NEW YORK – Stephen Espinoza is baffled by Hasim Rahman Jr.’s abrupt refusal to meet his contractual obligation for his canceled pay-per-view showdown with Jake Paul.
Showtime’s president of sports and event programming assumed Rahman would weigh in this Friday at a maximum of 200 pounds because he assured everyone involved in the event that making weight wouldn’t be an issue for what would’ve been the first cruiserweight fight of the Baltimore native’s five-year professional career. The contract weight for Paul-Rahman was bumped up to 205 pounds late last week because the New York State Athletic Commission wasn’t comfortable with Rahman coming in at 215 for its weekly weight check.
A day after the weight limit was changed from 200 to 205, Rahman revealed that he wouldn’t weigh in at any less than 215 pounds for his eight-round fight against the polarizing Paul, who was set to face a professional boxer for the first time in six bouts. Their Showtime Pay-Per-View event was therefore canceled Saturday night.
“If Rahman wasn’t committed to making 200 pounds, he never should’ve signed a contract to fight at 200 pounds,” Espinoza told BoxingScene.com. “He never should’ve told us for the last four weeks that he could make 200 pounds.”
The lowest the 31-year-old Rahman has weighed for a professional fight was 211¾ pounds. He weighed in at 224¼ pounds for his most recent bout – a fifth-round, technical-knockout loss to James McKenzie Morrison (20-0-2, 18 KOs) on April 29 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
That didn’t prevent Rahman (12-1, 6 KOs) from agreeing to replace Paul’s original opponent, Tommy Fury, on four weeks’ notice once England’s Fury couldn’t obtain a visa to travel to the United States. Rahman provided proof that he weighed 216 pounds July 7, but he had lost only one pound during the ensuing three weeks.
“It’s been an ongoing saga and I have to say it’s left a bad taste in all of our mouths,” Espinoza said. “It’s incredibly unprofessional the way this has been handled by the Rahman camp. We were given repeated assurances before he signed the contract that he was fine with 200 pounds. He signed a contract for 200 pounds. For various reasons, the commission asked that it be changed to 205 pounds. Jake agreed to that. And then [Saturday], out of the blue, we get word that Rahman wants to weigh 215 pounds. If he weighs in at 215, he could enter the ring at 225, 230, and that is an unsafe difference in weight.”
Rahman made an odd demand considering he was supposed to headline a high-profile pay-per-view event even though he lost his last fight.
“It was a massive opportunity for Hasim Rahman Jr.,” Espinoza said. “I’m very surprised it went this way and very disappointed. More than that, I’m disappointed for every other fighter on this card who held up, you know, their part of the bargain, who were professionals, who’ve been preparing for the last four to six weeks, if not longer.”
The 25-year-old Paul (5-0, 4 KOs), of Westlake, Ohio, could reschedule his return for some point in the fall. It is unclear, however, who Paul will face in his sixth bout now that the Fury and Rahman fights fell apart.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.