Rahman vs. Barrett: Unlikely Heavyweight Champions Deserving of WBC “Interim” Title Shot

By Francis Walker
Updated: July 25, 2005

Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett

Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett

NEW YORK — The WBC “interim” heavyweight title fight between Hasim Rahman (40-5-1, 33 KOs) and Monte Barrett (31-3, 17 KOs) is a significant fight between two fighters who no one thought would ever become a heavyweight champion.

Both fighters, through the years, have overcome stunning knockout losses and lengthy periods of inactivity to emerge as two of boxing’s premier heavyweights. From barely recognizable heavyweights to top contenders, no one would have thought Rahman and Barrett would fight each other for a piece of the world heavyweight title.

The winner of the Rahman-Barrett “interim” heavyweight title fight will challenge WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko before the end of the year. If Kiltschko, who has been sidelined by chronic leg and back injuries throughout the year, is unable to defend his crown then either Rahman or Barrett’s status will be changed to WBC champion.

Rahman-Barrett, promoted by Don King Productions, will be broadcast live on Showtime pay-per-view on August 13, from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The event will also feature former junior middleweight champion Ricardo Mayorga and heavyweight contender, Andrew Golota.

The path toward heavyweight success did not come easy for Rahman, who spent his career competing as a legitimate heavyweight contender. , although he fought on HBO, he was the type of fighter you could barely recognize. You could walk past him in the street without recognizing him because the only heavyweights that were recognizable to the public were Lewis, Tyson, and Holyfield.

Rahman’s image changed once he knocked out Lennox Lewis with one punch in April 2001 to capture the world heavyweight championship in Johannesburg, South Africa. Rahman would lose rhe heavyweight title seven months later to Lewis in an immediate rematch (KO by 4).

Prior to fighting Lewis, Rahman has suffered a controversial loss to David Tua (TKO 10) a bout in which Rahman was winning easily before Tua rallied late in the fight. At the end of the ninth round, Rahman was hit in the chin and could not recover. Tua, trapped Rahman against the ropes, but missed wildly with his flurries.

Many argued that the bout was wrongfully and prematurely stopped. Rahman had also suffered a TKO loss to Oleg Maskaev, as he was knocked through the ropes onto the arena floor.

Rahman’s career hit another low when he suffered severe swelling along the side of his forehead, dropped a technical decision to a faded Evander Holyfield in June 2002. Rahmnan lost a bid to win the WBA heavyweight title by dropping a dull 12-round decision in Dec. 2003 to John Ruiz, boxing’s first Latino heavyweight champion in December 2003.

Last year, 2004 was a terrific year for Rahman. He restructured his career, fighting under the radar winning all five of his professional fights (four by KO) to quietly emerge as the No. 1-ranked heavyweight challenger. Rahman’s KO of Meehan was the most impressive performance since he defeated Lewis more than four years ago.

Barrett is not as popular or accomplished a fighter as Rahman, but Barrett has more than proved that he deserves a heavyweight title shot.

Following a one-sided TKO loss to Wladimir Klitschko in 2000, many thought that Barrett’s career as a top-10 contender was finished. The fight against Klitschko was the worst of Barrett’s career. He suffered several knockdowns and he was badly bleeding and incoherent.

But Barrett quietly reconstructed his career winning 8 of his last 9 fights. His only loss was a controversial 10-round majority decision to Joe Mesi. In his last two fights, Barrett knocked out rising challengers Owen Beck (TKO 9) and Dominick Guinn (W 10). Both Beck and Guinn were undefeated.

Overall, Barret’s last four opponents combined for winning records of 92-1 to earn him a title shot. Barrett is just as tall 6’ 2,” as Rahman. But Rahman has a distinct size and weight advantage 240-218 pounds. Rahman-Barrett will be a very good, action-packed fight with the winner at the top of the WBC title chain as “interim” champion.

Super Fights In the Works

There is talk of a catch-weight bout between WBA super-lightweight champion, Floyd Mayweather and former junior middleweight champion, Winky Wright. Both fighters are coming off the biggest victories of their careers and should the two meet, the winner could be the 2005 “Fighter of the Year.”

In May, Wright out-boxed Felix Trinidad through 12-rounds to win a one-sided, unanimous decision. Mayweather simply trashed Arturo Gatti, taking his WBC 140-pound title to become a three-time division champion (130, 135, and 140).

If the fight is made, the bout could occur in November at 154, meaning Mayweather could skip the 147-pound, welterweight division.

Following Bernard Hopkins’ middleweight title loss to Jermain Taylor on July 16, there is talk of Roy Jones, Jr. returning to action to meet Antonio Tarver in a rubber match.

There was talk of Hopkins fighting Jones in a rematch from their May 1993 boxing match. Jones beat an inexperienced Hopkins to win his first world title at 160 pounds.

After Jones won the heavyweight title from John Ruiz in March 2003, Jones returned to the light-heavyweight division to challenge Tarver, then WBC 175-pound champion in December of that year. Tarver, by far, was Jones’ toughest opponent as Jones reclaimed the title on a close majority decision. Jones blamed his lackluster performance on his dramatic loss of 20-plus pound of muscle.

In the rematch in April 2004, Tarver asked Jones if he any excuses during the ring introduction before knocking him out with just one punch in round two. The shocking loss to Tarver was one of two knockout losses Jones suffered last year and he has not fought since. Tarver, meanwhile, avenged another loss to Glen Johnson in June 2005.

IBF Orders Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sam Peter

In a high-stakes heavyweight title elimination bout, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) has ordered Wladimir Klitschko, the younger brother of WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko, to face Nigerian power-puncher, Sam Peter.

The winner would be declared the next No. 1-ranked heavyweight title contender to IBF champion, Chris Byrd, who has a mandatory title defense against Darryl Williamson.

Wladimir was labeled as the future of the heavyweight division. At 6’ 7,” 245 pounds he was a monster considered to be too big and too strong for most heavyweight contenders. But in the two biggest fights of his career, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster exposed Wladimir for having a glass jaw.

Klitschko vs. Peter would be a very entertaining fight, although Peter has not fought anyone. Peter is a relentless power-puncher who can knock Klitschko out with one hard shot. Peter has won 21 of his 24 fights by KO and is undefeated. Peter is too dangerous of an opponent for Klitschko. In fact, the fight will probably not be made because its too risky of a fight for Klitschko.