldn’t have happened for a more deserving and dedicated guy like Oleg Maskaev.

Maskaev’s career has had more ups and downs then those of most of his fellow boxers, and this has been written about before, but deserves to be written about again. His very first professional fight is according to my research one of the two or three toughest professional debuts for any fighter in the history of boxing, and Maskaev actually won! Many fans of professional boxing can look on boxrec and easily shrug off Alexander Miroshnichenko as a fighter with an inflated record and nothing more. After all how easy is it to hand pick opponents, something Miroshnichenko probably didn’t want to but had to do, and fight out of your own backyard, another necessity for Alexander? Granted Miroshnichenko’s professional record was very mediocre at best, but that little page on boxrec won’t tell you about Miroshnichenko’s amateur career which included wins over both Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis. In another sense Miroshnichenko was both Lewis and Bowe’s equal when all three started as professionals, and by the time Maskaev fought him he had developed himself enough with weak opposition. Anybody who denies the significance of Maskaev’s stoppage win over Miroshnichenko is to put it mildly plain wrong.

However, the relative obscurity of a fighter like Miroshnichenko at that time, forced Oleg to find challenges that will make the boxing public more accepting of his talents. His official sixth pro fight lasted the full 12 rounds; a distance a young professional fighter just doesn’t face this early in his career. In his very next fight, Maskaev was thrown into the lion’s den once again when he faced off against the Atomic Bull Oliver McCall, a fighter who has never been down, and who was to that point the only man to knock out Lennox Lewis. The tumble from grace as Oleg lost via knockout in the first round was surely automatic; yet 5 fights later Oleg put himself on the line once again. This time the opponent was young, hungry, undefeated, fierce puncher Tua. By comparison when current WBA champ John Ruiz decided to tempt fate and fight Terminator Tua he didn’t make past the first minute of the first round, while Maskaev lasted eleven with the monstrous islander and led on the cards at the time of the stoppage. His next four opponents had a combined record of 108 wins to15 losses. After which the next meaningful fight for Oleg was against Rahman, a 31-1 fighter, with the lone loss being a disputed knockout to the same David Tua. As mentioned there was nothing to dispute after Maskaev vs. Rahman.

Soon after this, the biggest triumph of his professional career, Oleg lost successively to talented Canadian Kirk Johnson. Johnson undefeated at the time handed Oleg his third professional defeat by way of devastating KO. As usual there would be no warm ups as Maskaev made the mistake of tackling a fighter in Lance Whitaker, with one decision loss, and a desire to put on a good show. The wound of the loss to Johnson had not properly healed and while Oleg did get up and try to fight on, that night the cards were too stacked against him and Whitaker was just better. Another knockout loss to American Corey Sanders made most believe that the inspiring journey of Oleg Maskaev as a top-flight contender had come to an end.

However that majority did not include Oleg Maskaev. Starting in 2003 at the age of 34 Oleg started on the long hard road back to the top. At an age where fighters take long lay offs and contemplate retirement Oleg went back on the road and racked up five wins. Now, most people baulk at the fact that the victories were against no hopers, but at the same time praise Hasim Rahman for beating a different crop of his own hand picked opponents. Most of these people make Rahman’s lack of training and focus seem as a legitimate excuse for fighting “confidence building” fights. At the same time rarely if ever has Oleg Maskaev come in out of shape for a fight, regardless of the opponent. Yes he may not have the same skill as Riddick Bowe or Kirk Johnson, but can anybody question the man’s dedication to the sport?

I find inspiration in the fact that a man who has been brutally stopped in every one of his losses, at the age of 36 is still trying to fulfill the goal every boxer aspires to. Furthermore Sinan Samil Sam is definitely not what I would call a handpicked opponent. He is coming off good wins against Dennis Bakhtov and Lawrence Clay Bey as well as Peter Okhello, and always carries a big punch something that has cause Maskaev problems in the past. If Maskaev can somehow come out victorious compared to what other fighters in the division are doing it is not unfair to give him his shot at a repeat against Rahman.

Bottom line: Although I think this fight is up for grabs in regards to who will take it I sincerely hope it is Maskaev. I have nothing against Sam, and do respect him as a fighter from what I have read about him, but knowing Oleg’s journey as a professional boxer, and reading about his character in regards to the public and his family, I would like to see him come out victorious and will be cheering for the big O from Kazakhstan.

Article posted on 11.11.2005

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