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'The Rock' here next week

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 12:00 12/04/2014
Hasim ‘‘The Rock’’ Rahman delivers a heavy right to David Tua during their bout in 2003

HARD ROCK: Hasim ‘‘The Rock’’ Rahman delivers a heavy right to David Tua during their bout in 2003. Former world heavyweight champ Rahman is in Nelson on Thursday.

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Victory Boxing Gym has a signature wall for the famous fighters that come through. They are about to secure their biggest name.

Hasim "The Rock" Rahman is headed to Nelson on Thursday to promote the upcoming Super 8 tournament, a Sky Arena production that pits eight heavyweights against each other in a last-man-standing boxing tournament.

The Baltimore native's record speaks for itself. Rahman is a former two-time WBC world heavyweight champion, WBU, IBO and IBF world heavyweight champion, suggesting that, at his peak, he was the best in the world.

"The Rock" did what David Tua could not, knocking out world champion Lennox Lewis in 2001 to claim the unified WBC, IBF and IBO heavyweight crowns. His 60-fight record reads like a who's who of heavyweight boxing from the past two decades, including 10 former or current heavyweight champions. He fought Tua twice, losing the first bout on a controversial TKO decision, with the second declared a draw.

In Rahman's first visit to New Zealand, promoters are billing him as the biggest name in international boxing to compete in this country since the 1970s.

Paul Hampton, of Victory Boxing, says he is certainly the most successful fighter to come to Nelson.

"We have had some really top boxers through Victory Boxing. They always come through and take an interest in what we are doing here. We were talking to the right people and it is just incredible to have someone like him, a genuine heavyweight world champion, come through the gym.

"To have him choose our gym is really humbling. It is fantastic and we are really looking forward to it. At this stage we will have an open day at Victory Boxing gym from 3pm to 5pm."

But more than just being there to sign autographs and give an example of his famous power, Rahman will also speak to the young boxers about just where a lot of hard work can get you.

"[Rahman] is an example, a role model. He will stand in front of those kids and show them that you can come from humble beginnings, and with a lot of hard work and self-discipline, you can achieve your goals - whatever they are," Hampton said.

"All the boxers that come through, from Joseph Parker to Shane Cameron and Alexander Ustinov, they all realise what we are trying to achieve. It is about guiding young people through their early lives and teaching them values through the sport of boxing.

"We have big aspirations for Victory Boxing, so to have these guys involved and taking an interest is exciting and fantastic for the kids to see."

Sky Arena company director John McRae is elated with the historic signing.

"I chased Hasim after the Tua-Cameron fight, but this time I've got him and make no mistake, never before has a boxer of Rahman's credentials competed in New Zealand."

Super 8 sees eight heavyweights, including Kiwi Kali Meehan, compete in four quarterfinals, followed by semis and a final, all over three rounds and in quick succession on one night. One man is crowned champion in a night where every fight matters. The $500,000 purse makes it the world's richest tournament of its type.

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Though he's in the twilight of his career at 41, the Super 8's three-round format is tailormade for Rahman's size and thunderous right hand.

- The Nelson Mail

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