Rahman vs. Klitschko: Is Hasim Over His Head?

28.10.05 – By Tim Nielson: On November 12th, Vitali Klitschko will be defending his WBC heavyweight title against the heavy punching Hasim Rahman at the Thomas and Mack Center, in Las Vegas, For Rahman, he will be trying to regain the WBC belt, which he lost by vicious knockout to Lennox Lewis on November 17, 2001. Rahman, if anything, has a lot of power in his right hand, which, in my opinion, is his only hope in this fight. Rashman’s boxing ability is average, with him being able to outbox slower or smaller fighters. However, in facing Vitali Klitschko, a 6’8,” 250 pound giant, with exceptional power and boxing ability, Rahman will be facing a stern test. Strange things can happen, and perhaps Rahman can reach back four years and find another big right hand bomb to stop Klitschko in his tracks, yet based on Rahman’s recent history, and his dreadful performance against Monte Barrett, who Rahman defeated in boring, 12-round decision on August 13, 2005, it doesn’t seem too likely.

To Rahman’s credit, he has won his last six fights, defeating a string of B-level fighters, most of whom he completely dominated. His recent come back has not been without a scare, when he barely squeaked by the journeyman, Al Cole, winning a close decision on March 11, 2004, that many people thought should have been ruled a draw. However, going from a fighter, such as Monte Barrett or Al Cole, to then take on one of the very top heavyweights, if not the best, in Vitali Klitschko, is a huge step to take for anyone, and with potentially disastrous results.

When thinking of what a mess Rahman has made of his career in the past four years, it’s incredible that he, at one time, held the WBC, IBF & IBO heavyweight titles, after his shocking 5-round knockout victory over Lewis on April 22, 2001. Yet the victory itself is slightly tainted, in my opinion, considering that Lewis came into the fight out of shape, but still was dominating the fight up to the moment where he was tagged by a huge right hand by Rahman, a punch that flattened Lewis like a pan cake. Seven months later, Lewis avenged his defeat, by stopping Rahman in the 4th round, when Lewis connected with a monstrous right hand that nearly decapitated Rahman’s head from his neck.

From there on, Rahman’s career essentially took a nose dive, with him losing a decision to Evander Holyfied in 2002, fighting to a draw with David Tua on March 29, 2003, and then losing a 12-round decision to John Ruiz on December 13, 2003. On the one hand, you can partially assign blame for Rahman’s loses to his conditioning problems. On the other hand, even with his weight being a little high for these fights, if he considers himself to be the best heavyweight in the division, he shouldn’t have lost to Ruiz, nor Holyfield, who was 40-years-old at the time of the fight.

The key to the fight for Rahman, in my opinion, is for him to try and get Vitali into a slugging match, much like Rahman did with Corrie Sanders. If Rahman can get Vitali angry, and throwing caution to the wind, Rahman may get lucky and connect with something big. For instance, Vitali, who is noted for having a hot temper, doesn’t like too get hit with big shots, and generally comes back with heavy artillery, as if trying to even the score. Well, that’s exactly the type of fight that Rahman needs Vitali to be in, and it’s likely to be his only chance in this one. It’s not to say that Rahman doesn’t have a chance to outbox Vitali, but based on Rahman’s lack of handspeed, his low punch output, and poor defense, it’s not likely to happen. If Rahman was fighting Vitali’s kind brother, Wladimir, I would give Rahman a good chance at winning a decision, after knocking Wladimir down two or three times. However, Vitali’s chin is made of granite, and the punches that would put Wladimir down, wouldn’t even make a dent against Vitali.

As for Vitali’s size advantage, 5 ½ inches in height, it won’t be as much of a factor as some would think, considering that Rahman will have the reach advantage due to his longer wingspan (82″ for Rahman vs. 80″ for Vitali). However, where Rahman goes wrong in this fight, I think, is by trying to knockout Vitali, he will get sloppy and leave himself open for counter punching, which is something Vitali is good at. Rahman, for the most part, throws long, often telegraphed punches, thus leaving himself wide open after missing a punch. Vitali will be ready to land a chopping right hand, or powerful left hook, to an off balanced Rahman.

Prediction: Vitali Klitschko by 6th round KO.