Baltimore heavyweight Hasim Rahman had surgery Friday to remove an abscess on his spine, which could keep him out of action "for at least six to eight weeks," according to a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The two-hour operation, conducted at the medical center, forced the postponement of Rahman's 10-round fight with Danell Nicholson, an elimination bout scheduled for Oct. 7 in Connecticut for the International Boxing Federation's No. 2 ranking.
"He had compression of the nerve roots of the spinal canal, causing leg weakness," said Dr. Barbara Lazio, chief resident in neurosurgery, who described the growth as "a collection of infectious material or pus, which is a staph infection."
Dr. Howard Eisenberg, who performed the surgery, is out of town, Lazio said. She called the growth a rare occurrence, possibly the result of "some vitamin injections" Rahman was getting.
"We were worried that he might have a tumor and pleased to find an infection. It would be very unlikely that this would happen again, so his prognosis for the recovery is very good," Lazio said. "He's already showing some signs of recovery. Although he'll probably feel good, he shouldn't go right back into the strenuous activity."
As a result of the operation, Rahman (34-2, 28 knockouts) sports a 4-inch scar on his lower back halfway between his ribs and buttocks.
Rahman said he first became aware of a problem last Tuesday when he visited his doctor because of back spasms. The problem didn't seem that bad after taking an over-the-counter pain medication, Rahman said.
The next day, however, Rahman was rushed to Fallston General Hospital and later transferred to the medical center, feeling "a severe pain in the middle of my back" and losing the feeling in his legs.
"Everybody was at my house, including my trainer. My bags were packed and I was ready to go. Then, I couldn't walk and we had to call an ambulance," Rahman said. "I had to be carried and placed on the stretcher. I mean, I couldn't feel my legs at all."
A magnetic resonance imaging revealed a mass on Rahman's spine.
Rahman's physical therapy since the operation has progressed from walking on crutches to walking up and down stairs unassisted.
His handlers said they have maintained talks with HBO officials, who were to televise the fight as part of their "Boxing After Dark" series, in hopes of rescheduling the meeting for December or January.
"It's a great disappointment. But fortunately, his impressive last few outings will not be forgotten that quickly," said Rahman's promoter, Cedric Kushner. "I'm also in conversation with the IBF to hold the mandatory position for this fight, so that Nicholson would not fight anyone in the near future."