Boxing: Maskaev victory signals retreat of heavy brigade

The heavyweight crisis deepened on Saturday night in Las Vegas when Kazakhstan's Oleg Maskaev stopped American Hasim Rahman to win the World Boxing Council version and complete a quartet of uninspiring heavyweight champions from former Soviet republics.

Maskaev, 37, was leading on the score cards of two of the three judges going into the 12th and final round at the Thomas and Mack Centre on the outskirts of the former glorious boxing city when Rahman, not for the first time in his colourful career, ran out of energy and desire.

Rahman, 33, briefly reigned as world champion during a far more impressive period for heavyweights when he somehow managed to knock out Lennox Lewis in 2001. In a rematch with Lewis just seven months later Rahman was knocked senseless in round four.

On Saturday night in front of a poor crowd of just over 8,000, Rahman took an early lead but started to fade the longer the fight went on. The end came after 2min 17sec of round 12 when Rahman went down for the second and last time.

Maskaev and the three other champions from eastern Europe are all honest and decent men, but none of them is a major attraction and there is nobody on the boxing horizon who looks capable of dominating the sport. Perhaps the best hope for the heavyweight division to attract some attention and once again fill arenas would be if Mike Tyson, recently turned 40, decided to end his brief sabbatical from the ring.

Even Britain's Matt Skelton would stand a good chance against any of the four champions and his name has been linked with the WBA incumbent Nikolai Valuev, who is Russian, known as "the Beast From The East", weighs 25st and stands 7ft 2in tall.

However, like Maskaev the towering Russian is simply not a big enough attraction to pull the punters in Las Vegas but that could change if Tyson were once again to fight, even though he has well and truly passed his sell-by date.

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