-- Hasim Rahman's left hook came after the final bell, and David Tua stumbled more than he got knocked down, but Rahman's point was made. The ghost of a loss five years ago had been exorcized. Or so Rahman thought.
Rahman, the former heavyweight champion from Baltimore, thought he had done enough to win and earn a shot at IBF champion Chris Byrd. Instead, he had to settle for a draw.
"That's crazy, man. I can't win for losing. It's the same old stuff. I beat him twice, and I got no victories."
In the co-main event at the First Union Spectrum, undisputed 160-pound champion Bernard Hopkins had little problem imposing his will on unheralded Frenchman Morrade Hakkar in the record-setting 16th successful defense of Hopkins's middleweight title.
In the Rahman-Tua bout, judges were once again under the microscope following the controversial decision. Judge Bill Clancy scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Rahman, Bob Grasso had it 116-112 in favor of Tua, and George Hill had it 114-114. The decision drew boos from the crowd and was puzzling, as Rahman appeared to have controlled the fight.
Rahman (35-4-1) dominated Tua (42-3-1) for the first nine rounds of their previous meeting in December 1998, before Tua threw a left hook at the end of the ninth round that disoriented Rahman enough to get the fight stopped in the 10th. Rahman still disputes the loss, saying the punch came after the bell, and spoke of settling matters leading up to tonight's fight.
Tonight, he appeared to get the better of Tua through 12 rounds, keeping the slugging Tua on the outside with his solid left jab and holding on for the duration. Tua, who admits he is the most one-dimensional of the major heavyweights, did what he always does, aggressively plugging at Rahman's head from the opening bell.
"I hit him with everything I had," Tua said. "Maybe I was admiring my work too much. I need to work on following up and throwing more than one punch at a time."
In the second feature, Hakkar (29-4) circled the ring like a rabbit running from a snake, jumping aside whenever Hopkins (42-2-1) even flinched in his direction.
It was Hopkins's second fight against mediocre opposition since his star-making upset of Felix Trinidad in September 2001; the first was a 10th-round stoppage of journeyman Carl Daniels in February 2002.
Tonight, Hopkins landed flush shots whenever he chose, toying with Hakkar at times to prolong the inevitable. He knocked Hakkar down in the sixth round with a right, and Hakkar's corner finally called the fight after eight rounds.
Hakkar, who manages a bar and grocery store during the day, ascended to the WBC No. 1 contender spot after winning the European middleweight title last May. He is virtually unknown even in his native France, which did not have a live television feed of the fight, and had fought just once previously outside of Europe.
"I wanted to show my skills in front of my hometown fans," said Hopkins, from Philadelphia. "I got rounds and I didn't get caught.
"Give Hakkar credit. He didn't come in and lie down."
On the undercard, Washington's Clarence Vinson (12-0) scored a unanimous decision over Joey Garcia (9-6-2).
But while Vinson, a bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics, won handily on all three judges' scorecards, the 118-pound District native did not have the show-stopping knockout for which he had hoped. Trainer Adrian Davis gave his fighter a mixed review.
"I wasn't too pleased, to be honest," Davis said. "He was fighting an awkward guy, and you have to know how to fight all kinds of guys. But he still won. "
Afterward, Vinson's face looked untouched.
"I was never in danger," Vinson said. "He grabbed me a lot, but didn't do anything dirty."
Note: D.C.'s Lamont Peterson defeated three-time light welterweight champion Rock Allen, 21-13, in the U.S. Amateur Boxing Championships on Friday in Colorado Springs.