Raheem Upsets Morales, Elevates Career

By Francis Walker
Updated: September 12, 2005

NEW YORK — Zahir Raheem gambled with his boxing career on Saturday in Los Angeles. Raheem risked the chance of becoming one of boxing’s most recognizable fighters when he fought one of the best Mexican fighters of this generation, Erik Morales.

Raheem (27-1, 16 KOs) battled Morales (48-3, 34 KOs) for the chance to attain fame, bigger purses, and higher profile fights. When the fists stopped flying, Raheem has pulled off one of the biggest upsets in 2005.

Raheem, a 28-year-old native of Philadelphia, PA, had won a 12-round unanimous decision to elevate himself as one of boxing’s recognizable fighters at 130 pounds by beating Morales, making his lightweight (135 pounds) debut.

Raheem, a US representative in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and former three-time National Amateur champion, has fought professionally for more than nine years. But while fighters like Morales, Naseem Hamed, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Johnny Tapia have made millions, Raheem was not included in the mix.

Although Raheem has only lost one professional fight, a controversial 12-round decision to Rocky Juarez last year, in which Raheem was questionably docked three points for holding, has never had a world title fight.

The opportunity to fight Morales, a world champion in three separate weight classes and a veteran of more than 50 professional fights, was a golden opportunity for Raheem to be recognized as one of boxing’s longest, best-kept secrets.

I beat a legend tonight,” Raheem said. “I’ve always believed in myself. I just needed an opportunity like this.”

Raheem surprisingly kept Morales on the outside in the early rounds. Raheem appeared to have frustrated Morales by moving around the ring, throwing jabs from unusual angles. It was not until the fifth round when Raheem hurt Morales with a hard right hand.

“He never really wanted to fight,” Morales said of Raheem. “He threw punches and moved away, and I had a difficult time catching up to him.”

Morales has a style in which he loves when his opponents stand in front of him. Morales is a Mexican fighter who can box, but he also enjoys a good slugfest. His Feb. 2000 war against Marco Antonio Barrera is a pretty good indication of Morales’ desire to mix it up.

Raheem, however, is not the type of fighter that will allow his opponent to simply hit him hard and clean. Raheem will simply move as much as he can, throwing combinations and that’s what made his victory against Morales so impressive – Raheem made it look easy.

Morales’ biggest round was the eleventh when he stunned Raheem with several rights, but it was not nearly enough to prevent what turned out to be an inevitable loss.

The three judges at ringside scored the bout 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 for Raheem.

Raheem’s victory was significant because, he was suppose to have been a “tune-up” for Morales’ highly anticipated rematch against Manny Pacquiao (40-3-2, 32 KOs), who looked terrific during his sixth-round TKO of super featherweight contender, Hector Velazquez (42-10-2, 31 KOs) on the HBO televised co-feature.

Raheem, a good fighter without having any significant victories was not seen as a threat to Morales, who has marquee victories against former world champions Paulie Ayala, Marco Antonio Barrera, Junior Jones, Guty Espadas, In Jin Chi, and Wayne McCullough.

Despite losing to Raheem decisively, there is the possibility of Morales still meeting Pacquiao in a highly-anticipated HBO pay-Per-View rematch in January. The right thing would be for Raheem to receive a world title shot because, he has earned it defeating a legend.

Byrd & Toney To Return On October 1

James Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs), fighting for the first time since testing positive for steroids, will challenge Dominick Quinn (25-2-1, 18 KOS) in a 12-round heavyweight fight.

Gary Shaw Productions in association with Goossen Tutor Promotions and Don King Productions will promote the 12-round heavyweight contest at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada.

It will be Toney’s first fight following his 12-round victory against WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz on April 30th. Toney’s victory was changed to no-contest after post-fight drug test for steroids. Toney, a former world champion at 190, 168, and 160 pounds, was stripped of the WBA crown and it was returned to Ruiz.

“No matter what happens, I know I did not cheat or take any illegal substances,” Toney, whose suspension ended July 30, said. “Keep in mind when the topic of steroids and drugs surface in the sport, James Toney states there is no need and has never been a need for me to indulge at all in any illegal substances to help me beat anybody.”

Toney was the “Fighter of the Year” of 2003. During that year he had knocked down undefeated cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov, en route to capturing the IBF 190-pound title. Toney was also taken seriously as a heavyweight title contender when he TKO’d Evander Holyfield in the ninth-round.

The year 2003 was also the year Guinn emerged as a serious heavyweight threat. At 6′ 2,” 218 pounds, Guinn shocked the boxing world when he scored four brutal knockdowns against 6′ 7,” 254 pound Michael Grant, a former undefeated heavyweight title challenger. Guinn was superior, as he displayed two-fisted knockout punching power by stopping Grant in the seventh round.

However, Guinn has only one victory in his last four fights including a 10-round decision loss to Monte Barrett, who challenged Hasim Rahman for a piece of the WBC heavyweight title in August. Guinn is in a “must-win” situation if he wishes to join a long list of heavyweight title challengers.

“When I beat Toney, I will show people what I am really all about,” Guinn said. “I know I can perform at a higher level. It was almost too easy for me at the beginning. But this is the ultimate challenge and I am ready for it.”

Also on the card, IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd (38-2-1, 20 KOs) will make his 2005 debut when he defends his title against mandatory challenger, DaVarryl Williamson (22-3, 18 KOs).

Since winning the heavyweight title in Dec. 2002 following a decisive 12-round unanimous decision against Holyfield, Byrd has had to rally from behind to retain his championship status against Fres Oquendo Andrew Golota, and Jameel McCline.

Byrd has not fought since last November when he recovered from a third-round knockdown and needed to sweep the final seven rounds to defeat 6′ 7,” 260-pound McCline. At 6′ 2,” 215 pounds that was no easy feat for Byrd, a southpaw fighter who is not recognized for having punching power.

Williamson, in his last two fights, knocked out a faded Derrick Jefferson (TKO 2) and beat a 40-year-old, Oliver McCall. His most significant fights include a technical decision loss to Wladimir Klitschko and a one-round KO defeat to Joe Mesi.

Byrd should beat Williamson, but the question is how much will the lengthy layoff affect Byrd’s performance?