A pleased Rahman jabs at detractors

`My stock rose,' he says after fighting Tua to draw


March 31, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - It took some time, but Baltimore heavyweight Hasim Rahman turned disappointment into triumph.

Initially, Rahman was rankled when Saturday's HBO-televised rematch with Samoan heavyweight David Tua was judged a draw, even though Rahman's jab, hard right hand and Tua's battered face seemed to support his contention that he had done enough to win. But Rahman was all smiles nearly an hour after the decision was announced.

Counting Tua's controversial 10th-round knockout victory in their first meeting in 1998, Rahman had lost four of his previous 10 bouts - three via knockout. Only two of 44 boxing experts who were polled figured Rahman, coming in at a career-high 259 1/2 pounds, could win Saturday's bout.

So Rahman hustled to press row to confront his detractors, rubbing in his performance by raising some of the same questions that had been cited about him prior to the bout.

"Did he train? Is he coming to get knocked out? Isn't it a disgrace that he weighs this much?" said Rahman, who lost, 116-112, on the card of judge Bob Grasso, won by the same score on the card of Bill Clancy, and scored a 114-114 draw on the card of George Hill.

"I was supposed to be the dead man coming in there. This was supposed to be David Tua's coming-out party," said Rahman, who, like Tua, earned about $1 million for the bout. "I feel like my stock definitely rose in this fight. I definitely showed that I can stand in there and compete with the best in the world and be OK. And I did it on my terms."

Tua had scored three consecutive knockouts, including one over previously unbeaten Fres Oquendo, and another in 30 seconds over former two-time champion Michael Moorer. Tua had never been knocked down or out. He had never been cut.

"They told me he was a freak of nature," said Rahman (35-4-1, 29 knockouts). "He don't get cut, he doesn't bleed - all the stuff he's not supposed to do. But all of those rumors went bye-bye.

"He hit me with big shots, right hands and hooks, but I took his punches and came back with even bigger shots and wound up dropping him [with a punch after the 12th round]."

Tua (42-3-1, 37 KOs) had the look of a beaten man at the post-fight news conference. His face was bruised and reddened. His eyes, barely hidden by a black, rimmed hat, were swollen and puffy from cuts.

Tua spoke humbly, crediting Rahman's "great job establishing his jab." Before exiting, Tua hugged Rahman.

Tua was oupunched, 188-130, including a 153-57 deficit in jabs. But Tua landed 73 power punches to Rahman's 48.

Saturday night's winner was to earn a shot at International Boxing Federation champion Chris Byrd. Byrd already owns a lopsided decision over Tua, who wants a third match with Rahman.

"I'll fight whoever pays me the most money," Rahman said. "If the public wants to pay for [a third match with Tua] I'll fight him again. But I really think [promoter] Don King has bigger and better things up his sleeves for me."

Byrd said a Byrd-Rahman matchup makes the most sense.

"I thought Hasim pulled the fight out and I think he deserves to fight for the title," Byrd said. "You win, you move on to a bigger fight. I think HBO really wants the fight, and if we can get into the ring and fight each other, that would be the ultimate.

"We both beat Tua. When I fought Tua, he was one of the best. I beat Evander Holyfield over 12 rounds; Hasim feels he would have beaten Evander if it had gone 12 rounds. Nothing else makes sense. Right now, the only fight is Byrd-Rahman. It's a very makeable fight. If we could do it, it would be great."

Rahman fought Tua with a strategy similar to Byrd's, only with less movement and more punching power.

Rahman circled to his left, away from Tua's left hook. He mixed his jab with a hard right hand. He clinched to smother Tua's punches. He won exchanges by outhustling Tua at close quarters.

Rahman credited his cornermen, former cut man Miguel Diaz, childhood friend Melvin "Winky" Wright and Duke Buchanan.

"They told me when I was getting lazy," Rahman said. "They told me, `Listen, man, when you use your jab, you're looking beautiful and that's all you need to do.'

"The whole camp was terrific. There's nothing I would have done differently."

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