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Monday June 26th 2017
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Heavyweight Hopefulls – Rahman vs. Maskaev

As boxing fans, it is hard for us to hear others decry the fall from greatness of the heavyweight division. While the current heavyweight field may do little to inspire some, I still love to see the two-hundred-pound-plus dreadnoughts battle it out. There have always been dull fights between lumbering, unskilled oafs, but there are also some heavyweights capable of putting on a good show. Next Saturday night, on HBO PPV, we`re all hoping to see the later, not the former.

As boxing fans, it is hard for us to hear others decry the fall from greatness of the heavyweight division. While the current heavyweight field may do little to inspire some, I still love to see the two-hundred-pound-plus dreadnoughts battle it out. There have always been dull fights between lumbering, unskilled oafs, but there are also some heavyweights capable of putting on a good show. Next Saturday night, on HBO PPV, we`re all hoping to see the later, not the former.

Those of us optimistic enough to fork out the fifty bucks are hoping to see a rematch between two experienced boxers, each with knockout power and a propensity to “mix it up”. What we`re afraid of seeing is a poorly disciplined, scatterbrained boxer against a shot, weak-willed, “coulda beena contender”. What we will be seeing is the lone American strapholder, WBC “champion” Hasim Rahman take on Oleg Maskaev in what could be an exciting rematch, or yet another boring battle of behemoths.

Their first meeting, in 1998, pitted the up-and-coming, though unschooled Rahman against a former Soviet Army officer with an impressive amateur background who had failed to live up to his potential as a pro. As most of you remember, that fight saw Rahman use his superior speed and his stiff jab to take a solid lead into the eighth round, only to have Maskaev take over the fight with a series of well-placed power shots. Maskaev`s rally ended with Rahman being knocked out, as well as out of the ring.

Since that night, Rahman`s star has risen, though he has achieved little respect from serious students of the sweet science, while Maskaev has only recently struggled out of an obscurity into which his poor training and technique had led him. Each man is fighting to redeem himself, his reputation, and his career.

Rahman is hoping to be known as something other than a flash in the pan who struck down an overconfident, poorly conditioned Lennox Lewis and held his belt for a few months prior to having Lewis beat it out of his hands in a humbling fashion. Rahman`s knockout win over Lewis was his only win over an elite fighter, with his other notable victories being over a 42-year-old Trevor Berbick, and journeymen Kali Meehan (a title eliminator), and the never-confused with competent Monte “Two Guns” Barrett (who is, inexplicably, fighting Nikolay Valuev for the WBA belt in October), for which Rahman was awarded the title. And lest we forget, at least Hasim was able to vanquish the two fighters who KO`ed Wladmir Klitschko, Corrie Sanders and club fighter Ross “The Boss” Puritty . Had Vitali Klitschko not retired, Rahman certainly would not be wearing the WBC belt.

Maskaev has been trying to re-establish himself after his fall from contention with losses to Corey “T-Rex” Sanders, Lance Whitaker, and Kirk Johnson in a disastrous 18-month tailspin that nearly de-railed his career. Maskaev has lost tough fights early in his pro career to Oliver McCall and David Tua, but had seemed to be ascending when started his fall, getting knocked out in three of five fights. After the loss to Sanders, Maskaev took eleven months off before getting back into the ring with a series of tomato cans. While widely derided, this allowed Maskaev to rebuild his confidence, make a little money, and start on the road back to legitimacy. His last three fights have been against solid fighters, and while some would argue that he`s yet to earn a title shot, with the current state of the heavyweight division, there seems to be a lot of room for speculation as to what justifies a title shot these days.

The main reason that this fight is happening is that Rahman thinks that he can win it. This is the one money-making fight that Rahman`s handlers could arrange that “The Rock” has a high likelihood to win. After Rahman`s dismal performance in his draw with James Toney, the fans aren`t willing to shell out money to see Rahman fight, unless there are special circumstances, which Rahman`s past with Maskaev provides aplenty. Of the other three major strapholders, only Valuev would have anything to fear from Rahman, and Don King won`t let that fight happen until he`s milked that Russian cash cow dry. Rahman, and his legacy, such as it is, will always be haunted by the Maskaev`s devastating knockout punch. Now, with his reputation in the doldrums, Hasim hopes that flattening a shell of his former vanquisher will increase interest in a fighter who`s only appeal is his American citizenship.

I expect that both fighters will come into the ring in good shape, but Rahman`s speed advantage will probably be greater than in their last bout, and if Rahman can maintain his composure in the ring, he should be able to outlast the thirty-seven year-old Maskaev. Maskaev has tremendous power with either hand, however, and if Rahman again gives Maskaev open shots, we may see a repeat of what happened back in 1998. Either way, I`ll be watching, and the meat will be roasted, so those of you who know me, come on over.

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