Rahman's title aspirations sent flying through ropes

Ahead into 8th, Baltimorean falls to Russian Maskaev

November 08, 1999|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- On April 11, 1995, little-known heavyweight Oleg Maskaev was looking woefully unimpressive in an eight-round decision.

It was "the beginning," the Russian-born Maskaev said of the victory over no-name Mike Whitfield at Glen Burnie's Michael's Eighth Avenue, his third win in as many professional fights.

Four years later, Maskaev is ranked No. 4 by the World Boxing Association and facing lucrative opportunities as a fighter.

The latest reason for Maskaev's rise is the fall of another, Baltimore's Hasim Rahman, who thought himself "the heir apparent" to the title of boxing's best young heavyweight but learned otherwise in a bout Saturday night at Boardwalk Convention Hall at Bally's Park Place.

Rahman (31-2, 26 knockouts), who entered the fight ranked No. 5 by the International Boxing Federation and No. 7 by the World Boxing Council, was knocked senseless and completely out of the ring with 40 seconds left in the eighth round by Maskaev (18-2).

The end, and Maskaev's 13th knockout, came with Rahman ahead on the judges' scorecards. At the time, Rahman seemed to be settling into a rhythm with an established jab and a stiff right hand.

"I told him [Maskaev] before the round that he was losing and he needed a knockout. Oleg said, `Don't worry, he's out of there,' " said Maskaev's trainer, Bob Jackson. "He hurt Rahman a lot, but at times, he'd stand back and look his work over. So Rahman was like, `If he's not going to punch, maybe I'll try something.' "

Tiring and unable to sustain his approach, Rahman began trading punches rather than working off the jab, which turned out to be his undoing.

A right hand early in the eighth sent Rahman staggering backward to the ropes. Then, he "grabbed me around the waist very tightly," Maskaev said. "I was still trying to punch him. He was grunting from the pain."

Still dazed, Rahman staggered backward to a different side of the ring -- and that's when Maskaev followed a light jab with a devastating right hand.

Rahman collapsed and hurtled backward through the ropes, as if shot out of a cannon. His head and body landed on a scorer's table before his head hit the floor.

Referee Eddie Cotton counted to 20, common practice when a fighter is knocked out of the ring, and Maskaev was declared the winner.

"His jab was bothering me, but it wasn't a hard jab," Maskaev said. "But I felt it when I hurt him. And I said, `I'm not going to let him go. I'm going to finish my business.' "

Rahman later sat up, answered questions to the satisfaction of a ringside physician and checked out of his hotel room and drove home with his wife Saturday night, said his father, John Cason.

"He didn't go to the hospital. He went back to his room, got himself together," Cason said. "I talked to him this morning. He's fine."

Maskaev, who earned $110,00 compared with Rahman's $75,000, showed only slight bruises around his eyes yesterday morning as he ate breakfast at a hotel restaurant with his wife, Svetlana, and his trainer.

Now a 30-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., resident, Maskaev has three daughters, the oldest 17. He said he fights for the money not only for himself, but because, "being a family man, we need it. I love my family."

Maskaev now has knockouts in seven of his past eight bouts, including ones of former contender and knockout artist Alex Stewart and Courage Tshabala, who entered their bout 23-2.

A 10-minute melee followed the Maskaev-Rahman fight, during which alternate referee Steve Smoger was hit with a chair and had a nasty gash on the back of his head. Two people, including Julius Freedman, 40, of Baltimore, were charged with disorderly conduct.

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