Rahman vs. Maskaev, Part II
By Frank Gonzalez Jr. August 14th, 2006. Art imitates life and life imitates art. James Braddock did it. Russell Crowe re-did it in the movies and Oleg Maskaev did it Saturday night in Las Vegas. Had Rahman won, he would have done it too. It’s the classic story of rising, then falling from grace and then finding a way to rise again. How the story ends depends on your own imagination.
Article posted on 14.08.2006
Oleg Maskaev (33-5, 26 KO’s) won his 11th fight in a row in route to winning the WBC Heavyweight Title by scoring a TKO 12 Win over well-trained and seasoned, Hasim Rahman (41-6-2, 33 KO’s), who once again proved unable to successfully defend his Title.
Maskaev was the underdog coming into the fight in spite of having a spectacular, ‘through the ropes’ KO Win over Hasim Rahman on his resume from their November 1999 battle in Atlantic City NJ. Since then, Rahman has fought the better opponents and won and lost a World Title. Maskaev lost a few key fights after his promising 1999 stature, then practically disappeared from the radar, though he kept on fighting.
In his fight against Sinal Sam, Maskaev showed vastly improved boxing skills and discipline. In his last fight against James Toney, Rahman showed consistency and improved ring smarts. On paper, this should have been a good match up and it was.
My main criticism of Rahman has always been his lack of consistency. He’s either very good—or very bad. Hey, he’s only human. But when he’s good, he’s one of the toughest guys in the division. Lately, Rahman has been consistently using his jab, setting up his shots and wisely following the advice of his corner. His improved overall skills and mental discipline have made him into a formidable contender.
Rahman’s first Title was earned when he knocked out the over confident, Lennox Lewis back in 2001, only to lose that Title in a rematch with Lewis seven months later by a thunderous KO punch.
Rahman’s recent incarnation as WBC Champion was practically handed to him when the actual WBC Champ, Vitali Klitschko suddenly retired from Boxing. A pair of wins over Kali Meehan and Monte Barrett hardly qualifies one to be called a World Champion. But Rahman proved his quality. Even his loss Saturday night.
Rahman gave a good account of himself as he dominated the first five rounds with textbook jabbing and combination punching. He was the aggressor and controlled the tempo for the first half of the bout. Maskaev did very little and was trying to land one big shot.
The referee was Jay Nady, who was more than a bit overzealous with his warnings to Maskaev about holding. Oleg did some holding, but it was mostly strategic, what you do when a guy is coming in with punches that might otherwise hit you. It’s a realistic part of any defensive strategy in boxing. Of course, there’s a limit how often you can hold but it wasn’t red light excessive.
Both guys did some holding. Oleg held a more but not enough to be saddled by the referee, who gave the impression of being an agent of the Rahman camp for the first six rounds.
To his credit, Nady did let them fight and never took any points from Maskaev. He eventually eased up on the warnings too. In a way, Nady helped Maskaev win the fight because he forced Oleg to make a serious adjustment—not to hold and to punch more.
By the sixth, the tide had turned as Maskaev adapted to the Nady factor and actually started using his jab and lead right hands more instead of holding when Rahman came in. Oleg was finding his rhythm and catching Rahman with rights, body shots and left hooks that were starting to take a toll and slow the more athletic Rahman down.
This fight was the tale of three punches—the jab, the right cross and the left hook. Early on, it was Rahman’s jab; later on, it was Oleg’s left hooks, ending with Oleg’s big right hand crashing into Rahman’s face and body.
By the 8th, Rahman shifted the momentum back his way with pressure from his jab. Maskaev was looking tired and uninterested in winning rounds so much as landing that big punch that would end things. Rahman continued to land the cleaner shots through the 9th round.
In the 10th, Maskaev landed several punches to the body and head of Rahman, who pressed forward ineffectively and was starting to fade. The tide had turned again in favor of the guy in the better condition—Maskaev.
The 11th featured Maskaev blasting Rahman with multiple left hooks that saw Rahman go into holding mode. Maskaev landed a low blow that hurt Rahman. Nady gave a warning. Maskaev landed two more unanswered shots at the bell.
Nady called a Timeout to address loose tape on Rahman’s glove at the start of the 12th. The crowd booed until action resumed. Then, the 12th round proved to be the most exciting of the fight. Maskaev caught Rahman with a big right, followed by a left hook that staggered Rahman towards the ropes. Oleg landed a glancing right that made Rahman lose his balance and fall. It was properly ruled a knockdown, though Rahman protested the call. The crowd was on their feet, screaming. Nady counted.
When action resumed, Maskaev landed a series of punches, right, right, left, left. Rahman grabbed Maskaev and held on for dear life, dragging his feet in a wrestle across the ring and eventually falling to the canvas near the ropes. Shades of November 1999 looming in Rahman’s mind as he got up. Nady rightly ruled it a slip. But it was more than a slip, it was the beginning of the end for Hasim Rahman, who was losing the contest of stamina.
Maskaev went for the finish, using lead rights to direct Rahman into the corner, where Maskaev teed off on him with a left, right, right, right, left, left, then another right…Nady stepped between them and waved it off. It was over.
Oleg Maskaev raised his hands in victory.
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A Cinderella story? Maybe. Like James Braddock, Maskaev did come back from being a written off contender to becoming a HW Champion. If there were only ONE Champion, the Cinderella tag would be more applicable. To me, it’s the classic story of faith and perseverance. Maskaev kept active, retooled his style, hooked up with new people and believed in himself enough to allow his career to blossom late.
Better late than never.
Oleg Maskaev lives in Staten Island New York (by way of Kazakhstan). Before that, he lived in my hometown of Brooklyn. He’s an American citizen, so I didn’t quite get the promotional suggestion that Rahman was the last American HW Champion when he was in fact, fighting another American, who would be still an American Champion if he won. Hasim Rahman sounds like a guy from Somalia but he’s from Baltimore Maryland. Both guys are Americans so either guy would have represented America in the world of Boxing, so what’s the big whoop?
Congratulations to the new WBC Heavyweight Champion, Oleg Maskaev. He showed a lot of heart, a good chin, patience and enough discipline to deal with a momentarily obnoxious referee. Maskaev also proved to be surprisingly well conditioned for a 37 year old.
There is talk about Maskaev fighting IBF Champion, Wladimir Klitschko in November. Klitschko is an athletic, skillful, power boxer with long arms and a hell of a jab. His chin is still suspect since his losses to Corrie Sanders in 2003 and Lamon Brewster in 2004, but he seems to have rebounded from those catastrophic losses with convincing wins over Sam Peter, the brawler and Chris Byrd, the boxer. Like Maskaev, Klitschko has adopted a better defensive style and the use of strategic holding. Klitschko is faster and easily as strong as Maskaev but how will he handle Maskaev’s power? Hopefully, time will tell.
The other Champions include WBO Champ, Sergei Liahkovich of Belarus and WBA Champ, Nicolay Valuev of Russia. Liahkovich is a very good boxer that fights smart. The gigantic sized Valuev is still a mystery to many fight fans on this side of the globe. His only real claim to fame so far is a close win over John Ruiz and that’s not saying much. Hasim Rahman can still be very much in the mix if he chooses to. I expect he will continue to fight and get even better. He’ll be a dangerous proposition to anyone in the division. This loss will have little bearing on that reality. As for all the Champions, it would be great if the four of them faced off in a Heavyweight Tournament to determine who really is the HW Champion of the World.
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