Sunday, August 13, 2006

Maskaev stuns Rahman, completes eastern European heavyweight shift

By JE Grant

Perhaps Oleg Maskaev’s 12th round stoppage of defending titlist Hasim Rahman should not have come as such a surprise, given the results of their first meeting, but the collective boxing world’s jaw dropped as the heavyweight division completed an improbable power shift.

The 37 year-old Maskaev, 33-5 (26 KOs), 238, provided rich proof that despite being much slower than he appeared in his first meeting nearly seven years ago, power and a slight change in strategy can trump other deficiencies.

While the bout was billed as “America’s Last Line of Defense,” playing on the America versus the world theme, Maskaev, 37, is in fact an American citizen and has been for two years. It was his Uzbeki roots and his participation in the former Soviet Union’s athletic factory that provided the hook for the billing and remains central to the profound shift in boxing’s power structure in the heavyweight division.

The bout featured many of the same elements evident in their first match. Rahman’s jab kept Maskaev off-balance in many rounds and Maskaev fought back gamely ripping hard shots.

What was different in this rematch was Maskaev’s use of a left hook in lieu of an over-reliance on right hands.

In the opening round, Maskaev showed his plan by occasionally catching the aggressive Rahman with left hooks. While he didn’t win the early rounds, it was clear that his tactics were something he was determined to carryout come what may.

Rahman, 41-6-2 (33 KOs), Baltimore, 235, found a home for his powerful and controlling left jab. If Maskaev had his plan, Rahman, 33, at least early, had the answer.

Maskaev was repeatedly force back by Rahman’s jab. More importantly, it appeared difficult for him to put together the hard shots that were thought to be his only chance.

However, in the middle rounds a change developed. Maskaev landed more left hooks and more often his right hand landed with some steam. He didn’t completely abandon the wide rights that had been his hallmark but many more straight, short rights found Rahman’s chin particularly on the inside.

Perhaps the most useful part of Maskaev’s game was his commitment to the body. Though he suffered sharp counters when going to the body, the “Big O” continued to deliver leather to Rahman’s midsection.

After the eighth round both fighters appeared tired, but Rahman’s game suffered the most. As he breathed hard, it was the equally tired – not to mention much older – Maskaev who went to the well to pull up the reserves that took him down the stretch of the championship rounds. As Rahman faded, Maskaev’s heavier punches began to take a toll.

Round 12, a round that will live on highlight roles for years, began with two weary battlers meeting at ring center, each having risen slowly from his respective stool.

Rahman was no long able to keep the charging Maskaev on the end of his jab and was forced to labor on the inside. Maskaev powered home his right hand, seeming to reap the benefits of his fight-long use of the left hook.

A crashing right hand staggered Rahman and a series of shots forced him back and to the canvas hard. Rising, but clearly hurt, Rahman grabbed Maskaev as the two flung across the ring. Once able to get out of Rahman’s clutches, Maskaev raked the titlist with all he had left until referee Jay Nady stepped in to stop the contest at 2:17.

Rahman protested the stoppage even as he stumbled across the ring, obviously unable to continue. He later claimed to have been hit on the break, but in fact it appeared he simply ran out of fuel and became vulnerable to the same power that had once forced him out of the ring in their first meeting.

At the time of the stoppage, judges scoring after 11 rounds showed that Maskaev needed only to win the final stanza in order to capture a decision victory: 106-103 (Maskaev), 105-104 (Maskaev) and 106-103 (Rahman). Of course the knockout made scoring irrelevant.

With his win, Maskaev joins Nicolay Valuev (Russia), Serguei Liakhovich (Belarus), and Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine), as a holder of a sanctioning body “world” title belt. He will likely be considered the lesser of the titlists given his history of knockout losses and his advanced age, but nonetheless is now in line for a major money showdown with one of the other belt holders.


Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Are you back in the states J.E? If so, great!

As for this fight, it didn't "shock" me, but it did surprise me.

More to come...

8:51 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I'm back!

I arrived just in time to see the fight.

3:54 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Great to have you back on familiar soil JE! As for the fight, I didn't see it...But I lost my ass on it! (Well, not really. But I sure as hell didn't win anything on it!) I couldn't have been more wrong on this one if I tried. Not only did I have Rahman at minus 2-1, but I also had the "under" (10 rounds) on the O/U as well! Anyways, I have never thought much of Hasim, but I thought he would take care of a slow 38 yr.old Oleg. Not so. Credit to Maskaev. This guy really overcame a ton of adversity in his career (The modern-day "cinderella man"?) and beat a legit top-5 guy in this the "twilight" of his career. That being said - with all newly earned respect for Oleg - it is becoming (even more clear) to me, that the true "class" of the division is Klitschko & Liahkovich. I think these other two (Maskaev & Valuev) are more or less "ripe for the picking", and anyone from a Brock, to any number of the young up & coming Euro/Russians could topple them in the near future, if of course provided the opportunity.

* P.S- I did hear it was a pretty good fight, and plan to watch it this wknd. I just wasn't going to pay 50 bones for it, unless I could get a few guys (or at least one) to pitch in for it. The pub down the street unfortunately wasn't carrying it either.

4:28 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

It was indeed a good fight. Rahman, as predicted, powered his jab home. The one difference was the left hand of Maskaev. Usually he is right hand happy. Saturday threw his left often enough that his right hand was a surprise. Classic ending.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

That is what I heard J.E. I also heard that his (Oleg's) defense looked to be a bit improved as well. I was surprised that the fight was for all intents and purposes about even going into the 12th. (Some had Rahman slightly up, some Oleg, some even) Quite frankly, I don't know whether to think MORE of Oleg, or even LESS of Rahman.

A little of both, I guess.

Anyways, I'm glad to hear it was a good fight, and I'll definetly watch it.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

*Scary thought*

Why did I get a funny feeling...There is a chance we could see Maskaev-Tyson or Maskaev-Holyfield in late 2006/2007? Want to know what's even more frightening?

I may just give those two a slight chance.

On a somewhat brighter note, there is another one that I think may come to fruition; Maskaev-Klitschko. And no...I'm not talking VLAD Klitschko, but VITALI. Oleg owns an amatuer victory over Vitali, and I still have a hunch that Vitali may have ONE more fight in his career - provided it is within the next 12 months - as he is still relatively young for a hvy, and this would bring the much planned "brotherly world domination" to completion.

...Of course, some big dude with dreadlocks could turn everything upside down in November, with one single well-placed right hand on the less-than-granite chin of "little bro" Vladdy.

I think Briggs is a big underdog, but a potentially DANGEROUS one. ESPECIALLY in the early rounds...

11:27 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Alright Troy where are we on Klitschko-Maskaev being signed for November???

6:20 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

...You mean Klitschko-Briggs? That one is almost 100% signed,sealed,and delivered for Nov.11. Klitschko-Maskaev is highly unlikely for that date though, and a virtually guaranteed no-go.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Well, I just got done watching Rahman-Maskaev. It was a good, tough, close fight, with a great ending. Maskaev - while his speed has decreased (He is SLOW...Then again, Rahman not much faster) his technique has indeed improved a bit. No doubt. I thought he was moderately impressive.

Moderately impressive...;-)

10:50 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

This was very impressive how he dug down in the 12th to stop him though...(Just watched the 12th again.)

11:17 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

It just shows you what kind of confidence a puncher always has. He felt throughout that he could end it with his power and he never lost faith.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

True J.E. From a cerebral and "grit" standpoint - it WAS impressive indeed.

Kudos to Oleg.

1:14 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

That said.........I fully expect him to lose his title within a year...most likely to Klitschko.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Yep...He won't make it through 2007 J.E.

1:34 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I also suspect big Nicolay won't make it that long either. Of course if they keep feeding him the Becks and Barretts of the world he has a chance.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Yeah, it will only be a matter of time before Valuev loses a decisive decision, or ol "Area-51" gets sent into section-D, aisle 10. However, he is getting periously close to the sacred Marciano mark, JE. I was actually all for Holmes doing this, but not this big lummox. Yes, Marciano fought his share of stiffs as well, but he finished by fighting top-level competition, and being the undisputed champ. This is a mark us pasaenos (and half-pasaenos) take pretty seriously. If he beats the cream-of-the-current-crop to do it; fine. But he's been comfortably nestled over there in Germany, downing alot of "Becks"...;-(

12:11 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I don't think you need to worry. He won't get there. Any attempt at unifying the titles will result in a loss.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Well...He has a (probably) easy victory over Barrett in the fall, and I think they set him up with a few half-ass opponents in 2007. And then - boom. He (and Don King) are right on the cusp. But yeah, by then it's 2008 (if he makes it that far) and there will be increased demand to put him in against the very best. King will probably count his money, roll the dice, and do so at that time.

10:16 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Don't be all that shocked if Barrett beats him.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Agreed. It would surprise a bit - but not shock.

8:42 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I wonder how good Big Nick's chin really is. It would be amazing to see him hit the deck.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Yeppers...*Flashes wicked & mischievious grin* I think it's pretty good, and it may take an accumulation, but I think he can be felled...

Even though I kind of like the big lummox in a Primo Carnera/Andre Rousimoff (The Giant) fashion, I confess to having a bit of a morbid desire to see "Area-51" make an unexpected visit DOWN to "the wild blue yonder"...(Hehehe...Whoooaaa...THUD!)


8:27 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Is the Maskaev going to take on the Peter-Toney winner?

11:36 AM  

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