Hasim Rahman Vs. Oleg Maskaev-Coming full circle

rahman vs maskaev07.08.06 - By Javier N. Perez: On Saturday August 12th, Hasim Rahman, the man that has been dubbed America's last line of defense will face the man that handed him his most devastating knockout defeat, Oleg Maskaev.

In 1999 Hasim Rahman was a young, inexperienced fighter with a lot of potential who had been criticized for being too cautious in fights and in an attempt to be more crowd pleasing, stood toe to toe with the Kazakhstani born and devastating puncher,Oleg Maskaev, giving the slow Maskaev an opportunity to win that he may not have had if Rahman had stayed on the outside and boxed.

After 7 highly competitive rounds, in a fight in which Rahman was ahead on points, Maskaev caught Rahman with a devastating right to jaw that sent Rahman flying through the ropes, across the announcers' table and almost into the arms of HBO announcer, Jim Lampley.

That victory was the biggest and most notorious in Maskaev's career and should have given him the momentum to propel him to the top of the division, instead he began to gradually fly more and more under the radar due to back to back technical knockout loses to Kirk Johnson and Lance Whitaker and a a knockout loss to Corey Sanders in 2002.. That's right, 2002. Since then Maskaev has has won 10 straight victories with 8 of those 10 fights coming by knockout and 7 of those knockouts coming in 3 rounds or less.

Now the Russian who fights out of New York has a chance to once again attain the spotlight that eluded him in the past if he can beat Hasim Rahman and capture the WBC heavyweight championship title. For the 37 year old Maskaev, this may be his very last opportunity to capture a major heavyweight title. His major obstacle is the man known as The Rock, who although having been knocked out by Maskaev, has come a long way since that defeat.

The Hasim Rahman who was knocked out by Maskaev in 1999 was an inexperienced boxer. The Rahman that knocked out Lennox Lewis 2 years later in one of the biggest upsets in the heavyweight division and simultaneously held the IBF and WBC heavyweight titles was a calculating and methodical power puncher. That night Hasim Rahman conquered the plateau of greatness and emerged as a new hero in the heavyweight division.

Rahman's reign as heavyweight champion was short lived as he was dispatched by Lewis in 4 rounds in his very next fight. His climb back to the top of the heavyweight division has been a rocky one in and out of the ring. He was finally awarded the WBC heavyweight championship late in 2005 upon the retirement of title holder Vitali Klitschko. The World Boxing Council has now ruled that Hasim Rahman must defend his title against the man who handed him his most devastating knockout loss, Oleg Maskaev.

For both fighters it has been a long road back to the top and their paths have once again crossed. Oleg Maskaev must repeat the feat that he accomplished 7 years ago or face vanishing into obscurity for good, while Hasim Rahman must once and for all avenge his knockout loss or face losing his championship belt. Moreover, Rahman must prove that he is a true heavyweight champion and not just a one punch, one fight wonder.

This fight is a crossroads fight for both fighters, but more so for Maskaev than it is for Rahman. Rahman is known as America's last line of defense and should he lose he will resurface again, thanks in great part to his popularity for being the only American heavyweight title holder. Maskaev on the other hand, despite his impressive past 10 fights will be obscured by a string of very good European fighters and title holders and will almost certainly vanish into obscurity or placed in "very good" journeyman status.

Conventional wisdom holds that the seasoned Rahman who has faced considerably better opposition than Maskaev will win this fight if he avoids making the mistake that he made on his first fight with Maskaev by trading blows and instead boxes and works behind the jab.

Maskaev, despite having a devastating punch and being very aggressive and straight forward, is also very slow and has a suspect chin, evident by the fact that all of his 5 career loses have come by way of knockout. He doesn't move his head much and comes straight on. These factors should give Rahman the opportunity to pepper Maskaev with jabs and win a relatively easy unanimous decision and possibly a late round technical knockout. However, if Rahman goes in the fight with the mindset of avenging his knockout loss by scoring a knockout of his own and fights on the inside, the fight will unfold like it did in their first bout. Rahman must box. Maskaev most force Rahman to fight him.

The momentum favors Maskaev who has won more fights with more knockouts than Rahman has, though Rahman has faced better opposition. The psychological edge also belongs to Maskaev as Rahman may be too self conscious of not being knocked out again to fight his opponent effectively. Last and must obvious Maskaev possesses the advantage in punching power. Punching power that Rahman was very unceremoniously and abruptly introduced to. Rahman however holds the edge on speed, age, better technique and much better quality of opponents.

Having faced one another 7 years ago, Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev have met at the crossroads in the twilight of their careers. Neither is the same fighter that they were when they first fought and each must come full circle by defeating the other in order to move on. Unfortunately, only one of these fighters can make that journey. The stronger will survive.The weaker must succumb, It is the primordial law of nature and in boxing it holds to be figuratively true.

The deck seems to be stacked more against Maskaev than it is against Rahman, thus turning Maskaev into the proverbial trapped animal, who having no means of escape must fight to the finish. The question is how well will the Kazakhstani fighter deal with this pressure and how the American fighter will deal with the pressure applied by his opponent. May both men rise to the occasion and reach for the plateau of greatness once again.

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Article posted on 08.08.2006

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