After a tumultuous month marked by a canceled major fight and dancing back and forth between boxing promoters, everything seems to be back on track for unbeaten Baltimore heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman.
Rahman has reunited with Cedric Kushner after a brief fling with Don King and is back in good graces with Lou DiBella, HBO's vice president of programming.
In fact, HBO has booked Rahman (29-0) to fight David Tua (31-1) in a heavyweight elimination bout Dec. 19 to help decide the No. 1 contender for International Boxing Federation champion Evander Holyfield's crown.
Rahman and Tua originally were scheduled to meet Sept. 26 on the Lennox Lewis-Zeljko Mavrovic championship card in Connecticut, but Rahman withdrew from the bout, resulting in a lawsuit by Kushner, his longtime promoter, and DiBella's vow to permanently ban him from HBO telecasts.
"It's great news," Rahman said Friday after being informed by co-manager Steve Nelson of the Tua match. "People might have said I was ducking Tua. But now I have a chance to end all those questions and can keep moving forward."
Said Nelson: "We liked this fight from Day One, and we're thrilled that now it will be an elimination bout. There is no doubt in my mind 'Rock' will end up at the top of the class."
Originally, IBF president Bob Lee had proposed a showdown between South Africa's Frans Botha, presently ranked No. 2, and Rahman, No. 3, to decide who would be elevated to the top contender's spot.
But Botha's representatives reportedly were not interested in fighting Rahman.
"We'll probably have what amounts to a playoff," Lee said. "We've now asked Botha to fight John Ruiz, and the two winners would meet. If Botha's still not interested, we'll go on from there."
Rahman contends he accepted a $125,000 check from King after the promoter made veiled threats that he would never be allowed to fight for the heavyweight title without his support.
He also said King advised him against accepting the Tua fight, DTC suggesting a knockout would be his only chance of winning.
Last month, Kushner initiated a $12 million suit against King for interfering with his contracted fighters.
Meanwhile, Rahman has made peace with HBO, which is paying part of his reported $300,000 purse to fight Tua.
"Rahman asked for the meeting," DiBella said. "I respect him for being man enough to apologize for his actions. It took guts and he did the right thing."
Rahman has been training this month at the Broadway gym of Mack Lewis, his original trainer. Tank Hill is sharing training responsibilities.
It is uncertain whether he will remain in Baltimore, depending on the site of his bout with Tua.
Pub Date: 10/18/98