If successful 'After Dark,' Rahman's title hopes bright Baltimore native faces veteran Ferguson tonight

January 31, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Hasim Rahman is learning the virtue of patience.

The management team of Bob Mittleman and Steve Nelson is plotting a conservative course to prepare the unbeaten nTC 25-year-old Baltimore heavyweight for a possible championship fight late this year or by early 1999.

Ranked No. 3 by the International Boxing Federation, Rahman (24-0) will test his aggressiveness and improving boxing skills against one-time title contender Jesse Ferguson at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., tonight on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" series.

As Rahman's managers see it, IBF champion Evander Holyfield will vacate his title after a proposed spring fight with Frans Botha in South Africa, and then a third and farewell clash with Mike Tyson in the fall.

"A lot, of course, depends on Tyson getting his license back," Nelson said. "If he does, I'm sure he'll fight Holyfield again. There's too much money at stake. Holyfield might get as much as $50 million. I can't see Evander hanging around after that."

If things fall into place, Rahman could fight top-ranked Vaughn Bean for the vacant IBF crown, hardly a formidable challenge.

In the meantime, he is tentatively booked to fight on USA Cable in March against Darroll Wilson, and then to make another appearance on HBO in May.

"It doesn't make sense to rush Hasim into a championship fight until he's ready," Nelson said. "He'll probably have three or four more fights this year. There is no way we would put him in with a Holyfield this year unless it was a mandatory fight."

While hardly lacking in confidence, Rahman agrees with his managers.

"My chance will come," he said. "The title ain't going nowhere. The longer it takes, the better I'll be when it happens."

He has made giant strides under the tutelage of Tommy Brooks, who also is part of Holyfield's training team.

Some veteran boxing figures, including Angelo Dundee, believe Ferguson could be a dangerous opponent for Rahman.

Despite his modest 24-16 record, Ferguson, who turns 41 in March, has fought 10 former heavyweight champions and has beaten Buster Douglas and Ray Mercer. But a second-round knockout by Riddick Bowe at RFK Stadium in 1993 all but ended his days as a title contender.

Ferguson began a comeback in September 1996 and has won his past four bouts.

Said Rahman: "Jesse's crafty and been around forever. But he's had his time. He's just another roadblock in my way to the title a little speed bump I'm going to run right over."

Pub Date: 1/31/98

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