Rahman/Maskaev II Analysis: Should We Expect Retribution For “Rock?”

10.08.06 - By Nick Mathur: The rematch between Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev will take place this Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. It has been nearly seven years since their first meeting, where Maskaev sent Rahman through the ropes and out of the ring with a crushing right hand, scoring a highlight reel knockout victory in the eighth round.

Maskaev, achieving the best victory of his professional career, was down on all three judges scorecards at the time of the stoppage, but managed to stun Rahman and then spectacularly put an end to the contest, erasing any attempts Rahman might have made to survive the round while on shaky legs. Rahman later went on to become the unified heavyweight champion of the world with an upset fifth round knockout victory over Lennox Lewis in Africa, only to lose his title five months later when Lewis exacted his revenge by scoring a savage fourth round stoppage..

Rahman became the WBC world titlist towards the end of 2005 after Vitali Klitschko retired because of repetitive injuries sustained to his knee, thigh, and back, leaving him unable to make his mandatory defense. Rahman became the interim champion after decisioning Monte Barrett in a dreadful fight last August and was upgraded to the status of champion soon after. He followed that by battling James Toney to a draw in his most recent fight, even though the majority of people believe that he did enough to merit a victory.

Maskaev’s accomplishments have been limited as well, having been knocked out three times since his victory over Rahman, and only finding success against more or less average boxers. His most notable victory in the past few years is a split decision win against previously undefeated former Olympian David Defiagbon. Maskaev was able to knock Defiagbon down in the sixth round, but did not put on a particularly impressive performance. Most recently, Oleg posted a decision win against European contender Sinan Samil Sam.

Both fighters’ records are devoid of a significant win in the past five years, with Maskaev being on the wrong end of knockout losses to the best fighters that he has faced since his signature win over “Rock.” Yet despite that, fans generally regard Rahman as being one of the best in today’s lukewarm heavyweight division, which features many fighters that have roughly the same level of talent, but fails to inspire most followers of the sport. In his losses against John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield, Hasim looked lethargic and did not show up to the fights looking as if he had trained diligently. Even when performing relatively well and earning a draw in a rematch with David Tua, Rahman appeared to have done enough to win the fight, but came in weighing close to 260 pounds, which is probably twenty pounds heavier than his most effective fighting weight.

A string of wins against pedestrian competition somehow brought Rahman back to the forefront of the division. This run was capped by a knockout win against Kali Meehan, a fighter who, despite losing to always inconsistent former champion Lamon Brewster, gave him one of his toughest fights. However, Meehan has not done anything before or after the Brewster fight to indicate that he is a noteworthy opponent on Rahman’s resume. While none of these facts offer evidence as to why Rahman should be considered one of today’s best heavyweights, what should be encouraging for his supporters is that he appears to have found a new sense of dedication to the sport and now trains very hard. His stamina was the best that it has ever been in the Toney fight, which may be significant because he probably will not get sloppy or make any defensive lapses on Saturday due to fatigue.

Both fighters have high knockout percentages and chins that clearly can be dented, but I doubt that we will see the slugfest on Saturday night that some are anticipating. I expect it to be a suspenseful, yet tactical fight; in the heavyweight division, all it takes sometimes is one hard shot to determine the outcome, which is what makes it exciting to watch. While one has to take Rahman’s fight against Toney into consideration, where he had trouble landing anything cleanly to Toney’s head and instead had to focus more on the body, Maskaev is not nearly as elusive as Toney. If a couple of Rahman’s dynamite right hands land upstairs, he will be in serious trouble.

At thirty-seven years of age, Maskaev’s best years are likely behind him. He was an accomplished amateur fighter before turning professional, which gives him a level of experience that Rahman does not have to fall back on. However, I predict that “Rock” will attain his revenge over Maskaev this Saturday with a technical knockout in the middle rounds, although a comfortable decision win is also an entirely possible outcome. Maskaev clearly has the punching power to score a repeat knockout victory, but it is an ending that is not likely to occur in my opinion. Look for Rahman to avenge his loss in what should be a significant step for him towards regaining both past glory, as well as the recognition that he truly deserves to be called one of the top heavyweights in the world.

Article posted on 10.08.2006

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