Oleg Maskaev: Boxing’s new Cinderella Man
14.08.06 – By Geoffrey Ciani: Saturday night, Oleg Maskaev won the WBC heavyweight championship of the world when he knocked out reigning champ, Hasim Rahman, in dramatic fashion. For Maskaev, this was the perfect ending to a storybook career. In fact, this is the type of story that Hollywood scripts are based on.
The first time these two pugilists met was nearly seven years ago. At the time, both were younger, stronger, faster, and exhibited better skills in the ring. However, one thing remained constant over the course of those seven years – both Maskaev and Rahman are very evenly matched. Furthermore, both possess similar fighting styles which make for entertaining bouts.
The fight began much like the first one with both fighters feeling each other out using their jabs. The big difference this time: Neither fighter’s jab is quite as good as it once was..
Regardless, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and the success of both Maskaev and Rahman has always depended on how well each is able to get the jab working. Rahman got his going first.
Meanwhile, Maskaev looked like an aging fighter who had very little left in the tank, especially over the first few rounds. He looked painfully slow, and it was obvious early on that Rahman was the more athletic and better skilled of the two. Rahman was able to control the fight when he used his jab, but inexplicably, he never seemed focus enough to utilize this obvious advantage. Instead, he became sluggish and unfocused and seemed unwilling to press his natural strengths.
Consequently, this afforded Maskaev the opportunity to discover a weapon that helped him get back into the fight – that being, his left hook. Time and time again, Maskaev began finding the mark with his left hook, which scored often and helped narrow the gap on the scorecards. As a result, Maskaev began having a bit more success with his jab, which in turn, allowed him to start landing his right.
The right hand has always been Maskaev’s money punch. It was this punch that sent Rahman through the ropes in their first encounter seven years ago. Rahman seemed so preoccupied with Maskaev’s right hand that he allowed him to begin finding success with the left hook. The strangest thing about all of this is that Rahman refused to use his natural advantages in speed and skill. When Rahman jabbed, he invariably got off first and he rarely missed the mark.
After eight rounds, the fight was pretty much even. However, it seemed that Maskaev was beginning to slow down. In fact, it appeared that the 37 year old pugilist was running out of gas, and that his younger opponent was about to regain control of the fight, but things didn’t play out this way. After Rahman had regained his composure in the 8th and 9th rounds, Maskaev got a second wind, and at this point, Rahman was the one who appeared exhausted.
Maskaev would go on to win the 10th and the 11th, and it appeared that Maskaev may have hurt Rahman towards the end of the 11th round. At this point, the fight was too close to call, and it seemed plausible that whoever won the final round would win the fight.
Then it happened: Maskaev dropped Rahman early in the twelfth round with a crushing right hand. Apparently, Rahman had been hurt in the previous round, and it became obvious that Rahman was running on fumes. To his credit, he got up and tried to regain his composure, but it was already too late. His legs had clearly abandoned him, and he did everything in his power to simply survive the round.
Unfortunately for Rahman, Maskaev seized the moment, and began unleashing a series of powerful right hands which refused to miss their mark. Rahman was being beaten badly, and slowly began to sink. Referee Jay Nady wisely stopped the bout with just 43 seconds left to go.
This was the perfect ending for Oleg Maskaev, both in terms of the bout itself and in terms of his boxing career. That Maskaev won the title at age 37 after fighting his way in and out of contention for so long is truly a perfect ending to a storybook career. Let’s not forget, this was a man whose career was managed very poorly, as evidenced by the fact that he was thrown in with Oliver McCall in just his seventh professional fight.
Whatever he does after this is a moot issue. Maskaev may well go on to fight for a big payday in a finale fight, but the last page of his career has been perfectly written. His name will forever be linked with Hasim Rahman’s – the man who once bested the great Lennox Lewis.
Oleg Maskaev is boxing’s new Cinderella!~
Article posted on 15.08.2006
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