Rahman cancels bout, is threatened by lawsuits Injury doubted after fighter signs contract with King

September 15, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Six weeks ago, Baltimore's Hasim Rahman talked optimistically of establishing himself as the best of the young heavyweight title contenders after agreeing to fight David Tua on the Lennox Lewis-Zelko Mavrovic championship card Sept. 26 in Uncasville, Conn.

But today, the unbeaten heavyweight's ring career appears to be in shambles. After withdrawing from the match last weekend, he was being threatened with lawsuits by Main Events Inc., promoters of the event; his personal promoter, Cedric Kushner; and a lifelong ban by HBO, which had hyped the Rahman-Tua bout as the co-feature.

"Basically, the winner of this fight was going to be recognized as the legitimate championship contender," said Lou DiBella, HBO's senior vice president of marketing. "But as far as I'm concerned, Hasim Rahman no longer exists."

Rahman (28-0), who was to have received a record-high $300,000, reportedly told Main Events matchmaker Carl Moretti that he hadsuffered a wrist injury in training.

But after rumors of a possible pullout for two weeks and Rahman's having forged a new alliance with rival promoter Don King, the injury report was being doubted.

"This kid has shown a complete lack of character," DiBella said. "Personally, I don't care if he eventually becomes heavyweight champion, he'll never appear on HBO again.

"In the 10 years I've held this job, I've never questioned a fighter when he said he was injured. But I know this isn't the case with Rahman. It's all about Don King. Like my mother once said, 'If you sleep with pigs, you get up smelling like garbage.' "

Rahman, 25, who lives in Randallstown, did not return calls. King also was unavailable to be interviewed.

In June, Rahman had renewed a promotional agreement with Kushner, whose adroit matchmaking had helped elevate the Baltimorean to No. 3 in the International Boxing Federation rankings.

"This is one of the worst situations I've been through as a promoter," said Kushner, who said he will sue both Rahman and King.

"Back in June, I gave Rahman a substantial bonus, plus a personal loan [reportedly $200,000] and thanked him for his confidence in me. I told him we'd make a lot of money together.

"At first, I was wishy-washy about making the Tua fight, but both Rahman and his managers -- Steve Nelson and Bob Mittleman -- really wanted it. Rahman told me, 'Don't worry, I'll beat this guy.' "

During a visit to Rahman's training camp in Phoenix in late July, Kushner was informed that Rahman also had signed an agreement with King.

Said Kushner: "I didn't think it mattered because he signed for the Tua fight when he was still under contract to me. Of course, I was concerned, but two weeks ago, Nelson called from Baltimore to say that everything was OK and the fight was still on."

By this time, Rahman was no longer under a trainer's supervision. On Aug. 24, he attended a gala party held by lawyer Billy Murphy on behalf of King in the Legg Mason building.

According to sources, King advised Rahman that fighting Tua was too risky since his No. 3 rating already put him in good position for a title fight against Lewis or Evander Holyfield by next year.

"Over the years, I've had respect for King as a significant promoter," Kushner said. "Unfortunately, there is a pattern to the way he operates. It's happened before when he attempts to steal someone's fighter. It's never a preliminary boy, but always someone high in the rankings."

Lou Duva, who manages Tua, said he is demanding an investigation of both King and Rahman for possible legal action.

Pub Date: 9/15/98

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