Most likely as a result of Vitali Klitschko — one half of the dominant duo of brothers ruling boxing’s heavyweight division — stepping away from the sport to focus on his political career in Ukraine, a few more fighters than usual are hanging around past their prime while seeing a realistic path to a championship that may not have existed before.
That group would include former two-time titlist Hasim Rahman, who at 41 years old is getting back in the ring after a nearly two-year period of inactivity.
Rahman, a Muslim brother from Baltimore, Md., will be part of the Super 8 heavyweight tournament that begins in Auckland, New Zealand, next month. He is the biggest name in a field that includes Brice Ritani-Coe, Kali Meehan, Michael Sprott, Martin Rogan, Alonzo Butler and Antz Nansen. Former heavyweight champ Samuel Peter was scheduled to be in the tournament, but recently pulled out due to a calf injury.
In Rahman’s last fight, he lost via second-round TKO to Alexander Povetkin in September 2012. Povetkin retained his WBA heavyweight championship that night, but would later lose it to Wladimir Klitschko via unanimous decision in May 2013.
Coming back when everyone thought you were down is as much a part of boxing culture as the shoulder-roll defense. It happens on a literal level when a boxer rises from the canvas to keep fighting, and on a metaphorical level when a boxer whose career seemed over continues to perform in the ring. In a sport full of highly competitive men and women, in which success can be just one punch away, it’s natural. George Foreman even admitted recently that he considered a comeback when he was 56 years old.
At 41, Rahman is far from some hopeless old pug chasing an impossible dream. While he is old enough to have one son (Hasim Rahman Jr.) on the verge of starting his own pro boxing career and another (Sharif Rahman) rising through the amateur ranks, he isn’t too much of an outlier. He’s only three years older than Wladimir Klitschko. He’s four years older than active contenders Steve Cunningham and Tomasz Adamek. He’s younger than top-10 rated heavyweight Tony Thompson, who is 42. And former multi-division champion Antonio Tarver is still landing nationally-televised bouts at 45 years old. Rahman isn’t even the oldest competitor in the Super 8, as Rogan is 43.
More importantly, Rahman seems to have a healthy perspective of his place in the sport. He has said in recent interviews that he only has two or three fights left in him before he retires, and with his property-development work and dedication to community projects in Baltimore, he doesn’t appear to be one of those boxers who has nothing to do when he’s done fighting. Unlike some former champs who stuck around too long, Rahman is not simply charging ahead with no clear destination in sight.