Boxing, city gain a champion

Rahman: The new heavyweight titleholder's victory and character bring glory to Baltimore area.

April 24, 2001

THE BRUTAL sport of boxing has a new ambassador -- one who doesn't think his opponents' ears or their children are delicacies.

The new World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champ, Baltimore's Hasim Rahman, is a refreshing change from Mike Tyson, whose personality and peculiarities have dominated the sport too long. The new champ learned better lessons.

When Mr. Rahman floored Lennox Lewis and the rest of the boxing world in winning the heavyweight title, he changed the face of professional boxing for the better.

FOR THE RECORD - An editorial Tuesday should have said that Baltimore boxer Joe Gans won the world lightweight title in 1902. The Sun regrets the error.

Mr. Rahman deserved to win. His record entering the bout was 34-2. He went to South Africa, the site of the fight, last month so he could become acclimated to the 5,700-foot altitude. In 1999, after he lost his second bout, he promised he'd never again come into a match unprepared. Mr. Lewis, on the other hand, showed up late, overweight, overconfident and undertrained.

Mr. Rahman, 28, gives the boxing world a much better image than, say, a Mike Tyson, who seems bent on destroying himself and a sport that many already consider primitive because its object is to beat the foe into submission.

The new champ was dubbed "likable" by the South African press. From thousands of miles away, he remembered his home in post-fight interviews. He grew up in Baltimore County, lives in Harford County and calls Baltimore home. Until now, Baltimore's biggest boxing hero has been Joe Gans, who won the welterweight title a century ago.

The new champ properly thanked Mack Lewis, who's run an East Baltimore gym for nearly 60 years, teaching boxing and setting teen-age and young adult males straight with better values than they found on the streets. He was Mr. Rahman's first trainer, who made an indelible impression.

Mr. Rahman doesn't believe much in luck. But he and the Baltimore community are lucky that Mack Lewis teaches life's lessons, building championship attitudes inside and outside the ring.

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