World heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman of Baltimore will announce today in New York that he will fight David Izon as a replacement for Denmark's Brian Nielsen on Aug. 4 in Rahman's first defense of the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation crowns he won by knocking out Lennox Lewis on April 21.
"Brian Nielsen's a guy who would only last one or two rounds. Izon is a real fight," Rahman said from Florida, after dining with Izon and promoter Don King, who signed Izon that day. "I told [promoter] Don King that I didn't want to fight Brian Nielsen because of the perception."
Rahman-Izon, part of a four-fight deal worth $75 million to Rahman, will take place in Beijing on the undercard of the World Boxing Association title bout between John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield. Rahman's deal originally called for a fight against the Ruiz-Holyfield winner for $15 million if he wins his $5 million bout with Izon (27-3, 23 KOs), then Lewis for $20 million, followed by a $30 million payday against Mike Tyson.
But Rahman (35-2, 29 knockouts), seeking to avoid a June 11 trial date, has offered to face Lewis (38-2-1, 27 KOs) after Izon. Lewis is suing Rahman for breach of contract since his fight schedule violates a rematch clause in their deal that called for a return bout within 150 days. The deal allows Rahman an interim bout that does not occur within 60 days of the rematch.
Rahman's former promoter, Cedric Kushner, is suing King and Rahman, claiming they made their deal while Kushner still had a contract with Rahman. Kushner said his deposition will be taken today, followed by Rahman on Friday, King on June 5, and Lewis on June 7, according to Houseofboxing.com.
"The 150 days is approximately Sept. 21. And in boxing, that 150 days means let's get a deal together by then. We've told Lewis' people we'd be willing to fight within the 150 days. We even said, 'Let's bring HBO into it. Let's make this happen,' " said Steve Nelson, Rahman's co-manager with Stan Hoffman.
"We will fight Aug. 4. We're entitled to it. We'll fight an interim fight," Nelson continued. "The proposal made by Don King, which had Lewis third, wasn't to duck Lewis but to make Rock bigger where there'd be more money for a Lennox Lewis fight. We'd be willing to fight by Sept. 21, although it would be difficult to do, logistically."
But Judd Burstein, attorney for Lewis' co-promoter, Lions Promotions, said: "At this point, there will never be a settlement that allows for an interim bout."
Rahman's attorney, Michael Armstrong, declined comment. Neither Hoffman nor his attorney, Andrew Lawler, could be reached.
"We're prepared to be generous before litigation, but if we go to trial, the HBO deal is off the table," Burstein said. "And frankly, I'm salivating to cross-examine him, considering his past."