Rahman wins by unanimous decision

Ex-heavyweight champion tops Cole in 10-round bout

victory is his first since '01


March 12, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Baltimore native Hasim Rahman promised to "destroy" Al Cole in last night's comeback fight at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

But even though the ex-heavyweight champion wobbled his older opponent on several occasions and appeared to have him ready to go in the seventh and ninth rounds, the wily veteran was still standing after 10 hard rounds.

All three judges scored the bout for Rahman, 96-94, before a sellout crowd of well over the capacity of 1,800, on a card televised by Comcast SportsNet.

"I'm disappointed I didn't give the people what they wanted to see. He didn't go down," said Rahman, who weighed 255 pounds. "But in the end, I needed a win. I had to get back on track."

Rahman (36-5-1, 29 knockouts) came into the fight with an 0-3-1 record since his knockout of Lennox Lewis for the undisputed heavyweight title in April 2001.

Rahman, 31, was coming off a 12-round unanimous decision loss to John Ruiz on Dec. 13 in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I have a lot of respect for Rahman," said Cole (34-13-3). "I knew it was close, but he probably beat me. He's a great fighter, but if he's a contender, what does that say about me? I hurt him. I don't care who he is. I stood in with him, and I fought him toe-to-toe."

Rahman won the first round, largely on the strength of his in-and-out boxing against the circling Cole, whom he shook with a right hand with 10 seconds left in the round.

But Cole, who will turn 40 next month, outhustled Rahman over the next three rounds, outboxing him in the middle of the ring, and smothering his punches along the ropes. On the occasions when Rahman tried to step up the pressure or when he hurt Cole with an occasional right or a jab, Rahman often allowed the veteran to wrestle him to the ropes.

In the fifth round, Rahman had the edge with the harder punches. Yet he shook his head in disgust as he went back to his corner. Though he took two hard hooks in the sixth, Rahman won the round largely on his body shots.

Cole showed resilience in the seventh, where he was continually nailed by big punches, including an overhand right at the end of the round. The barrage began along the ropes, when Rahman got in an overhand right while Cole's hands were low. Rahman had Cole reeling the rest of the way, but he couldn't finish him off.

Cole was back on his toes in the eighth, jabbing, retreating and winning the round.

But early in the ninth, Rahman had Cole in trouble. His barrage caused Cole to duck beneath the ropes, and referee Malike Waleed stepped in to protect him. Another break came for Cole when the tape unraveled on Rahman's gloves, but when action resumed, he was hammering Cole again.

"I felt like I was at a crossroads with myself tonight to throw the jab or not throw the jab," said Rahman, who earned just $25,000 last night, a far cry from the multimillion-dollar payday he earned in the second Lewis fight. "I feel like I have to find a common ground. Tonight, I stopped using the jab because in my prior fights, I felt like I was using it too much."

Said Cole: "He's the ex-heavyweight champ, and he has a status that will follow him for the rest of his life. If he doesn't do anything from this day on, he has one of the greatest knockouts [over Lewis] in the history of the heavyweight division."

Lewis' retirement last month has turned the division into a bunch of average fighters, and Rahman is looking for another shot at a world championship.

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