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Boxing: Boxing: Rahman Itching for Opportunity to Fight Mesi

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posted on Jun, 26 2003 @ 01:38 PM
Associated Press - June 25, 2003

BUFFALO, New York (AP) - If Joe Mesi wants to fight a name opponent to solidify his place as a heavyweight contender, Hasim Rahman is ready.

``I'll fight Joe,'' Rahman said. ``It's not that he's a must fight. But I'll fight him along the way in the path for me to regain the title.''

Rahman, the former WBC, IBF and IBO world champion, made his comments Tuesday night, minutes before witnessing Mesi's first-round knockout of Robert Davis to claim the vacant NABF title.

Mesi's record went to 26-0 with 24 knockouts, and the win is expected to send the suburban Buffalo fighter into the ranks of top 10 contenders.

Rahman, emphasizing his interest in a potential matchup, jumped into the ring and began posing for pictures with Mesi in the victory celebration. Currently ranked second among WBC contenders and fourth by the IBF, Rahman has been off since fighting David Tua to a draw in an IBF elimination bout last March.

The enthusiasm of Rahman camp's toward Mesi hadn't changed Wednesday.

``We're in love with the fight,'' Rahman's manager Steve Nelson said.

Nelson said he's contacted Mesi's representatives to negotiate a potential deal. He believes there's enough money involved to satisfy both parties.

A win over Mesi would help raise Rahman's stature. Rahman is 0-1-2 since knocking out Lennox Lewis in April 2001 to claim the heavyweight title only to lose it seven months later in a rematch.

Rahman (35-1-4) would present a significant step up for Mesi, who continues to be dogged by criticism that he's padded his record with soft opponents.

The criticism includes Davis, who hadn't fought since a unanimous decision over former welterweight Bryan Blakley last December. Davis, whose record dropped to 28-6, entered the ring against Mesi on the downside of his career, having lost five of his previous 11 bouts.

In victory, Mesi declared himself a legitimate contender and welcomed the possibility of facing someone like Rahman or Evander Holyfield, who was also at the fight.

Mesi's representatives remain guarded in discussing the future.

``Right now we're just taking a deep breath and looking at our options,'' promoter Tony Holden said.

Holden said he's talked with both Rahman's and Holyfield's representatives, and with officials at U.S. cable TV networks HBO and Showtime.

``It's not one of those things where I can create miracles and have a fight in two months,'' Holden said. ``But I really feel I can get him in something by the end of the year.''

Bob Spagnola, Mesi's agent and adviser, cautioned that Rahman's promoter, Don King, could present an obstacle in negotiations.

Nelson responded that King would welcome a Rahman-Mesi fight.

Rahman and Mesi are both 29 and they split two fights as amateurs in the mid-1990s.

Rahman believes he now has the edge.

``I feel I've got the more big-game experience and he's coming into my territory,'' Rahman said. ``Whether we fight in Buffalo or not, that ring is my territory now.''


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