Rahman fitted for WBC belt

Klitschko retirement awards crown to Baltimore native, once formality of vote goes through



Although Baltimore native Hasim Rahman turned 33 on Monday, he didn't receive perhaps his best birthday present until yesterday. The gift came wrapped in the form of Rahman's second World Boxing Council heavyweight title belt.

But unlike in 2001, when he had to travel to South Africa and knock out Lennox Lewis for the right to be called undisputed heavyweight champion, Rahman received the news at about 6 a.m. while in his Las Vegas home.

Former WBC champ Vitali Klitschko, citing the lengthy recovery from an operation to repair a knee injury early Tuesday morning, announced his retirement yesterday, relinquishing his crown to Rahman.

"It was never personal with Klitschko. I just wanted that belt," said Rahman (41-5-1, 33 knockouts), who has endured four injury postponements by Klitschko. "I took every step I needed to take."

The WBC's 35-member board of governors still must vote to officially name Rahman its champion, but because he won an Aug. 13 bout against Monte Barrett for the organization's interim belt, that prospect is a mere formality, said WBC president Jose Sulaiman. In fact, Sulaiman said he already has received 14 of the necessary 19 votes in favor of giving Rahman the title.

The WBC had ordered Klitschko, 34, from Ukraine, to face the Rahman-Barrett winner no later than December before Klitschko suffered a knee injury while sparring last Thursday. Two days later, Klitschko pulled out of his fourth scheduled defense, scheduled for Saturday, against Rahman.

"Hasim Rahman fought a final elimination against Kali Meehan, and he beat him. Next, he should have fought Vitali," Sulaiman said. "But Vitali got injured and he [Rahman] was again asked to fight an elimination, this time against Monte Barrett. So he has all the rights in the world to become the undisputed champion of the world, and I fully anticipate that he will."

Although Rahman has the title, he lost a $4.2 million payday to face Klitschko -- money he could have used to help clear up his recent bankruptcy filing that revealed a nearly $5 million debt.

"This time, it's going to be a lot harder for somebody to take this belt from me. This time, I'm going to hold on to it so much that I'm going to have to give it away," said Rahman, who lost his rematch with Lewis seven months later in November 2001. "This time, I know better, so I'll do better. I'll do a whole lot of things differently now than I did then. I won't trust certain people. I'll maximize my potential. I won't take any time off. I'm not going to stop the training I was doing for Klitschko."

Rahman still is under contract until 2010 with promoter Don King, who now controls the heavyweight division's champions. King also has contracts with Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Lamon Brewster, respective titlists of the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization.

Rahman's mandatory challenger is the winner of Saturday's WBC eliminator between Germany's Sinan Samil Sam (24-2, 15 KOs) and Russian Oleg Maskaev (31-5, 25 KOs), who stopped Rahman in 1999.

But King would rather match Rahman against either James Toney of Los Angeles or Vitali Klitschko's younger brother, Wladimir Klitschko, the WBC's No. 3 and No. 4 contenders, respectively. King would then begin a unification tournament involving all four of the titlists.

"I've got a $5 million investment in Rock, but he let Lennox take it away from him and he says he's not going to let that happen again. So we're going after James Toney, and it's going to happen in February," King said. "I'm going to New York on Friday to meet with HBO and Showtime and come out of there with a date for the fight."

For now, Toney (69-4-2, 43 KOs) is lined up for a Dec. 1 matchup with Rob Calloway (56-5-1, 43 KOs) of St. Joseph, Mo., the man Rahman stopped in two rounds in June 2004.

"We're looking for the biggest fight out there," said Dan Goosen, Toney's promoter. "If the people think Hasim Rahan's that fight, James will ring the bell."

Wladimir Klitschko (45-3, 40 KOs) is coming off a Sept. 24 win over previously unbeaten Samuel Peter, but he also lost by knockout to Corrie Sanders, whom Rahman stopped in May 2000.

Ruiz (41-5-1, 28 KOs) handed Rahman his last defeat in December 2003. But Ruiz has a boring style and an April loss to Toney that was ruled a no-contest after Toney tested positive for steroids.

NOTES -- Baltimore middleweight (160 pounds) Ishmail Arvin (13-0-1, six KOs) will meet Terry Johnson (5-11, one KO) of Dayton, Ohio, in the main event, and Keenan Collins (7-1-1, seven KOs) of Philadelphia will face Martinus Clay (9-9-1, three KOs) of Wilson, N.C., in the co-main event of tonight's professional boxing card at Glen Burnie's Michael's Eighth Avenue.


Klitschko-Rahman: How it never happened

Nov. 13

Hasim Rahman stops Kali Meehan in 2004 to become the WBC's No. 1 contender for Vitali Klitschko's crown.

Dec. 24

Klitschko's promoter cites the fighter's "badly swollen hands" as the reason to delay a decision to fight Rahman.

March 8

Rahman vs. Klitschko is set for April 30, 2005, at New York's Madison Square Garden.

March 11

Klitschko pulls a thigh muscle while training, postponing the bout to June 18.

April 13

Klitschko suffers a back injury, moving the bout to July 23.

April 17

Klitschko's camp says back surgery will keep him from fighting until September.

Aug. 13

Rahman defeats Monte Barrett for the WBC's interim title.

Aug. 17

Rahman vs. Klitschko is set for Nov. 12 in Las Vegas.

Nov. 5

Citing knee problems, Klitschko pulls out of the fight.

Nov. 9

Klitschko retires from boxing.

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