- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

LAS VEGAS Win or lose, champion Hasim Rahman may give fight fans something they haven't seen for quite a while a good heavyweight title fight.
That won't be easy, considering that his opponent in Saturday night's bout, Lennox Lewis, often has opted for the cautious route to victory, using his size and boxing skills to win lackluster decisions.
Rahman, though, said he won't let that happen. He will force Lennox Lewis to fight.
"If I get the opportunity, I will go for the one-punch knockout," Rahman said. "I will try to make sure I am the busier fighter and land the harder, cleaner shots. I think it will be an exciting fight."
Some of the pre-fight hype has been more exciting than a typical Lewis fight. The boxers got into a brawl on the set of "ESPN Up Close" on Aug. 31 and had to be separated at a news conference the next day in Los Angeles.
At yesterday's pre-fight session at Mandalay Bay hotel, the fighters and their camps sat on separate stages with two police officers between them. Lewis refused to pose for the traditional shot of the two fighters squaring off. He walked off the stage, with Rahman shouting into the microphone, "Get Lennox back here. I promised I wouldn't hit him in the mouth until Saturday night."
It was one punch that transformed the 29-year-old Rahman from an obscure Baltimore contender into the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champion and a multi-millionaire. He received a $5 million signing bonus from promoter Don King in May and stands to make $10 million for Saturday night's fight. He shocked boxing by knocking out the 36-year-old Lewis in the fifth round of their April bout in South Africa with a devastating right hand.
Rahman (35-2, 29 knockouts) is putting his future behind that punch. He has no deal with HBO, which is telecasting Saturday night's fight from Mandalay Bay on its pay-per-view channel, beyond this fight with Lewis (38-2-1, 29 knockouts). So if he loses, he is simply a one-punch wonder, with no television contract.
There is also no chance of Rahman getting another title shot soon if he loses. Unlike the first fight, there is no rematch clause in this contract, and the winner likely will have his dance card filled for the next year. Mike Tyson will be first, followed by an IBF mandatory challenge and then a unification bout against the WBA champion also promoted by King. John Ruiz is the current WBA title holder, and he will face former champion Evander Holyfield next month in their third meeting.
Rahman said he didn't want to commit himself to any long-term contract before facing Lewis again.
"I just feel like I need to get rid of Lennox Lewis before I sign with HBO again," he said.
King said the offers they got from HBO weren't good enough and added, "They think we're crazy for not signing a contract. If Rock knocks out Lennox, it won't be so crazy, will it?"
It is a lot of faith to put behind a punch, but Rahman's punch has delivered for him not just in the ring, but in his life. As a youth growing up in Baltimore, he got into trouble on the streets, was arrested 12 times from 1990 to 1993 on various charges and pleaded guilty in 1991 to possession of drugs with intent to distribute, and received a seven-year suspended sentence. He tried boxing and became a pro in December 1994, knocking out Gregory Herrington in one round on the undercard of the Riddick Bowe-Larry Donald heavyweight fight at Caesars Palace.
Since then, it has been a career with flashes of brilliance, tarnished by contract disputes and two losses. Rahman had put together a 29-0 record and was being touted as the most promising young heavyweight until he faced David Tua in December 1998.
Rahman dominated Tua but as the ninth round ended Rahman took a brutal left hook after the bell. He came out for the 10th but was woozy, and the fight was stopped.
Rahman came back with two wins, but then suffered a devastating loss to Oleg Maskaev in November 1999 when he was knocked through the ropes in the eighth round. He came back with three wins against mediocre fighters in 2000 that put him in position for the Lewis fight in April.
He was expected to be an easy defense, but stunned Lewis who came into the fight overweight and out of shape with a powerful right hand in the fifth round.
Lewis has claimed that Rahman is nothing more than a one-punch wonder, and that he landed a lucky blow. Rahman, who has appeared supremely confident for this rematch, dismissed Lewis' assertion.
"If he thinks that was a lucky punch, then he must still be suffering," Rahman said.
Rahman insists he is more than just a fighter with a lucky punch and is even better prepared for the rematch than he was for the first fight.
"I've increased my running," he said. "My strength is increased. My confidence is increased. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to keep the title, even if it is all-out, bloody, warfare."


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