IBF/IBO/WBO Heavyweight Kingpin Wladimir Klitschko (52-3, 46 KO’s), jabbed faded former undisputed World Champ Hasim Rahman (45-7-2, 36 KO’s) into submission via TKO, as he dropped, then stopped the challenger in round eight; trapping Rahman in his own corner with a barrage of shots, prompting referee Tony Weeks to wave a halt to the mismatch 44 seconds into the round.
The champion dictated the pace from the outset, splitting the guard of Rahman’s defensive posturing with telephone pole jabs, mixed with a variety of left hooks and his vaunted right hand. By round two, the fight resembled a glorified sparring session, as Klitschko landed at will, and negated any offensive plans Rahman may have had in mind.
In round three, Hasim seemed to be attempting a “Rope-a-Dope” type of style as he backed his way against the ropes with a high guard, inviting Klitschko to move in and perhaps punch himself out. The tactic did not work, as the champ boxed with cautious purpose, jabbing treacherous holes through Rahman’s guard over and over, while landing a couple of vicious one-two’s and punching around the wilting challenger’s high gloves with semi-solid right and left hooks. This looked positively like the beginning of the end for Rahman, however Klitschko seemed to slow his measured attack and Hasim made it through the round.
Wladimir was openly, and justly criticized by former unified world heavyweight great Lennox Lewis for not being creative enough in his attack. “He (Wladimir) needs to get more creative in there. Show more angles, and mix up his combinations.” The ex-champ also went on to say, “He doesn’t throw anything up the middle; no uppercuts, no body shots.”
From the beginning of the fourth heat till the anti-dramatic ending, each round looked like extended versions of the previous, with Wladimir constantly jarring Rahman with multiple jabs, occasional left hooks and thudding straight right crosses. Hasim showed a good beard throughout, despite being momentarily dropped hard in round six by a beautiful triple-left hook that buzzed the challenger, only for Hasim to jump up quickly, clear-eyed.
However, as brave as Rahman may have been, his ultra-defensive, counter-punching game plan lacked any realistic depth, and the one-way beating was near it’s end.
Before the bell rang for round seven, Rahman’s slip-in co-trainer, Buddy McGirt showed deep concern for his man, while ref Tony Weeks stuck his head in the challengers corner and explained clearly that should Rahman take more excessive punishment, he would have to call the fight. McGirt expressed the exact sentiment to his fighter, who looked tired, swollen around the eyes, and out of Wladimir Klitschko’s league.
A series of jolting jabs and a final punishing four-punch combination to the head of Rahman less than a minute into the round was all it took, and the fight was stopped with Hasim, who finished the fight on his feet, dazed in the ref’s arms without complaint.
All in all, it was an extremely dominant showing from the uncrowned heavyweight champion in a fight he was expected to win easily, but speaking with Klitschko’s chief trainer and The Kronk Gym guru Emanuel Steward via telephone shortly after the contest, a different viewpoint of the fight was revealed. “I believe Wladimir should have stopped him (Rahman) much earlier in the fight. Wladimir feels the same way. He knows his abilities and he recognizes the opportunities he let slip away.
Regardless of the win, which we’re happy with, I believe the fight should have been not only dominant, which Wladimir accomplished, but absolutely conclusive. A clean, clear knockout.” When asked what plans Team Klitschko have for the up-coming year, with an IBF mandatory fight vs. #1 contender, Alexander Povetkin and former undisputed cruiserweight champ David Haye screaming for a shot at Wlad, Emanuel turned slyly optimistic. “With Povetkin, we know what to expect, and how to deal with his straight-forward style,” said Steward as a positive. “We’d really love to make a fight with David Haye much sooner than later.” Emanuel seemed genuinely excited about the match-up. “Wladimir and I just watched the (Monte) Barrett fight for the first time the other day, and we weren’t all that impressed (with Haye).” The Hall of Fame trainer continued, “He’s (Haye) basically talking his way into a fight with Wladimir. He’s been knocked out, and knocked down and hurt several times at cruiserweight; nothing against Barrett, but him getting knocked out by Haye was no big surprise, but from what I saw, Monte hurt Haye in that fight as well, which was also no big surprise. Haye has a glass chin.”
It’s too bad the American boxing audience doesn’t know more about the boisterous David Haye, who fights out of the UK, but has shown no fear of battling outside of his backyard, traveling to France and defeating then-world cruiserweight champ, Jean Marc Marc Mormeck in seven brutal rounds to take the cruiserweight title back home with him. To become a more visible fighter in the US at this point would bode well for both, Haye and Wlad, as well as defining the measuring stick of the heavyweight division itself, if David Haye would fight more frequently against some of today’s melting-pot of heavyweight boxers in 2009. If he could earn his shot at Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko by beating the likes of top contenders and tough customers, Juan Carlos Gomez, Alexander Dimitrenko, Sultan Ibragimov, or especially America’s biggest hope, Cristobal Arreola on US turf; Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye may be the fight that reanimates heavyweight boxing.
But don’t expect Haye or W. Klitschko to allow this “dream-route” towards a fight between them to happen. David is on his knees, begging for a shot, and Wladimir is extremely willing to accept his loud challenge.
As Emanuel and I were winding down our always-lengthy conversation, I remarked to the older master that ‘Wlad had better get to Haye before someone else does.’ Emanuel just chuckled, “Yep” he said matter-of-factly, “the sooner the better!”