By TONY SMITH
Hasim Rahman is proof you can get to the top of the world from anywhere. The former world heavyweight boxing champion visited Christchurch yesterday and talked to Fairfax Media about his remarkable journey.
Without boxing, former world heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman reckons he would be a dead man.
The fighter known as The Rock was mobbed by admirers when he popped into the Woolston Boxing Gym in Christchurch yesterday as the headline act in the Super 8 boxing event in Auckland, scheduled to be screened on television in June.
Event promoter Greg McCalman introduced Rahman, who knocked out the legendary Lennox Lewis to win his first world title in 2001, as the best-credentialled boxer to fight in New Zealand.
Legendary Christchurch trainer Paul Fitzsimons, who came along to size up the former champ, concurred, saying Rahman had won the world title twice. “He’s a banger.”
But Rahman admits his life could have gone into a darker direction.
The 41-year-old grew up on the mean streets of Baltimore, the Maryland city whose crime scene featured in The Wire, an award-winning TV series.
Rahman served as an enforcer for drug dealers in his neighbourhood and was running around with “bad people in bad spaces”.
At last December’s Doha Goals Forum, Rahman said, in his former life, he “felt like I was in a maze with no exit. There were only two ways out, death or the penitentiary”. His heroes were either “going to jail, or the graveyard”.
He survived a shooting where his body was peppered with five bullets and was lucky to escape a serious car crash.
Rahman, who now lives in Las Vegas where he is a property developer, told The Press yesterday that he had no interest in boxing before a chance encounter on a street corner.
“A former boxer came up and grabbed me from behind . . . he challenged me to a boxing contest. This was a pro boxer, I thought ‘what can I do? I can fight, but I can’t box’.
“But I couldn’t say no. So we wound up boxing . . . punching right there on the street. I wound up [getting] the best of him. He told me he’d take me to the gym and I could make a million dollars. He didn’t need to say no more. I said see you later to this street life.”