Rahman is left to begin again

Dethroned by Lewis, Baltimore's ex-champ likely out of title loop


November 19, 2001|By Peter Schmuck and Lem Satterfield | Peter Schmuck and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - Baltimore boxer Hasim Rahman had hoped to hit the jackpot with his title defense against Lennox Lewis on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Instead, he hit the canvas in the fourth round and now must figure out just how he's going to get up.

Rahman needed stitches to close a cut over his left eye and a magnetic resonance imaging to make sure that the devastating right hand that cost him the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles did not do any serious cranial damage. He apparently is OK, but his fall from grace was as sudden and dramatic as his rise to glory seven months ago in South Africa.

No title. No more big-money fights anytime soon.

Lewis doesn't figure to give him a rematch, so Rahman must hope promoter Don King makes good on his promise to keep him in the heavyweight picture with a bout against another bankable fighter. That remains to be seen.

"It's never good to lose," said co-manager Steve Nelson, "but his position is, he wants to go back to the drawing board and back to the gym right away. He wants to make a comeback and regain the title.

"He has a four-fight deal with King, and we'll sit down with Don. This is a tale of ups and downs and this is a down, but we're expecting more ups in the future."

King was scrambling Saturday night to reposition himself closer to Lewis so he can get a piece of the now-inevitable big-money fight between the three-time champion and Mike Tyson. Rahman suddenly was old news, but King insisted "The Rock" did not make a mistake by passing on a multi-fight package from HBO to sign with Don King Productions.

"The deal they were offering guaranteed him about 1 1/2 or 2 million for the next fight if he lost," King said. "I can get him that for his next fight easy. If he won, they were only going to give him $5 million for his next fight, when he stood to make $15-$20 million with me."

HBO officials say Rahman left a lot of money on the table, but no one is going to have to throw a benefit for him. either.

Rahman stood to make $10 million or more for his next fight if he had successfully defended the title, but he wasn't second-guessing himself after the fight Saturday night. He got a $5 million signing bonus from King and said he'll make millions on top of his $5 million purse for the Lewis fight in his cut of the pay-per-view profits, though the details of his future earnings remain murky.

King also said Rahman has more money coming but would not speculate on the amount. Rahman was not available to comment yesterday.

The focus for King as well as Lewis' Lion Promotions and promoter Gary Shaw of Main Events is on bigger fish, though there still is room to wonder just who will be frying them. Sources close to Lewis yesterday indicated that contracts already are being drawn up for a Lewis-Tyson championship bout in conjunction with boxing broadcast giants HBO and Showtime, and that Shaw and Tyson adviser Shelley Finkel talked at least four times by telephone yesterday.

Shaw hinted at the deal the night before.

"We are ready to sign on the dotted line," he said. "It's not a money issue right now. It's not a network issue. It's an issue of Mike Tyson saying: `Let's go. Let's fight once and for all.' "

The fight apparently would take place in April, and each fighter would be guaranteed $20 million.

The last time it appeared a major deal was about to be struck with one of the networks for a heavyweight bout, King swooped in at the last moment and signed Rahman to take control of the promotion. Don't be surprised if he tries to do the same with Lewis.

Rahman, meanwhile, must wait to see how he fits into the equation, if at all. King said Saturday night that he would consider matching him against the winner of the World Boxing Association title bout between John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield, which would give Rahman the opportunity to earn another variation of the heavyweight crown.

King also would not rule out offering Rahman as a tune-up fight for Tyson, but that seems highly unlikely in light of the continuing legal and personal animosity between the Tyson camp and King.

No matter what happens, Rahman's father, John Cason, said his son will be all right.

"I think he can [come back]," Cason said. "All the work that he did, he did with the understanding that losing is a part of life and it carries its ups and downs. Win or lose, it was going to have an effect on his development as a person. He understood that going into the fight. Because of that, he'll benefit one way or the other. The fight was not everything to him.

"It wasn't the defining moment of his life."

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