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Maskaev stops Rahman again

The Soviet Bloc Party in the heavyweight division is complete, as Oleg Maskaev grabbed a 12th round TKO victory of Hasim Rahman to win the WBC title last night in Las Vegas.

Maskaev and Rahman put on a fine show, with Rahman setting the pace early before Maskaev took over in the final rounds, ending it with a last frame flurry that referee Jay Nady called the bell on with just 43 seconds remaining, Rahman being hammered against the ropes.

Maskaev improves to 33-5 with the win, his second over Rahman (his first, of course, the memorable bout where he knocked Rahman out of the ring on the KO). Rahman falls to 41-6-2. Maskaev's victory also means that all four major heavyweight championships are held by natives of the former Soviet Union -- Maskaev (WBC, Kazakhstan), Wladimir Klitschko (IBF, Ukraine), Nicolai Valuev (WBA, Russia) and Sergei Lyakhovich (WBO, Belarus).

Maskaev, though, lives on Staten Island and doesn't consider himself a foreign fighter in the States anymore: "I'm proud of where I come from, but I consider myself a Russian-American."

Rahman's loss is just another part of a topsy-turvy career that has seen him put down Lennox Lewis and lose to an over-the-hill Evander Holyfield just 14 months later, after Lewis had exacted his revenge and dominated their rematch. Where Rahman goes from here is anyone's guess, but with the heavyweight division still in the state it is, there's no counting out anyone anymore.

Judges' scorecards had Maskaev up 106-103 and 105-104 on two cards, and Rahman up 106-103 on the third. On the undercard, David Diaz, a 30-year old fighter from Chicago, beat Jose Armando Santa Cruz for the WBC's interim lightweight championship, scoring a shocking knockout in the 10th round after being pummeled the entire fight. Diaz is now 32-1-1, with the former champion falling to 23-2.

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