A fist-pumping crowd honored Baltimore's world heavyweight boxing champion Hasim "Rock" Rahman at City Hall yesterday - a celebration marred by a car crash that knocked the fighter and his family from the back of a convertible.
Rahman, his wife, Crystal, and at least one of his children tumbled into
the street when, police said, the driver of a Volkswagen Jetta ignored a
traffic officer, sped by a cruiser blocking a downtown intersection and
broadsided Rahman's parade car.
Rahman was later released from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where his wife was
held overnight for observation.
"The Jetta just came through and hit the car, and we went flying," Rahman
said after the 1:30 p.m. crash at East Lombard and South streets. "That's all
The accident scene was a spectacle rivaling the hoopla surrounding Rahman's
surprising fifth-round knockout of Lennox Lewis in South Africa early Sunday.
It drew hoards of media, the police commissioner and Mayor Martin O'Malley,
who argued with a self-proclaimed friend of the champ over whether police
could have prevented the crash by giving Rahman more protection.
At noon, hundreds of fans had gathered three blocks away at City Hall and
watched as Rahman, a 20-1 underdog in the fight, stood in a regulation-sized
ring and held his title belt over his head.
"This is Baltimore's day. I didn't do this myself," he said. "When I was in
the ring, I felt Baltimore and stomped on Lennox Lewis. And we're going to
stomp on [Mike] Tyson, too. We're all champions, and we all stick together."
Rahman alluded to his days growing up in Baltimore, where his reputation as
a street fighter led him into many altercations, and where as a young man he
was once shot five times and convicted once on drug charges.
"I've been in far worse situations," Rahman told the crowd. "After all the
adversity I had to overcome on the streets of Baltimore, I thought [British
world boxing champ] Lennox Lewis was a cakewalk."
Rahman and O'Malley said they would try to bring former heavyweight champ
Mike Tyson to Baltimore to match him against Rahman. The champ also said he
was going to appear on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" tomorrow and wanted to
take the mayor with him.
He gave O'Malley a pair of signed boxing gloves, which the mayor said he
would display in a glass case in City Hall.
"Baltimore is the city of chaaaaampions!" O'Malley said, imitating a boxing
The mayor read a proclamation to the crowd, naming yesterday Hasim "Rock"
Rahman day in Baltimore, "showing Baltimore still has what it takes to knock
the stuffing out of the British."
Rahman's father, John Cason, who is a chaplain for the state prison system,
addressed the crowd with a Muslim greeting and said he hopes Rahman proves to
be a worthy champion.
"I'm proud to point to him as a role model for your sons and brothers,"
Cason said. "I pray for him that he will be a heavyweight champion worthy of
being a role model for your children."
The throngs then listened to a song written in honor of Rahman called "Hit
'em up style" by the Breakfast Flakes, the morning disc jockeys for radio
station WERQ-FM (92-Q). The lyrics included:
Hey, Lennox in the ring you better not smile. Rahman's got the hit 'em up
Put his hand on your jaw and knocked you out a while.