|In April, with one textbook punch, a right cross to the jaw of 6-foot-5,
253-pound Lennox Lewis, Hasim Rahman was vaulted from obscurity to worldwide
recognition as Heavyweight Champion of the world.
The 28-year-old Rahman (pronounced Rockman and nicknamed "The Rock") is
evidence that a young Black man can turn around a desperate situation. He is
the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Council (WBC)
heavyweight champion, but as a teenager in his hometown of Baltimore, Md., he
was not deemed a role model. He was regarded by police as simply a street
thug. He dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and roamed the
streets, an intimidating presence who grew early to his present size, 6 feet
2, 245 pounds.
Early in his reign as champion, Rahman was interviewed on "The Tonight Show,"
during which Jay Leno asked him what kind of punch he threw to knock out
Lewis, "The Rock" responded, "The eight-figure punch," referring to the
riches coming his way. With the punch out of Lewis, Rahman put himself in
position to reap tens of millions of dollars. Since April, cable networks
HBO and Showtime have been in a bidding war for Rahman's services that
reached $20 million for either a Lewis or Mike Tyson fight. In the midst of
those negotiations, promoter Don King unexpectedly signed Rahman to a
contract that calls for a $5 million signing bonus and the promise of several
multimillion-dollar fights - as long as he keeps winning.
Legendary showman Don King's coup in signing Rahman has the courts and
Congress bustling. King is no role model to White people. Congress passed a
Boxing Reform Act aimed especially at him. It prevents promoters from
serving as managers of fighters and prohibits promoters and managers from
having conflicts of interests. Among the lawsuits: Rahman's former promoter
Cedric Kushner's $125,000 suit against King - destined for the Supreme Court
- for luring Rahman away a few years ago. Other suits affecting the
champion's future are Lewis' case that Rahman is obligated to fight a rematch
and Tyson's suit against King, claiming he is entitled to fight Rahman next.
Another heavyweight, David Tua, is suing the IBF to strip Rahman of the IBF
version of the title for violating federation rules. If he gets out of the
courts with his title - most were scheduled to be heard by June 11 - Rahman's
first title defense will be on King's fight card Aug. 4 in Beijing.
In the early 1990s Rahman was a bad boy. He's been charged 11 times on
counts such as assault, battery, drug dealing, handgun possession, loitering,
robbery and theft. Most charges were dropped. One case, in which Rahman
pleaded guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute, resulted in a
seven-year suspended sentence and probation. He was fortunate to survive two
incidents: He was shot during a street rumble; he also was a passenger in a
speeding truck that overturned, killing the driver and throwing Rahman
outside the vehicle - he escaped with 500 stitches in the right side of his
Rahman's father, John Cason, says, "I think he made some bad decisions early
in his life. But it's not that he didn't have role models." Among his 10
siblings, a brother is orthopedic surgeon, another Muslim religious scholar.
Cason says Hasim has a good family structure. "This is not our means of
pulling ourselves out of poverty. He has people in his family who know a
certain amount of affluence and how to deal with it. He has a good network
of people he can fall back on who don't have to depend on him. We want him
So far, Rahman has not let the money and fame change his lifestyle.
Currently he drives a cherry Cadillac Escalade and lives in a modest
two-story house outside Baltimore with his wife Crystal and their three young
To comment on this or any other article by William Reed, author of "Who's Who
in Black Corporate America," email email@example.com.