Still champ as a father, Rahman should retire

August 14, 2006|By RICK MAESE

LAS VEGAS -- When the final bell sounded, they were united in their anger. The emotions quickly evolved, though, and not long after, they were huddled together in the locker room. Hasim Rahman and his family shed tears.

One of the most admirable things about Rahman has always been his devotion to his family. In fact, many attribute his first loss to Oleg Maskaev to his love for his daughter because he abandoned training camp to celebrate her first birthday. And no doubt, it's only a matter of time before people start scrutinizing his schedule leading up to Saturday's devastating defeat to Maskaev, probably with good reason.

There's no shame in putting your family first, and that's why Rahman, fresh off the kind of loss that prompts serious soul-searching, should start asking himself whether he wants to continue in the fight game.

If he's honest with himself, if he accepts what the future likely holds and if he really digests how poor his commitment has been at times, he'd consider hanging up the gloves right now.

Rahman lost his World Boxing Council heavyweight championship when Maskaev stopped him in the 12th round at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was the kind of loss that should provide some focus for a fighter who was on the verge of something great.

There are no excuses this time. He gave away the late rounds, and the fight ended only after Rahman went flailing all over the ring, his limp body testing the strength of the ropes on all sides.

Maskaev was a 37-year-old speed bump. Today, he's a world champion.

Rahman was a 33-year-old star. Today, he's road kill.

Once again, Rahman did everything he could to suggest that his championship belt might as well have come from a Sears clearance rack. He abandoned his jab. He gave away the rounds that mattered. He went against common sense.

And we're not talking about Lennox Lewis or even Wladimir Klitschko in the opposite corner. Maskaev didn't even deserve the title shot. He moves like a glacier and is easy to break down. Today, his managers' phones are surely ringing off the hook because every heavyweight in the world sees a marked man who's certain to lose his title the next time he sets foot in the ring.

It might seem silly to suggest that someone as young as Rahman should walk away from the sport. After all, this is boxing, where you can collect Social Security and still sign a multi-fight deal.

No doubt Rahman can earn a lot more money fighting. Heavyweights will always be commodities, and Rahman's performance on Saturday certainly ensures there are more opportunities down the road. He could easily make some money, and very likely he'll have another title shot before long.

But Rahman doesn't want it badly enough. He never has. That's why every time we look for him to step forward and show himself, he disappears.

The big year, the big fight, the big round - Rahman is always AWOL.

He's not scared of doing what it takes, just unwilling.

You think he goes through trainers because they can't keep up? Wrong.

In truth, Rahman simply can't commit himself as he needs to. He can't meet the demands. He wants to be a champion but has no idea what that entails.

So why should he keep fooling everyone? Why should he keep fooling himself? His promoter won't start applying pressure immediately. He'll let Rahman digest the loss.

Then, Rahman will be faced with two options.

He can take some fights against anonymous opponents, picking up some spending cash here and there, until one of the sport's governing bodies gives him a shot at a title, at which point he'll likely be outmatched and completely exposed - just as he has been nearly every time he has faced a respectable foe.

Or he can make a living being Hasim Rahman. He's a great speaker, likable and personable. He could do the speaking tour. He could stand in front of cameras. He could talk and smile and cash checks. And most importantly, he could do what he seems to really want - devote as much time as possible to his family.

Even if he fights for an additional five years and climbs the sport's ladder once again, Rahman is never going to be a great champion. But all indications seem to suggest that he can be a great father and a great husband.

Finally, an athlete's priorities aren't completely jumbled. What's the sense in taking more blows to the head and not fully appreciating whatever the future holds? Because he can earn money to allow a more committed fighter to make Rahman's brain rattle in his head? Not worth it.

Rahman has as much potential as any heavyweight in the world, but Saturday we learned for the final time that potential isn't worth a belt - not as a professional fighter at least.

Fortunately for Rahman, his true potential is much bigger than a boxing ring, and he can make his biggest impact without ever lacing up the gloves again.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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