HBO gives Rahman yet another shot

Baltimore fighter returns after jilting network twice

October 14, 1999|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman of Baltimore, who withdrew from two scheduled fights on HBO within the past year, will get yet another chance to appear on the cable network when he faces Croatia's Zeljko Mavrovic on Nov. 6. The fight will be either at the storied Apollo Theater in New York, which is owned by HBO, or the following week in Las Vegas as a warm-up act for the Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight championship bout.

"If Rahman was a cat, he'd definitely be on his last life with us," said Lou DiBella, HBO's boxing director. "We've been more than fair to him. We're giving him another life, but this is it."

The ring career of Rahman (31-1, 26 knockouts), ranked No. 5 by the International Boxing Federation, has been in disarray since he suffered his only loss to David Tua last December.

After dominating the first eight rounds, Rahman was staggered by a late blow at the end of the ninth. The referee failed to penalize Tua, who finished the job in the 10th.

When his then-managerial team of Bob Mittelman and Steve Nelson failed to get the IBF to order a rematch, Rahman began searching for a new partnership. The situation became more of an issue after Rahman pulled out of a scheduled June bout on HBO against Jeremy Williams.

Said DiBella: "We were willing to forgive him because I think his managers were dishonest with us. In Rahman's mind, he didn't have a manager to protect his interests."

In August, Rahman fired Mittelman but retained Nelson, who has since joined forces with veteran boxing manager Stan Hoffman of New York.

"I think `Rock' is very capable of winning one or all of the heavyweight titles in the next few years," Hoffman said.

"We just have to get him back on track, but we're still pursuing our appeal of the Tua fight. It's been a great injustice the way the IBF has handled this matter."

Since losing to Tua, Rahman has scored quick knockouts over journeymen Michael Rush and Arthur Weathers, but he has been idle since April. Currently training in Phoenix under the guidance of Chuck McGregor, Rahman could not be reached for comment.

Mavrovic (27-1, 22 KOs), ranked No. 4 by the World Boxing Council, has not fought since losing a 12-round decision to Lewis 13 months ago.

Said Nelson: "We preferred fighting Kirk Johnson [27-0], who is ranked fourth by the World Boxing Association, but, evidently Johnson doesn't want the match.

"But I'm hoping the IBF makes the winner of this fight with Mavrovic No. 2 in its ratings. Nobody's ranked there right now."

Pub Date: 10/14/99

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