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Boxer Hasim Rahman wants a rematch with heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in a Miami courtroom. But a showdown could be avoided if a deal is reached over the fate of Rahman’s title belts at a meeting that could take place as early as today. Rahman, who lost the heavyweight title to Lewis two years ago in Las Vegas, claims Lewis borrowed his championship belts for post-fight photographs, then disappeared into the Nevada night without returning them. “There is a tradition in boxing that when the champion loses the title match, he lends his championship belts to the victor so that the victor can pose with the belts,” said Irwin Gilbert, a partner at Harris & Gilbert inWest Palm Beach who is representing Rahman. “It’s not like the Stanley Cup trophy in hockey that passes from championship team to championship team. The belts are supposed to be returned.” According to Gilbert, some time after the title fight new belts are made for the new champ. The three belts belonging to Rahman allegedly spirited away by Lewis are from three sanctioning bodies — the World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization. In a lawsuit, which is before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, Rahman claims the three belts are worth about $250,000. He is suing for conversion, breach of contract and bailment contract. The suit, which was filed in December, claims jurisdiction in the Southern District of Florida because Lewis maintains a home and owns other property in Miami-Dade. In court papers Lewis denies stealing the belts. The British pugilist is being represented by Judd Burstein in New York and Robert T. Wright Jr., a partner with Coffey & Wright in Miami. Burstein did not return phone calls. Wright declined to comment. The legal fight could be resolved if an agreement is reached at a meeting scheduled to take place in Miami some time this week and could happen as early as today, Rahman attorney Gilbert said. “There may be some new developments in the case,” said Gilbert, who refused to give any more details. “More specific information should be available by the end of this week.” A journeyman boxer from Baltimore, Rahman (pronounced Rock-mon) stunned the sports world in April 2001 when he knocked out the 6-foot-5, 253-pound Lewis in the 5th round of their championship bout in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to the fight, Lewis had been so confident that he took time out from his training to appear in the remake of the movie, “Ocean’s 11.” In the November 2001 rematch, which was held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, a re-focused Lewis wrested back the heavyweight title by knocking Rahman out with a right hook at 1:20 of the 4th round. Lewis has since defended his title by beating Mike Tyson with an 8th-round knockout in June 2002 in Memphis. Lewis, who is 40-2-1, is scheduled to face Ukranian Vitali Kutschko on June 21 in Los Angeles. Rahman, 35-4-1, who is still ranked, is no longer considered a serious title contender. In March, he fought heavyweight David Tua to a draw in Philadelphia. The courtroom is a familiar battleground for Lewis and Rahman. Following the April 2001 upset in South Africa, Lewis filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York arguing that the terms of the contract for their first bout required an immediate rematch. In an opinion issued in June 2001, U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum agreed with Lewis and enjoined Rahman from fighting anyone for 18 months unless a rematch was granted. Rahman ridiculed Lewis for suing for a rematch. Tension between the two fighters became so great that in August 2001 they got into a fight on an ESPN set in Anaheim, Calif., during the taping of an interview. Some observers, however, wondered if the fight was staged to hype the upcoming rematch. If the boxers fail to reach a settlement this week, the case is scheduled for mediation in September. The parties of the suit are usually required to be present for mediation, but personal representatives can be appointed. “My plan would be that if they come personally, I would send a personal representative,” Gilbert quipped. “Any one of these guys weighs as much as Bob Wright and I do put together.”

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