NEW YORK – Jake Paul wanted to fight Hasim Rahman Jr. at a higher contract weight of 215 pounds, as Rahman demanded Saturday, but Paul’s team advised against it.
Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports and event programming, informed BoxingScene.com that Paul’s team wouldn’t allow him to compete at such a significant weight disadvantage in what was supposed to be Paul’s first fight against a professional boxer this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The entire event was canceled last Saturday night because Rahman refused to get down any lower than 215 pounds for Friday’s weigh-in, despite that the son of a former heavyweight champion signed a contract to oppose Paul at a 200-pound limit.
“For his part, Jake wanted to take the fight, even at 215,” said Espinoza, whose network was supposed to distribute Paul-Rahman as the main event of a four-fight pay-per-view telecast. “But I think cooler heads prevailed. His team did not allow him [to fight at 215], and I absolutely agree with that. Jake should not be coming into a fight at 195, 200, and fighting someone who might be at 225 or 230.”
Rahman replaced Tommy Fury as Paul’s opponent on approximately four weeks’ notice because Paul’s rival encountered visa issues that prevented Fury from traveling from England to the United States for their fight. The 25-year-old Paul (5-0, 4 KOs), of Westlake, Ohio, was supposed to face Fury (8-0, 4 KOs) last December 18, but Fury, a half-brother of WBC heavyweight champ Tyson Fury, withdrew from that bout approximately two weeks in advance, reportedly due to a bacterial chest infection and a broken rib.
The 31-year-old Rahman was contractually obligated to weigh in at 200 pounds or less this Friday for his eight-round cruiserweight contest with Paul. The Baltimore native wouldn’t have been allowed to weigh more than 215 pounds at a second-day weigh-in this Saturday.
Rahman (12-1, 6 KOs), who has been a heavyweight throughout his five-year pro career, weighed in at 224 pounds for his last fight – a fifth-round, technical-knockout loss to James McKenzie Morrison (20-0-2, 18 KOs) on April 29 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. He hasn’t weighed in at less than 211¾ pounds for any of his 13 professional fights.
According to a press release issued by Paul’s MVP Promotions on Saturday night, Rahman provided proof that he weighed 216 pounds on July 7. The New York State Athletic Commission required a five-pound increase in the contracted weight for their fight, to 205 pounds, once Rahman came in at 215 pounds at its weekly weight check late last week.
Rahman and Paul agreed to fight at a 205-pound limit, but Rahman apparently changed his mind and made one demand too many.
“Jake walks around at 195 pounds,” Espinoza said. “He’s not gonna be heavier than that. That’s the problem with 215. It’s not that Jake didn’t want to. He wanted to, but the reality is everyone around him, and I think rightfully so, said that’s not a safe fight to take, with a potential 20-to-30-pound difference in weight. … No one was OK with Jake going in there fighting someone who could’ve been 20 to 30 pounds heavier than him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.