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The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire
November 17, 2001
Kayo of the Year: Lewis Rocks Rahman
By Chris Bushnell

The improbable heavyweight championship reign of Hasim Rahman ended exactly as it began: with a vicious right hand short circuiting the brain of the reigning title holder. Lennox Lewis, who at age 36 turned in one of the finest performances of his long career, regained boxing's top prize by dominating Rahman from the opening bell to the sudden finish. And what a finish it was. In a reversal of fortune that he could have only dreamt about, Lewis wiped out Rahman with a concussive knockout even more impressive than the one that made this rematch necessary. For the second time in 2001, we have a new heavyweight champion of the world. His name is Lennox Lewis.

To put it mildly, everything backfired for Hasim Rahman. His pre-fight taunts and tussles with the disgraced Lewis only served to inspire the former champion. As a result, Lewis scaled in at a firm 246.5, his lightest since the rematch with Holyfield. The more Rahman ribbed Lewis, the more focused he became. By fight night, when Rahman tried again to upset Lewis by attempting to enter his dressing room, the champion's attempts at mind games were beginning to look desperate. As he climbed into the ring, Rahman looked wide eyed and nervous, a stark contrast to the loosey-goosey Lewis who had danced into the ring to the tune of James Browns' "The Big Payback."

Rahman's intent all along was to anger Lewis into brawling early. But when the fight began and Lewis didn't bull-rush Rahman, the champion seemed lost. Rahman, whose own sculpted physique was evidence of a serious training camp, appeared to have no game plan once Lennox didn't charge. Rather than pressure Lewis, test his chin, probe his fragile psyche, and try and exploit the previous knockout, Rahman instead opted to stand there. Big mistake. Within moments, Lewis was pumping out a heavy jab. One of the first several that landed cut Rahman above the left eye and drew a trickle of blood.

Lewis' jab has often varied between pawing and pumping, but this night he was thrusting his massive stick with serious authority. An overwhelmed Rahman walked into a few such jabs in the bout's opening seconds, each landing with the force of a full-fledged power punch. A minute into the round, Lewis followed up a jab with his trademark overhand right and drew huge cheers when the punch smacked Rahman in the face as he leaned back. Lewis kept his eyes locked on Rahman, and gladly stumbled into a clinch the few times that Rahman made an attempt to throw return shots. As the opening round wore down, Rahman finally scored with a few glancing jabs and a hook off the jab that grazed Lewis' face. But it was not enough, and the first round was a clear Lennox round.

By letting Lewis control the opener, Rahman had given up his best chance at a repeat. He had needed to hurt Lewis early, or at least land a punch and earn some respect, or at least throw some punches and make Lewis think about South Africa. Rahman failed at his task, and came out in the second round with the same lack of gameplan. Lewis' jab was again pumping in the second round, and Rahman's head flew back each time it landed. But the telling punch for Lewis was not the jab, but the left hook. In all of Lewis' best fights, his hook has been enough of a factor to keep opponents from solely protecting against the right. Lewis landed his hook early in round two as the fighters came together into a clinch.

Lewis was not ignoring Rahman's body, either. He followed up that hook by sinking his right into Rahman's ribs. And as he had in the first, he occasionally lowered his jab and aimed at Rahman's midsection. After a few of these downstairs blows landed in the second, Rahman came over the jab with a lead left hook-right hand combo that landed fairly clean. Lewis took the punches well, and answered with a jab-cross-hook a few moments later. Another heavy Lewis one-two scored on Rahman before the bell, giving Lewis another easy round in the bank. Rahman was eating leather and offering only the minimum of resistance.

Lewis' confidence was growing, and his hook again became a major factor. After again punishing Rahman with the jab, Lewis launched a massive jab-cross-hook combo. This time, the jab and right missed. But unlike other Lewis fights, when the one-two was the only offense used, the Lewis hook followed up and landed flush on Rahman's face. Rahman's reaction was bizarre. He pushed out both his hands forward (Frankenstein-style) and backed away from Lewis while keeping both hands out in front of him. Several times between this moment and the end of the bout, Rahman answered Lewis' punches with this same odd move. It smacked of fear. Instead of countering Lewis, Rahman was now trying to just not get hit. It wasn't working.

Lewis continued to score in the third round, notably with a half-hook-half-jab left that tagged Rahman and set up a follow-up right hand. Rahman ate these punches as he had many Lewis blows: flush. Hasim the Dream did land his token punch of the round with 40 seconds left in the stanza. It was a lead left hook, and it tagged Lewis on the chin. Lewis wasn't hurt, but he did lock Rahman's arms in a clinch after the blow landed. After Joe Cortez forced a break, Lewis ended the round with a series of heavy jabs. All of these kept Rahman too far away to land, although he wasn't exactly throwing much to begin with.

Rahman was already down three rounds to nothing, and Lewis was looking sharp. Lewis began pumping his jab in the fourth, only now Rahman was retreating with every Lewis advance. Twice Lewis threw a big one-two only to have Rahman meekly back away with his hands raised again. Lewis tried the combo a third time, this time beginning with a hook, and hit paydirt. As Lewis threw the hook, Rahman leaned back, again pushing up both hands in a weak defense. The hook sailed past Rahman's face, but prevented him from seeing the wide right hand that Lewis had loaded up with and was throwing like a pitcher. The punch crashed into Rahman's exposed chin with a loud thud, and the sellout Mandalay Bay crowd gasped and jumped to it's feet immediately.

The punch was so crisp that it ripped open a two-inch gash above Rahman's mouth, and the soon-to-be-former-champion flew backwards to the canvas, stiff as a board. He lay on the canvas spread eagle while referee Joe Cortez sent Lewis to a neutral corner and picked up the count at four. Rahman's eyes were wide open, but he didn't make a move until Cortez was about to call out "Six!" At that point, a dazed Rahman rolled over and began pushing himself up, blood dripping off his face. By eight he was halfway up, and he was on his feet (albeit in a crouching position) by nine. But before Cortez could yell out "Ten," Rahman tipped over sideways, crashing headfirst into a neutral corner. The final count was unnecessary. Cortez waved off the fight. Lewis KO4.

As the fight was waved, an elated Lewis pumped his chest and grabbed Emanuel Steward (among others) in a huge embrace. The celebration was much deserved: Lewis had dominated Rahman in perhaps the only manner that would ensure his legacy was completely restored. Had Lewis won a boring 12-round decision, or even knocked out Rahman in a close bout, questions would linger about the state of his skills. But with this performance, Lewis showed that when he's in shape and inspired, he can still be a force to be reckoned with. Now 36-2/30, Lewis will no doubt seek the big money showdown with Mike Tyson. Does anyone doubt that the shorter, lighter, slower, Tyson will end up in the same prone position that Rahman did?

As for Rahman, he must now live with the consequences of his horrendous post-championship decisions. First among them was the choice not to sign a long-term network deal before the Lewis fight. While HBO and Showtime were offering him upwards of $15-$20 million for a multi-fight package, win or lose, Rahman will now have to wait awhile for another big payday. And while Rahman could have stayed with Kushner and maximized his opportunities, he's now stuck with Don King and no guarantees. The most likely big-name opponent King could land for Rahman would be the winner of Holyfield-Ruiz. But that winner is obligated to fight Kirk Johnson before Rahman, making Rahman's wait all the longer. Rahman, who had a legitimate shot at wealth and legacy, now must contend with being another undercard club fighter... a footnote to the heavyweight title picture in much the same way that Leon Spinks is. Actually, Leon Spinks was an Olympic Gold Medal winner. Hasim Rahman was floored twice by Corrie Sanders. You do the math.

Rahman-Lewis II was everything a heavyweight title fight should be, except perhaps competitive. It was thrilling, action-packed, and conclusive. It was a good thing, because Rahman-Lewis topped off an excruciating undercard of mediocre fights.

Perhaps the best fight of the night was not shown on television, as former Lewis conqueror Oliver McCall defeated Henry Akinwande by knockout in the final minute of their bout. Beyond that, you had to look to Christy Martin for thrills. The longtime woman's boxing icon needed 10 long rounds to pound out a decision win over bigger, stronger Lisa Holewyne. Martin chopped at Holewyne in each round with violent, head-snapping overhand rights. But the big girl would not fold, winning a few stray rounds on the official cards and not a single one on Boxing Chronicle's.

Also on the undercard, William Joppy won a close majority decision over previously undefeated Howard Eastman in a tactical, but often boring, match. Billed as a bout for the vacant WBA middleweight title (champion Bernard Hopkins has been named "super-champion, thus freeing up the "regular" championship for additional sanctioning fees), the bout was mostly controlled by Joppy's quick hands and slick movement. But the awkward Eastman kept it close with a mid-round rally that saw a tiring Joppy eat some heavy power shots. Joppy caught a second wind in rounds ten and eleven to reestablish the lead after the bout had grown close, only to then lose his steam and be kn ocked down by a perfect Eastman right hand with exactly one second left in the bout. Joppy easily beat the count, but lost the final round 10-8 on two official cards and 10-7 on another. The two (or three) point round turned it into a nailbiter, but Joppy hang on for the majority win 113-113, 114-112, 115-112. Boxing Chronicle scored for Joppy (now 33-2/24) 114-113.

In the semi-final match, two undefeated heavyweights squared off in a "One Oh Must Go" match. Unfortunately, 16-0 Friday Ahunanya and 15-0 Sergei Liakhovich both ran out of steam about three rounds into their 12-round bout. The following nine rounds were an almost intolerable combination of no-punching, long clinches, and sloppy arm-weary boxing. Ahunanya won most of the early rounds with occasional haymakers that landed, but by round ten he was dangerously out of gas. Liakhovich was only slightly less winded, and thus was able to do the bare minimum needed to eke out a win. You can rest assured that neither of these fighters will be fighting for the championship any time before 2010.

.....Chris Bushnell
www.boxingchronicle.com
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