Hasim Rahman - America's Last Hope?
There is nothing more sacred in the sport of boxing than the coveted title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. At this very moment some young man is lacing up the gloves for the first time and shadow boxing in a mirror, dreaming that one day he will wear that glorious belt, that his name will be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali.
But the heavyweight belt does a lot more than just bring individual pride, it brings pride to a nation. Out-shining even an Olympic gold medal, the heavyweight belt says to the rest of the world, "We are the toughest, we are the strongest and we will kick your ass."
It's no secret Americans feel the belt should be here. We have a legacy of legendary champions that spans from Jack Johnson to Mike Tyson. But for far too long the spigot seems to have been turned off. But hope may be on the horizon.
Oddly enough something special seems to be brewing at the H.I.T. Factory Gym in Las Vegas, N.V. from an unlikely source. Former Heavyweight Champ Hasim Rahman is quietly putting in the work to forge his body to bring the belt back home.
As reported at FightSaga.com, Hasim Rahman (50-7-2-1, 41 KOs) has signed a contract to fight the winner of the Povetkin vs Chagaev matchup taking place on the 27th of August in Germany. If victorious, he would be a three-time world champion, placing him in an elite group of fighters such as Ali and Foreman, making a Klitschko matchup, should Rahman want it, almost inevitable.
How can this be? We've seen Rock get beat down by Klitschko three years ago and his weight balloon up to 284 lbs for his last fight. The most famous image of Rahman isn't of him standing over an unconscious Lennox Lewis with his hands raised in victory but of a grotesque lump coming out of his forehead the size of a softball. How in the world could this man be America's next great hero?
It's hard to get your head around the fact that Rahman could bring that kind of glory back to the States but further examination shows that this unlikely fighter may be the next heavyweight gladiator that America so desperately needs. What's different?
After tipping the scales at 284 lbs. for his last fight against Galen Brown in June 6th. Rahman seems to have had enough and is doing what's necessary to get his body right.
At the end of the August, Rahman plans to enter the intensive four-week weight control program at Duke Medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Weight control experts feel the answer to the mystery surrounding his issues might be something with his body which is why he's checking into the program. A team of specialists will be performing exhaustive medical evaluations looking for clues. Common culprits are the Thyroid gland, sleep apnea or other sleep related issues. They'll have Rahman there for four weeks in a controlled environment to get conclusive results.
Either way, Rahman will come out of the intensive program knowing the solutions to his problems. It would seem that if there's something going on with his body that he doesn't know about, trying to train and fight with it is like boxing with one hand tied behind his back.
The stakes are high for Rahman. It's common knowledge that he has one of the most devastating punches in the game. Just ask Lennox Lewis. Oddly enough, if he wins this battle with his weight and at only 38 years old, the window of opportunity is still open for him to do some amazing things.
"The plan is for him to come back in four weeks at a solid 240" said his trainer Eddie Mustafa. "At that point we will begin an intensive four-week training that could be his best camp ever."
Rahman now has Master Trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in his corner. Mustafa has been working with Rahman for his last five fights and all have been victories. Not only is Mustafa a former champion himself but he's also one of the most respected trainers and great people in the game. He's also like family to Rahman. They know each other well and there is a deep bond. This is something Rahman has never had in his career and gives him a big advantage.
I have personally witnessed what I feel are moments of greatness in Rahman's training sessions. His incredible punching power is still very evident and it's no surprise he really knows how to punish a heavy bag. But then there are these small moments when he's sparring where he gets up on his toes and when he moves his head that can make a doubter a believer.
If Rahman wins the WBA belt in November the heavens should open for the veteran. One exciting possibility would be to challenge Vitali Klitschko after the elder of the Klitschko brothers faces Tomasz Adamek this September. If Vitali prevails he'll own the WBC belt. This potential matchup would be a huge payday for Rahman and fulfill his desire to bring glory back to the U.S. Vitali is 40 years old and was reportedly over 260 lbs at the start of his current training camp.
If Rahman is reinvigorated and in superb shape and with Master Trainer Eddie Mustafa by his side, is a victory over Vitali out of the question? No, it isn't. With the dynamite Rahman has in his gloves anything can happen.
Since we're having fun speculating a little, let's assume Rahman beats 40-year-old Vitali and we look one step farther. A victory would create an opportunity for a superfight with the kind of excitement we haven't seen in the heavyweight division in thirty years: a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko.
Remember, Wladimir has the classification of "Super Champion" meaning he's got it all. He beat Rahman in 2008 but that was Rahman battling physical issues. Theoretically, it would be different this time. Klitschko would be fighting to avenge his brother's loss, just like the elder did for him earlier. Rahman would be fighting to avenge his earlier loss in 2008 and bring all the gold home in one fell swoop. I wouldn't say this fight would have the national sentiment of the Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling bout but it would have a lot of meaning to a lot of people. Hey, Vitali's son is named after Max Schmeling.
Is getting in incredible shape, perhaps the best shape of his career, enough to take down the giant? "I've been trainer for Rock now for the last five fights and I know him pretty well. We would need to make some adjustments to fight Klitschko but if his body is there I believe we can do it," Eddie Mustafa said. "Hey, listen. No matter how bad he wants to, if his body is out of sync he can't do it. Hopefully, when he comes back, he'll be ready" Mustafa said.
Before you scoff, remember back to March 8th, 2003 when Wladimir fought Corrie Sanders. Most everyone watching knew something was wrong with Klitschko physically when he hit the canvas in the 2nd round. You knew it wasn't really him. It's only fair that Hasim Rahman be given the same opportunity to show us all he's healed, that he's back and ready to attempt to make history. That's why America is called the land of second chances.
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