Rahman needed big close for draw


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Hidden within the throng of fans following heavyweight Hasim Rahman as he left Boardwalk Hall and strode the boardwalk toward his hotel early yesterday morning was his daughter, Amirah, 7, who carried with her the ultimate result of her father's fight with James Toney.

"When my dad hit [Toney], he fell back into the ropes, and I thought he was going to fall down," said Amirah Rahman, simultaneously peeling back her white fur coat to reveal a green and gold World Boxing Council title belt that belongs to her father. "[Toney] didn't fall down, but we got the belt right here, so my dad's still the champ."

Daddy is, Amirah, but just barely.

Rahman (41-5-2, 33 knockouts) fought to a majority draw with challenger Toney (69-4-3, 43 KOs) of Los Angeles on Saturday night, retaining his WBC crown and earning $2.5 million to Toney's $2 million in the process.

Judge John Stewart had it 117-111 for Rahman, and Tommy Kaczmarek and Nabuaki Uranti had it 114-114. Rahman, a Baltimore native now living in Las Vegas, had to win the last two rounds on two cards and split the last two on Uranti's to secure the draw, even though he won comfortably in the opinion of many in the ringside media, including HBO's Harold Lederman, who had Rahman up 8-4 in rounds.

"I'm glad I got the last two rounds, because I would have lost the fight if I didn't get them," said Rahman, 33.

Rahman won the undisputed heavyweight crown with an April 2001 knockout of Lennox Lewis, but lost it seven months later. After winning six straight, including four by knockout, Rahman was named WBC champ when the November retirement of Vitali Klitschko stopped Klitschko's scheduled defense against Rahman.

"I didn't want to be one-and-done again, never having had a successful defense and the chance to move on to something bigger and better," said Rahman, who now looks to satisfy the WBC's requirement that he face Russia's Oleg Maskaev, who knocked Rahman out of the ring on Nov. 6, 1999.

Promoter Bob Arum said he would like to bring Maskaev to Baltimore's M&T; Bank Stadium and could make the call to Ravens officials as early as this week.

By WBC rules, Rahman couldn't even consider a rematch with Toney until after fighting Maskaev.

"I definitely want to bring Maskaev to my town, since he's got a knockout win over me. Or if [Baltimore] wants to put up what it takes to bring James Toney to Baltimore," said Rahman, who had a cut over his left eye that required stitches. "I believe I could be ready to go in June or July, maybe come back in November. I'm ready for whatever. I think I proved tonight that if I'm in shape, I can compete with anybody. I honestly thought I did enough to win the fight."

Rahman out-landed Toney, 279-263, overall and had a 120-48 advantage in jabs that scored. Rahman threw about 77 punches per round, well above the heavyweight average of 48, but was out-landed, 215-159, by Toney in power punches.

"James Toney is hard to knock out, and I hit him with good shots. If you don't catch him with that one shot, it's going to be hard to get him out of there," Rahman said. "I'm not really worried about what [critics] say. I have a win over the best heavyweight [Lewis] of this era, and they taint that. I feel like I beat James Toney, and they say it's a draw. All I can do is go on, keep winning, and, eventually, they'll give me the respect I deserve."

Toney, 37, has not lost since 1997, a span of 17 fights, and is 11-2-2 in title bouts, excluding a win over then-World Boxing Association champ John Ruiz in April that was ruled a no-decision after Toney failed a post-fight drug test for steroids.

"Rock has a good jab. I thought I could walk through it, but Rahman can hit," Toney said. "I never said I was stunned - I was hurt. He probably hit me the hardest I've ever been hit since Merqui Sosa, and that was 15 years ago. But I didn't waver, and I didn't wobble. I think we should cut to the chase and let's get down to negotiations for a rematch."

Rahman, who stands nearly 6 feet 3 and weighed in at a ripped 238 pounds, acknowledged having gotten away from the game plan he had worked on with trainer Thell Torrence for the 237-pound Toney, whose weight was a career high. Gone was the patient jab behind which Rahman could tee off on Toney's head and body as the 5-9 fighter came in.

Instead, Rahman allowed Toney to bait him to the ropes, where his counterpunching gave the shorter man the edge in exchanges. Even Rahman's wife, Crystal - responding to text messages from International Boxing Federation champ Chris Byrd and his wife, Tracy - was heard screaming for Rahman to "get off the ropes" and "jab!"

"This was Rock's first defense fighting one of the best fighters in the world. Rock got through this fight with heart and plain guts. He was never hurt," Torrence said. "It upset me a little bit that he went away from the plans, but he's got such a big heart. We didn't get the decision we wanted, but we're still building a mountain and a foundation. We'll make adjustments."


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