With Rahman, Wilson, records don't tell all; Underdog heavyweight has fought top competition


On paper, the heavyweight fight between Hasim Rahman (31-2) and Marion Wilson (11-31-3) for the state title at Martin's West on March 1 appears to be a classic mismatch.

Records, however, can be deceiving.

Rahman, 27, has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, while Wilson has always been cast as an "opponent."

Rahman, a Baltimorean, built his impressive record, which includes 26 knockouts, against a list of relatively obscure rivals.

His two most meaningful fights -- against David Tua and, most recently, against Oleg Maskaev, ended with Rahman being counted out and dropped from the ratings.

Conversely, Wilson, of Hillcrest Heights, has been willing to fight almost all the top heavyweights. He fought a draw with former champion Ray Mercer, and has gone the distance against Greg Page, Ike Ibeabuchi, Shannon Briggs, David Izon, Kirk Johnson and Maskaev.

One of boxing's oldest practitioners at 43, Wilson believes he beat Mercer and also felt cheated by the judges when he lost a decision here in 1996 to former cruiserweight king Orlin Norris. Wilson also holds the distinction of never having been knocked out.

"I don't get discouraged," he said. "Like the commercial says, 'I take a lickin' and keep on tickin.' And, one of these days, I'm going to surprise one of these young guys in the rankings and get myself a million-dollar payday before retiring."

If Wilson is undaunted by Rahman, it's because of their past association as sparring partners.

"Back in 1996, we must have worked over 100 rounds together at Ray Leonard's gym in Palmer Park," Wilson recalled. "Back then, 'Rock' was just getting started. I was like his mentor and taught him a lot of tricks. And how many times does a student beat his teacher?"

There are a number of notable exceptions, with Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali quickly coming to mind.

"I respect Mo, and I know he's much better than his record," Rahman said. "But I'm going to be the first guy to knock him out. I've never been so ready for a fight. I can't afford any more losses."

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