Forgotten Legends: Zahir Raheem

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By: Steve Gallegos

Boxing (As many may not refer to) is a team sport. A fighter can have all the talent and abilities in the world, however if that fighter is not handled right by promoters and managers, then that fighter will fall short of greatness. No truer was the case than with former U.S. Olympian and former world title challenger ZahirZ-ManRaheem.

Raheem was a very skillfull boxer/puncher who had very good hand speed and power and was dangerous for everyone he faced in the ring. Raheem was born and raised in the fighting city of Philadelphia, PA and had an outstanding amatuer record of 213-4. He was a member of the last great U.S. Olympic Boxing team that produced future world champions such as Fernando Vargas, David Reid, Eric Morel, Antonio Tarver, David Diaz and the great Floyd Mayweather. The majority of his olympic teammates found success early and often in their professional careers with a few of them winning world titles within 2-3 years of turning pro.

Raheem however didn’t get these same breaks and had to start from the bottom. He turned pro in November of 1996 and would go 24-0 with 14 KO’s over the next 7 1/2 years. It wasn’t an easy road for Raheem to travel as he bounced from one manager and promoter to the next and at times fought at weight classes in which he wasn’t at his natural weight. He would be in line for a title shot in 2004 as he faced Rocky Juarez in a featherweight title eliminator.

They met on 07/17/04 in Juarez’s backyard of Houston, TX. It was an uphill battle for Raheem all night long. He had lost nearly 40 pounds in order to make the featherweight limit. Not only was he fighting an unbeaten fighter in his hometown, he also had to deal with the fact that two of the three judges, as well as the referee were from the state of Texas.

In the fourth round, Raheem took a knee after taking a hard left hook from Juarez. He also had the referee Robert Gonzalez, constantly on his case for holding behind the head in which he was deducted two points. Despite all of this, Raheem boxed smart, using his jab effectively to setup combinations and didn’t let Juarez inside to land his hard shots. The end result would be a unanimous decision loss for Raheem in which many felt was a hometown decision.

Raheem would knockout Jose Quintana in his next fight seven months later and this would set up the biggest fight of his career, a fight with Mexican legend Erik Morales. They met on 09/10/05 in front of a huge pro Morales crowd at Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. It was the main event on a huge HBO World Championship Boxing doubleheader. Manny Pacquiao had scored a spectacular sixth round TKO in the co-feature and he was anxiously waiting for Morales to score a victory to secure a rematch of their spectacular bout fought earlier in the year.

Morales had elected to move up to the lightweight division for this bout and he appeared to take Raheem lightly, feeling he wasn’t a threat as he looked ahead to a rematch with Pacquiao. Raheem quickly proved that he wasn’t an easy opponent. Raheem boxed smart as he got off first against Morales and he never allowed Morales to get into any type of a rhythm. The end result was a unanimous decision win for Raheem.

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It was the biggest win of his career and in most cases, the victor would get the spoils, however not in this case. Instead of getting the much deserved shot against Pacquiao, Manny instead elected to give an undeserving rematch to Morales which left Raheem out in the cold. Raheem however would finally get his first shot at a world title as he met former champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas of Brazil.

They met on 04/29/06 at the Foxwood’s Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT and it was for the vacant WBO Lightweight Championship. This matchup was the classic boxer vs puncher kind of fight, however the puncher would prevail as Freitas would win a split decision. It was pretty much the end of the road for Zahir Raheem near the top.

He would go 8-2 with one No Contest from 2007-2014. His record as a professional stands at 35-3 with 21 KO’s. His journey to the top was a rough, bumpy road that included many bad breaks. What would his career have been like had he been handled better. Could he have gotten bigger fights, paydays and would he have won multiple world titles? It’s unfortunate that the boxing world didn’t get to experience how great Zahir Raheem could have been.

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Mercito Gesta vs Carlos Molina Official Weights and Bout Sheet

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Full Card for April 30th Mercito Gesta vs Carlos Molina Announced

INDIO, CA (April 17) – Golden Boy Promotions announced today an updated card for an exciting night of fights on the Golden Boy Live! series featuring some of boxing’s fiercest rising stars set for Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. on April 30 and airing live on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes. Puerto Rican rising star Jeffrey Fontanez (14-1, 11 KOs) will take on former WBC Youth World Super Featherweight Champion Jose “El Loco” Hernandez (15-9-1, 7 KOs) of Fort Worth, Texas in an eight-round lightweight brawl. Also on the card, fan-favorite and Irish power puncher Jason Quigley (5-0, 5 KOs) is set to take on a yet-to-be-announced opponent in a six-round televised middleweight bout.
 
As a special treat to fans, former Three-Time World Champion Fernando “Ferocious” Vargas will also be in attendance to host a meet and greet at the Fantasy Springs Special Events Center prior to the bouts on April 30 at 6:00 p.m.
 
In the previously announced main event, former lightweight world title challenger Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (28-1-1, 16 KOs) of San Diego will face Los Angeles area standout Carlos Molina (17-2-1, 7 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout.
 
Also, fighting for airtime, undefeated featherweight Emilio Sanchez (5-0, 4 KOs) of Los Angeles will look to continue his winning streak against an opponent yet-to-be-named in a six-round super bantamweight television swing bout. Coming off of a recent hard-hitting victory at LA Fight Club earlier this month, Brazilian Olympic Bronze Medalist Yamaguchi Falcao (5-0, 2 KOs) will face a tough competitor in Houston’s Gerardo Ibarra (14-2, 8 KOs) in an eight-round non-televised middleweight match-up.
 
Palm Desert native and local favorite Neeco “The Rooster” Macias (8-0, 4 KOs) will work to keep his undefeated status in front of a hometown crowd in a six-round super welterweight bout, while Los Angeles’ Rafael Gramajo (2-1-1, 1 KO) will be making his second appearance at Fantasy Springs and looking to follow up on his recent March 20 victory, in a four-round super bantamweight brawl and super lightweight Ruslan Madiyev (3-0, 1 KO) of Los Angeles will be featured in a four round fight. Opponents will be announced shortly.  
 
Making his professional debut in 2013, Los Angeles undefeated featherweight Emilio Sanchez can do it all in the ring. Sanchez won his first three bouts via first-round knockouts and has continued to impress with 2014 victories over Jonathan Ramos and Juan Alvarado. The young but experienced fighter most recently triumphed over Luis Cosme at the March 6 edition of LA FIGHT CLUB at The Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
 
A rising star from the boxing-rich island of Puerto Rico, Caguas’ Jeffrey Fontanez continues to grow into a top-flight boxer in front of the world. The 22-year-old boasts wins over Adrian Verdugo and Orlando Vazquez in 2014 and will make his 2015 debut at Fantasy Springs this month.
 
Hailing from Balleybofey in County Donegal, Ireland, the 23-year-old Jason Quigley had an outstanding amateur career becoming the first Irish fighter to win a Silver medal at the AIBA World Amateur Boxing Championships in 2013. He started his professional career in 2014 and quickly garnered attention by ending each fight via knockout against Howard Reece, Fernando Najera, and Greg McCoy. Quigley continued his wins-by-knockout streak by taking down Lanny Dardar less than two minutes into the first round at the March 6 debut of LA FIGHT CLUB and knocking out Tolutomi Agunbiade on March 20 at Fantasy Springs Casino Resort.

 
A 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist and one of the most promising boxers to come from the country of Brazil, Yamaguchi Falcao is now on his quest for professional gold in the middleweight division. Since his professional debut in January 2014, Falcao has put together three consecutive victories over Fernando Najera, Martin Fidel Rios and Jesus Cruz. In his first fight of 2015, Falcao stopped undefeated newcomer “Sugar” Raymond Terry of Philadelphia in the first round of their scheduled six-round middleweight fight on March 12 and quickly followed up with another impressive victory over Deartie Tucker at LA FIGHT CLUB on April 2.
 
Palm Desert’s Neeco Macias is an action fighter who loves to scrap when the bell rings. Following up on a successful 2014, the 23-year-old won his eighth consecutive bout on February 27, 2015 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino leaving him undefeated as he heads back into the ring on April 30.
 
Hailing from the Westside Boxing Club, Rafael Gramajo will have the fifth professional fight of his career on April 30. Gramajo, a Garden City, Kansas native who now makes his home in Los Angeles, will return to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino after making his debut at the venue last month.
 
Undefeated 22-year-old Ruslan Madiyev, originally from Karaganda, Kazakhastan, made his professional debut successfully beating Oscar Rojas in October 2014 at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA and touts a victory over Cesar Martinez in his first fight from 2015 at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA. His upcoming appearance at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will mark his third professional fight in the U.S.
 
Gesta vs. Molina is a 10-round super lightweight bout promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and sponsored by Corona Extra and Mexico – Live It To Believe It!. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the first bell rings at 5:15 p.m. The FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes broadcast airs live at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT.
 
Tickets for the event, priced at $25, $35, and $45, are on sale now and available for purchase from the Fantasy Springs Box Office, by calling (800) 827-2946 or online at www.fantasyspringsresort.com.