Former heavyweight champ packs em into Baltimore mall

With fame still the coin of the realm, the adage once a celebrity/always a celebrity’ is still in effect. One needs look no further than the Security Square Mall in Baltimore for confirmation of that creaky maxim, the mall where former two-time heavyweight champion of the world Hasim Rahman took to a makeshift stage last week to meet and greet and sign autographs for his fans.

Rahman, as gracious in defeat as he’s always been in victory, had a message for Baltimore County students just as schools are about to open.

“I always want the kids to know that school is most important,” he said, “no matter what they want to do.” According to the Baltimore Sun, Rahman said he hopes to return to the ring in November, wants to fight one of the division’s contenders, and expects to be heavyweight champion for the third time by the end of 2007.

Dressed in the requisite t-shirt, three-quarter-length shorts and sneakers, Rahman was flanked by his wife, Crystal, and his brother, who doubles as Rock’s manager. In a mall filled with shopping moms and dads and their kids, with a DJ blasting hip-hop a few feet away, Rahman appeared totally relaxed, completely at home, entirely in his element.

One of Rahman’s fans, an administrative officer for the Maryland Parole Commission named Leo Dymowski, was thrilled to be in the presence of the former champ.

Since he won the title, said Dymowski, who recalls seeing Rahman box live many times, I’ve literally spent thousands of dollars on memorabilia and traveling to see him fight. I love boxing, and he’s a guy from Baltimore. And that blows me away. I never thought I’d see a heavyweight champion from Baltimore in my lifetime.

A Baltimore nurse, Rosie Traynham, waited patiently for her moment with the Rock. “I’m in line because my friend is a boxing fanatic, she said. But I don’t even know who he fought.

Roger Kahler, a janitor from Baltimore who did know who Rahman fought, asked the ex-champ how it was he lost to Oleg Maskaev.

I asked him again about the fight, Kahler said, and he told me, Things happen.’ I told him to keep up the good work.

Bill Brown, a salesman from Baltimore, broke ranks and handed Rahman a baseball to sign.

I like to have people sign baseballs, Brown said, because they’re easy to display. I’m not really a boxing fan, but you don’t get to meet a champion that often.