Hasim Rahman vs. Oleg Maskaev: Will Hasim's Chin Betray Him Once Again?

11.08.06 - By Jacqui Snow: American fans are hoping that history wonít repeat itself on August 12th when Hasim Rahman (photo by Chris Farina - TopRank) takes on Oleg Maskaev for the second time. The fact that Rahman is the only American to hold a heavyweight title hasnít been lost on Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, whoís billed the fight as Americaís Last Line of Defense. Arum is either unaware or unconcerned that Oleg Maskaev is now actually an American citizen who calls New York home.

The first Rahman/Maskaev fight, which took place seven years ago in November 1999, was an action-packed bout. Both men traded power punches and jabs, but Rahmanís superior speed and accurate jab had him comfortably ahead on all three judgesí cards going into the eighth round. Less that a minute into that round, Maskaev landed two hard left hooks, followed by a series of rights to Rahmanís head. The final blow came with just over a minute to go, when Maskaev landed a right hand to Rahmanís chin, throwing him through the ropes and head-first onto the concrete floor in front of HBO commentator Jim Lampley. An ugly riot ensued as the fans threw chairs, one of which hit referee Steve Smoger, whoíd been sitting ringside.

Rahman followed that defeat with a string of four straight victories, concluding with his stunning upset knockout of heavyweight kingpin Lennox Lewis, which Ring Magazine designated as its 2001 Upset of the Year. The victory earned Rahman the WBC, IBF and IBO Heavyweight titles, which Lennox promptly reclaimed by knocking Rahman out in the fourth round of their rematch seven months later.

Things didnít go smoothly for Rahman over the course of his next three fights. His bout against former champ Evander Holyfield in June 2002 was stopped after an accidental headbutt caused an enormous swelling above Rahmanís left eye and he lost a split decision. Many observers believe that he won his next fight, a rematch against David Tua in March 2003, but the judges scored a draw. And in December 2003, he lost a unanimous decision to John Ruiz.

After stepping down in competition to score victories in his next four bouts, Rahman won an IBF, WBA and WBC eliminator against Kali Meehan on November 2004 and was designated as the mandatory contender for Vitali Klitschkoís WBC heavyweight belt. Injuries forced Klitschko to cancel three scheduled fight dates and ultimately retire, at which point the belt was stripped from him and awarded to Rahman.

Rahmanís last outing against an obese James Toney ended in a draw.

Maskaev recently earned the number one spot for Rahmanís title with a unanimous decision over Sinan Samil Sam. He has certainly shown that he has knockout power, but his chin is suspect. Since fighting Rahman, heís gone 13-3 against limited competition. His three losses to Kirk Johnson, Lance Whittaker and Corey Sanders all came by way of knockout.

The WBC has ruled that the winner of the Rahman/Maskaev fight must defend his title against James Toney.

Article posted on 12.08.2006

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