Rahman's loss deals blow to family, fans

Supporters say defeat won't end local boxer's career

November 19, 2001|By Andrea Siegel | Andrea Siegel,SUN STAFF

Ishmael Cason stood under the arch between his family's Forest Park living room and dining room yesterday, shifting his weight, lightly jabbing at air.

The 16-year-old was like this in Sunday's wee morning hours, but then his eyes were riveted on the 55-inch television screen and the image of his cousin, Hasim "The Rock" Rahman, fighting unsuccessfully in Las Vegas to retain his two heavyweight boxing titles.

"When it first came on, I got pumped," the 16-year old recalled.

As his cousin, the only heavyweight champion ever to emerge from Baltimore, boxed on the wide screen, Ishmael bounced around - a poke, a jab, a murmur of "Oh, please" as he clenched a fist. His mother, Patricia Snowden, stayed more reserved, seated, he said.

They watched - as did many hometown fans and friends - and were dismayed as British boxer Lennox Lewis made good on a vow to regain the titles he lost to Rahman in April.

Ishmael had been sure it would be a good fight. But within moments of the start, the teen-ager had an uncertain feeling. His cousin appeared hesitant, unconfident. Ishmael kept hoping and hopping around.

"I thought he was going to take him later with the right," Ishmael said, a reference to Rahman's knockout blow to Lewis seven months ago. "But he never got a chance to lay it on him," he said.

In the fourth round, it was over. Rahman was knocked out.

"My expression dropped. I was mad. I didn't say anything," he recalled. When he spoke, it was with disappointment, "I was saying to my mother, `Let me get in there with Lennox,'" something he laughed at after sleeping on the thought.

He knows, he said, that his cousin is not going to give up after this fight. "He's coming back," Ishmael said.

That might not be so simple, said Baltimore's William "Tank" Hill, who trained Rahman in his early years and watched the Las Vegas match on television with friends. Boxers are not going to queue up to fight someone who has no title for them to take, he said.

He said it didn't take his experienced eye to see Rahman was in trouble fast.

"What you did yesterday doesn't have to work today," he said, wondering if Rahman was not trained properly or if he didn't heed his trainer.

Either way, Lewis knew not to give Rahman the opening to land the kind of blow that cost Lewis the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles in April.

"If you don't know how to get in the door, you don't get in," Hill said. "You can't do it from outside."

Seven months ago Lewis was unprepared for what was supposed to be a tune-up fight, he said, but this time he was "in serious training" and it showed.

"Rock looked like he was outclassed completely," he said.

Ferndale boxing promoter Scott Wagner was similarly disappointed, but noted that Lewis looked like a man on a mission to show that Rahman's April win was a fluke.

After watching the Las Vegas fight, he said, "I think it's that much more amazing that he won the first time. It goes to show that if you take anybody for granted what can happen."

Nevertheless, he said, the outcome of Saturday night's fight doesn't knock Rahman out of contention in the future, especially with fans in Baltimore.

"Everyone was rooting for hometown guy. Everyone was disappointed that Rahman didn't win. But we're not disappointed in what he has accomplished," Wagner said.

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