In this series I am rating all of the lineal heavyweight champions across five categories, with the fighters then being ranked from 1 down to 37 depending on their final score out of 50. Today I'm looking at the man who finished at No. 34 in my standings - Hasim Rahman.
No. 34: HASIM RAHMAN (champion 2001)
Like many of the other boxers in the lower reaches of this chart, Rahman's status as World Heavyweight Champion was achieved through one sensational performance, or, more specifically in his case, through one sensational punch - a thunderbolt of a right hand which separated reigning champ Lennox Lewis from his senses in Carnival City, South Africa on 22 April 2001. Lewis enacted brutal revenge a few months later after a Las Vegas court upheld a rematch clause in his contract. However, as Rahman himself has since said: "To capture all the titles and be the unified champion and to beat 'The Man', how do you top that?" Well, he never did top it, but his KO of Lewis while a 20-1 underdog remains one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history.
Rahman failed to mount a single defence of the Heavyweight title, but his achievement in winning it in the first place was remarkable, even more so considering he didn't take up boxing until he was 20 and only had a handful of amateur fights. Outside of the Lewis victory, however, his career is short on triumphs against marquee names, with his best results being draws with David Tua and James Toney and victories against Corrie Sanders and Monte Barrett. He also briefly held the WBC strap in 2005-06.
The majority of highly-ranked contenders Rahman faced got the better of him; including Tua in their first, albeit controversial contest, Oleg Maskaev (twice), John Ruiz and Wladimir Klitschko. A technical decision loss to Evander Holyfield was a touch unfortunate, given the terrible swelling that the 'Real Deal''s use of the head inflicted on Rahman's forehead.
A strong and orthodox boxer-puncher, with a powerful jab when he utilised it effectively, Rahman's scowling presence and snarling pre- and post-fight rhetoric were particularly entertaining during his rivalry with Lewis. A total of 41 KOs in 50 wins is an eloquent expression of Rahman's ability to deliver a brutal punch, however, his lack of amateur seasoning left him vulnerable to being out-boxed. His natural gifts and physicality were never quite enough to consistently succeed at the highest class.
Rahman showed plenty of fortitude to walk away from his early life of crime and associations with "bad people in bad spaces" and find salvation in boxing; he was once shot five times and also badly injured in a car crash, which left him with permanent scars. As he once admitted: "If I didn't change, I would [now] be in somebody's penitentiary or somebody's graveyard." After the Lewis loss Rahman showed guts in mounting several comebacks, each of which was slightly less successful than the previous one, unfortunately. Despite his frequent bravery, vividly illustrated, for example, by his wild war with Sanders, Rahman's punch resistance was some way below the standard required to thrive against the division's biggest hitters.
His victory against Lewis was a sensation that shook the boxing world, but its impact was lessened by the fact the Briton reversed the result so quickly, enabling the tag of 'one-punch wonder' to stick. None of Rahman's other wins came anywhere close to matching the heights of that heady night in South Africa.
There is much too admire about the way that Rahman turned his life around after those grim early days in Baltimore. I fervently hope that his recent loss to Anthony Nansen in the New Zealand Super 8 tourney has signalled the end of his career. It's now time for Rahman to concentrate on his interests in property development and community work, as well as preserving the money he's made from boxing, rather than attempt yet another comeback. Rahman wasn't one of the great heavyweights, but the power and perfection of that punch which felled Lewis will live long in the memory.
Total marks (out of 50): 24
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N.B. For the purposes of consistency, this series of articles uses the fight records found on BoxRec. I'm aware that, particularly in the era of newspaper decisions, no contests etc there are possible different interpretations / statistics quoted in different sources. Any queries, check BoxRec and then contact me if you have a further query.
Luke G. Williams