WBC tells Rahman Maskaev is next

Winner of title defense must then face Toney



Baltimore native Hasim Rahman must defend his World Boxing Council title against Staten Island resident Oleg Maskaev, with the winner to face James Toney in accordance with an organization mandate, WBC vice president Mauricio Sulaiman said yesterday.

Sulaiman said a majority vote of the WBC's 36-member board of governers determined that Rahman (41-5-2, 33 knockouts) - who battled Toney (69-4-3, 43 KOs) to a draw most ringsiders thought Rahman won on March 18 - must have a deal in place to meet Maskaev, 37, by May 1.

If an agreement cannot be reached between Rahman's promoter Bob Arum and that of Maskaev (32-5, 25 KOs), then purse bidding will be held in Mexico City to determine the event's lead promoter.

Arum said he has had serious discussions with Greg Smith, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority's Sports Commission, and Ravens director of development Mark Burdett about bringing the bout to M&T Bank Stadium, perhaps in August.

Arum said Atlantic City and New York's Madison Square Garden are also being considered.

"I'd fight Maskaev anywhere, but if he's crazy enough to come to Baltimore, talk about the crowd being my 12th man; that would be excellent," said Rahman, 33, who is 6-0-1 with four knockouts in his past seven bouts, from his Las Vegas home.

Although Maskaev has been stopped in all of his losses, the Kazakhstan native knocked Rahman out of the ring on the latter's 27th birthday on Nov. 7, 1999. That loss motivates Rahman to end Maskaev's 10-bout winning streak, including eight knockouts.

"Maskaev didn't beat me; I beat myself," Rahman said. "I trained for an early knockout against him and I paid the price. This time, Maskaev won't sneak up on me."

Toney's promoter, Dan Goosen, had sought a rematch by filing a written protest with WBC president Jose Sulaiman.

Goosen charged that Rahman constantly pounded Toney's kidneys - illegal blows - an assertion Sulaiman validated after viewing photos of the alleged infractions. Goosen said yesterday, however, that "I respect" the WBC's ruling.

Should Rahman defeat Maskaev, Sulaiman did not rule out the possibility the board could allow Arum to negotiate a deal to face the winner of an April 22 International Boxing Federation matchup between champion Chris Byrd (39-2-1, 20 KOs) of Las Vegas and WBC No. 3 contender Wladimir Klitschko (45-3, 40 KOs) of Ukraine "as long as the winner agrees to face Toney," who will turn 38 in August.

"We're gratified by the WBC's ruling," said Steve Nelson, Rahman's co-manager. "This is a fight Rock's always wanted."


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