Zahir Raheem to Arum: Get me a fight or release me!

By Jeff Young


Zahir Raheem to Arum: Get me a fight or release me!

There was a time when the Olympic teammates of Zahir Raheem were at the forefront of boxing and the press and the fans were talking about them. The talk was about the teammates, but when the talk turned to Raheem it was more of a question, "Where is Zahir Raheem?".  It took a long time before Zahir came into the public spotlight, and believe it or not it was a loss that pitched him. After a loss to then undefeated prospect Rocky Juarez, everyone was interested in Raheem. The fight led to a resigning with Top Rank. Everything looked good for Raheem. Top Rank immediately got him a fight with a superstar, Erik Morales. No one gave Raheem a chance, but he dominated Morales to set up a fight with Manny Pacquaio, or so Raheem thought. Instead Raheem watched as his promoters set up a second fight between Morales and Pacquaio, a fight in which Morales was knocked out.



Raheem was still waiting when finally a shot at a world title materialized against Acelino Freitas. In a very close fight, Raheem lost a split decision. since that time he has been waiting, puzzled as to why his promoters have not gotten more fights, puzzled as to why he is not being promoted properly, and also puzzled as to why after his loss to Freitas he was dropped so far in the rankings while Erik Morales, who has lost two straight, is still the number one contender and is facing Pacquaio for a third time.


So why does this type of thing happen to a guy that dominated one of the best fighters of this era. To tell the truth Raheem has gone over that in his head ever since the Freitas fight.


"All I know is that I have some handlers that are not standing behind me. I signed with Top Rank and Cameron Duncan and they are not standing behind me. Even after beating Morales they just put me in where they can. I fought Freitas in basically his own backyard. I know he is Brazilian, but he has fought most of his fights in Connecticut, so it is like his home. I thought I did enough to win that fight, plus I got cut in that fight and was placed on suspension. I mean after the Morales fight, I have been basically on ice. Top rank as not found anything for me. The Freitas fight came up because of my ranking. The only thing Top Rank offered right after the Morales fight was a non-televised fight for no money on the under card of Diego Corrales."


After beating Morales, Raheem knew he had arrived and felt that by Top Rank offering these types of fights were a step in the wrong direction.

"After the Morales fight, I thought I was going to get the fights that I desired," states Raheem. "Nothing was happening and then the Freitas fight pops up and I lose a split decision and was placed on suspension for the cut. While I was still on suspension Top Rank offered me a fight with Juan Diaz because his opponent must have fallen out, but they knew I could not take the fight because I was on suspension and could not fight. These guys are not standing behind me. That was in May and now it is November and I still have not had a fight. I was offered a fight two weeks ago to fight Jose Cotto in Puerto Rico for 15 thousand dollars, I mean he has never lost in Puerto Rico and has only one loss against Juan Diaz and he did not win a round in that fight but if it had been in Puerto Rico he would have won every round."


The problem that Raheem is finding is that because these fights are being offered and turned down for what ever reason, it allows Top Rank to continue there relationship with Raheem who has one more year left on his contract. A contract that Raheem says he was promised three fights per year, but in two years has only fought three times.



"My hands are tied," says Raheem. "My attorney is talking about litigation, but you know this is my livelihood, this is what I have dedicated my life to and these guys are holding up my career. So now I am going to basically be fighting off-tv, because they will not get me these fights. They will not give me a release, they act like they just want to hold me and keep me down. I just need to keep busy. I need to fight. It is not about the money, I am not demand big dollars, but I need to be treated fairly. All I can do now is take fights to stay busy so I will not lose my ranking. I am at the point that we are talking litigation because my career is at a halt because top Rank has buried me and I do not know why. I do not understand why this has happening."


After the Morales fight, many felt that Raheem had spoiled Top Rank's plans by defeating Morales. For Raheem, it was just the next step to get to where he wanted to be in his career, but looking back he questions what were the motives behind that fight.


"I did not know I was suppose to the Morales fight," Raheem says laughing, "but it is obvious now that I was not suppose to win. After the fight I was put on ice, I mean no one was offering me fights, no one was taking my calls when I was trying to find out what was going on. I mean, I have not done anything to anybody, and it is terrible that they would do this to some one and I do not know why they are doing it to me. I mean look at the Freitas fight. It was in Connecticut because Art Petullo wanted it in Connecticut. Bob Arum did not get that fight in Philadelphia, it was not in Vegas. That is why I get the idea that they just want to put me wherever. The bad part is I just them to give me a fight. At this point I do not care. I need to fight, I mean what does it matter. After the Morales fight, they buried me. They did not build me up, did not promote me the way I should have been. They were mad at me because I beat him, but look at what it did. It was suppose to be a tournament with the winner to face Pacquaio and the loser still got the rematch. I mean right after I beat Morales, Top Rank starts promoting the Morales-Pacquaio rematch. Even leading up to the Morales fight, I asked for tapes on Morales and Top Rank would not even give me help to train."


Top Rank is not the only thing bothering Raheem, he also has issues toward the WBC and Jose Suliman.


"After my fight with Freitas," states Raheem, "The WBC and Jose Suliman, who has close ties to Top rank and Bob Arum, dropped me to number 13 in the WBC, but at the same time Erik Morales, who has now lost back to back fights, is still ranked number one. Look at the rankings, how does this happen. some one please tell me how can a guy I beat and has lost two in a row be ranked number one and I lose a close split decision and drop to 13. Yet they tell me I am being promoted properly. Tell me how this happens. If Arum has that power to got Morales at number one for this fight with Pacquaio, why is he not promoting me like that. Why did he allow me to drop to 13. These are questions that I need answered."


In the end it comes down to a few choices for Raheem. He has one year left on his contract, so one choice is to wait it out, but by doing so, how much damage will be placed on his career. If he goes that entire year without a fight then he is basically retired. Another option is to stay in the gym the way he is doing and be ready to accept anything that comes up. If nothing else in this option he stays busy. The third option is litigation against Top Rank and Bob Arum that could lead to a longer inactivity period and cost him more than that in the long run. However, for Top Rank the choices are simple, get Raheem fights, release him, or prepare for litigation.



"I honestly do not understand why they signed me to bury me and destroy my career," stated Raheem. "I mean I do not have any animosity towards Bob Arum or anyone at Top Rank. Even HBO asked me on air if I felt I was being promoted improperly and I did not say a bad word against them. People tell me all the time that they are destroying me, yet I have never thrown any dirt at Bob Arum, Top Rank, Cameron Duncan, or anyone there. Release me or give me a fight, just be fair do not treat me like a guppy for your piranhas. That is what they thought when they signed me to fight Morales that I was the fish to be fed on, but they were wrong. After I won all they had to do was stand behind me and they have not done that. That is the bad thing that goes in my mind, it is like they want to use my ranking to push there other guys."


"I do not have a problem with anyone there, I just want to know why they are doing this. I just want to fight. Look Arum has a deal with Versus, why can I not get a fight on there. I mean Kelly Pavlik has fought twice, Kid Diamond, Brian Viloria, why can they not put me and Anthony Thompson on the same card in Philly. We both are from Philly, why not make a show there with both of us. You put on a Versus show every month. All I need to do is fight. I need to stay busy. I trained with Floyd Mayweather Sr. for five months for a fight that never happened and he even said it is a shame as to what they are doing to my career. I am staying in the gym, I just want to fight, just give me a fight."


Send questions and comments to: