August 13, 2006

Maskaev knocks out Rahman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oleg Maskaev scored a 12th- round
victory over Hasim Rahman to claim the WBC heavyweight
championship on Saturday in Las Vegas, leaving the United
States without a heavyweight champion.

Rahman, making his second defense, was the busier boxer
throughout and had appeared headed for a narrow victory until
the 37-year-old Maskaev came to life late, leaving everything
to fight for as the bell sounded for the final round.

Maskaev (33-5, 26 KOs) staggered Rahman with a right-left
combination then pinned the American in the corner landing a
series of hard rights before referee Jay Nady stepped in and
stopped the contest with just 43 seconds left in the 12th

"This was like I said it was going to be, a war," Maskaev
told ringside television after the fight. "But I believed until
the last minute that I was going to win.

"I believed the fight was even and I had to push it up if I
was going to win this fight.

"I knew I had two more rounds, three more rounds left, if I
want to win this title I had to fight."

Maskaev's victory means all four major heavyweight belts
are now held by fighters born in the former Soviet Union.

Maskaev was born in Kazakhstan and an army officer in the
former Soviet Union but became an U.S. citizen two years ago
and lives in Staten Island.

The three other belts are held IBF champion Wladimir
Klitscho a native of Ukraine, WBA champion Nikolay Valuev from
Russia and WBO champion Sergei Liakhovich of Belarus.

"I'm a proud Russian American," said Maskaev, who also
knocked out Rahman in an earlier meeting in 1999. "There is a
message to everybody that European fighters, they're tough and
strong as athletes.

"They have a chance to go somewhere."

Rahman, using his jab to great effect, dominated the early
rounds while Maskaev seemed content to try and land the same
thundering right that knocked the American out of the ring in
the eight round of the first meeting.

But Rahman tired in the later rounds and in the 12th was
caught by vicious combination from Maskaev, who had won his
last 10 fights, eight by knockout.

"I thought I was winning the fight, the ref said break and
that was it," said Rahman. "The ref said break, don't throw a
punch and I was hit with a shot.

"I'm disappointed. I'm extremely disappointed.

"I think (American heavyweights) are a little spoiled, make
too much money too quick and lose sight of the grand prize
which is to win the title and keep it."