- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 19, 2004

GLEN BURNIE Md. — The big news around boxing is one of its major sanctioning bodies, the World Boxing Council, has filed for bankruptcy.

Not moral bankruptcy — it has been in that condition for quite some time. No, the WBC is filing for financial liquidation because for once, a boxer, former light heavyweight champion Graciano Rocchigiani, won a $31million judgment against it for wrongfully stripping him of his title.

If you don’t count offshore bank accounts and safe deposit boxes, the WBC does not have $31million, so the organization’s officials claim they are being forced to dissolve because they can’t pay.

“It is simply impossible for the WBC — a not-for-profit organization — to pay Mr. Rocchigiani the staggering $31million award,” WBC president Jose Sulaiman said in a statement.

So the WBC is down for the count, and Jose is throwing in the towel. The heavyweight division should follow suit.

On Thursday night, Baltimore’s Hasim Rahman made a statement that served almost as a bankruptcy filing by the division when the ex-champion knocked out an unheralded, blown-up cruiserweight named Rob Calloway in the second round here in the main event of Ballroom Boxing. That win, over a guy who amassed a 44-4-1 record mostly against Midwest farm boys, means Rahman is in position to fight for the title again.

“I feel like I can beat any heavyweight in the world,” Rahman said.

Sometimes I feel like I can beat any heavyweight in the world, too, given the state of heavyweight boxing.

Documentation supporting the bankruptcy of heavyweight boxing can be found in the record over the past six months for Rahman, who became champion in April 2001 when he unexpectedly knocked out Lennox Lewis in South Africa.

When Rahman lost to John Ruiz on Dec.13 in one of the ugliest heavyweight fights of recent years, he continued his sad saga: He had not won a significant fight since beating Lewis. He lost the rematch, lost to Evander Holyfield, drew with David Tupa and lost to Ruiz for the World Boxing Association title.

After the Ruiz fight, Rahman embarked on a plan to get back into contention, which doesn’t take much in this pathetic division. It simply consisted of coming back to Baltimore and finding someone he could beat, but that nearly didn’t happen.

Rahman faced washed-up, 37-year-old former cruiserweight champion Al Cole at Ballroom Boxing in March and was fortunate to win a close decision in 10 rounds.

At Dover Downs in April, things got worse when Rahman faced Mario Cawley, who simply refused to fight. The so-called bout was stopped after two rounds — an embarrassment even by boxing’s low standards. Against Calloway, things went according to plan. Rahman had a lousy fighter who was willing to put up a fight, and Rahman knocked him out in two rounds.

Add two more guys to this list of fighters Rahman faced in the last four months, and you have the equivalent of the five George Foreman faced in one night just for laughs. But in the world of heavyweight boxing in 2004, this earns you a No.1 ranking in the WBA and — dare I write it? — another shot at Ruiz, which could be the first pay-per-view event that fans are paid to watch.

Now if that doesn’t make a case for bankruptcy, I don’t know what does.

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