Hot Potato! There’s A New Heavyweight Champion As Maskaev Repeats Dominance of Rahman To Win WBC Title

By Francis Walker
Updated: August 13, 2006

NEW YORK — Okay, let’s sit in a circle. A series of heavyweight championships will be passed around simultaneously.

Hold on to them as long as you can and when the pressure of being a heavyweight champion becomes too much, simply relinquish them whether by KO, decision, or forfeit, and wish for another turn.

That is what the world heavyweight championship has come to nowadays.

The latest champion to have relinquished his heavyweight title is Hasim Rahman. Rahman looked to avenge a 1999 knockout loss to Oleg Maskaev, a legitimate No.-ranked contender by the WBC, although he has been knocked out five times in his career.

In a relatively close fight going into the final round of their rematch, Maskaev (33-5, 26 KOs) scored a repeat knockout of Rahman (41-6-2, 33 KOs) to win the WBC heavyweight championship at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on Saturday.

In their previous encounter in Atlantic City nearly 7 years ago, The 37 year-old Maskaev, Zhambul, Kazakhstan, was losing on all three judges scorecards before knocking Rahman, 33, Baltimore Maryland, between the ropes, through the announcers table onto the floor for an emphatic knockout.

Maskaev was ahead on two judges’ scorecards 106-103 and 105-104 going into the twelfth round. Rahman led 106-103 on the third.

Maskaev floored Rahman on the mat with a left hook to his chin. Rahman was stunned as he returned to his feet. Maskaev landed a barrage of punches that put an end to Rahman’s second reign as heavyweight champion.

The official time of the stoppage was 2:17 of the twelfth round.

“I was boxing…but he was a little bit better inside,” Maskaev said afterward. “I got used to it and was trying to get away from him”.

“His jab was very effective, then like my trainer told me, move to the right side. This way you’re not going to get hit by the left jab.” What does Rahman’s loss mean to the boxing community? The game of hot-potato continues, as Maskaev became the fourth fighter from the former Soviet Union to currently hold a piece of the world heavyweight championship.

Wladimir Klitschko (IBF) is from Ukraine, Serguei Lyakhovich (WBO) is from Belarus, Nikolay Valuev (WBA), the undefeated 7’ 3,” 320-pounder is from St. Petersburg, not Florida, but Russia.

Since Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield retired the heavyweight championship has been marred in an unpleasant game of hot-potato.

Once a fighter wins the championship, the responsibility of retaining the championship becomes too hot they fork over the title to the next fighter.

The heavyweight champions in recent years have received more press clippings for sound bytes, rather than their in-ring performances.

For example, in Rahman’s two heavyweight title reigns his record has fallen to 0-2-1 in title defenses. Rahman record in world title fights overall is 2-3-1, 1 KO.

When Muhammad Ali fought challenged the very best fighters of his era: Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton, Floyd Patterson, and Larry Holmes. Tyson beat everyone Bill Cayton and Don King put in front of him.

Evander Holyfield is the only boxer to unify the cruiserweight championships and win the undisputed world heavyweight championship. Holyfield had Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Bert Cooper, and Michael Moorer to name a few.

Lewis needed decisive victories against faded versions of Tyson and Holyfield to solidify a recognizable place as one of the dominant heavyweight champions of his era.

Lewis was a three-tie heavyweight champion and competed in 18 world title fights.

Between Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Liston, Holmes, Tyson, Holyfield, and Lewis were all recognized as being dominant heavyweight champions.

When they fought they sold out arenas, their fights were exciting, and they won consistently.

Today’s heavyweights are not active. Since winning the WBA heavyweight championship in December 2005 from John Ruiz, Valuev has fought once against an undeserving Owen Beck.

Lyakhovich has not fought since his dramatic KO win against Lamon Brewster to win the WBO heavyweight title in April. Lyakhovich has fought once in the last 18 months.

In April, Klitschko won the IBF heavyweight crown against an opponent he beat before. Klitschko gained a lot of praise for knocking out a much smaller, light-hitting Chris Byrd.

Klitschko is rumored to make a defense against Shannon Briggs in November. Klitschko has fought only once in 2006. Klitschko is the most attractive fighter to watch of the heavyweight champions, but he has suffered three KO defeats to hand-picked, journeymen opponents. He can be beaten if hit hard enough on his chin.

Lyakhovich is not a main event draw. He can walk down the street from famous sports venues throughout country and fight fans would walk right past him.

He cannot sell out Hammerstein Ballroom. Let’s not even mention boxing’s premiere venues: Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, or Madison Square Garden.

Valuev is a relative unknown in the United States, even after 42 professional fights without a single loss, he’s going to need a big-name promoter and a three fight tour of the states before anyone begins to take notice.

Maskaev has joined the list of European heavyweight champions. The journey was not easy as Maskaev himself has led a difficult path toward heavyweight gold.

His career began in 1993, but was quickly in trouble following a first-round KO loss to journeyman heavyweight contender Oliver McCall in only his seventh professional fight.

Maskaev would lose another high profile fight to rising heavyweight title contender David Tua in 1997, two years prior to his first victory against Rahman.

The following year in 2000, Maskaev would lose three of five fights by knockout and was considered a journeyman/club fighter.

Since his knockout loss to Corrie Sanders in March 2002, Maskaev’s run toward winning a heavyweight title is impressive. Maskaev’s win-streak has reached 11 (11-0, 9 KOs).

His two victories against Rahman are his biggest claim toward the top, the question remains whether Maskaev can dominate a weak heavyweight division or is he simply taking his turn at playing hot-potato with the a world heavyweight championship.