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Forgotten Champions: Khalid Rahilou


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This time I got a French champion to write about. Moroccan-French Khalid Rahilou was the WBA light welter champion from 1997 to 1998, making two successful defenses before losing his title to the very skilled Sharmba Mitchell, then one of the best fighters in the division. Khalid also won the European title before that, defending it five times. He was not a very hard puncher but had enough power to stop some good fighters like Frankie Randall, Søren Søndergaard and Gert Bo Jacobsen. His power was more of the accumulative sort. But he was a good technician and tough too, even though he could get knocked out as well. Let's find out more about the man.


Born 19 June 1966 in Argentueil, France in a Moroccan family, he represented Morocco at the 1988 Olympic Games but lost in the second round by stoppage. His amateur record is 45-7. Rahilou turned pro almost 30 years to this day, 10 December 1988, winning on points against Mohammed Chebab. He stood 5'8 and had a big reach of 71 inches, big for his division. In his fifth fight, which was for the French light welterweight title, he was upset for the first time by TKO1 by Karim Rabbi, a much more experienced fighter. He then won 11 fights and the French title by TKO3 against Madjid Mahdjoub before losing the title to Christian Merle by KO8. He rebounded in 1994 to win the European title by outpointing the 36-1 Valery Kayumba on 4 June at Palais Marcel Cerdan. In his first defense he stopped the Danish former WBO welter champion Gert Bo Jacobsen by TKO3 and then beat Jacobsen again by TKO9 in his third defense. On 8 June 1995 he defeated another outstanding Dane, Søren Søndergaard, also by TKO9. Søndergaard was 21-0 coming into the fight and this would remain his only loss, as he later became the European champion himself. He then got a shot at the WBA title which was held by Frankie "Surgeon" Randall, who had defeated Julio Cesar Chavez and Juan Martin Coggi previously, for the same title. Randall was slightly on the slide however when the two met on 11 January '97 at Nashville Arena. The fight was still competitive and close, but Rahilou came on strong in the late rounds to stop Randall by TKO 11. With that, he became the first Frenchman to win a world light welterweight title. His first defense was against another American, the 105-3 Marty Jakubowski, whose brother Eric Rahilou had previously defeated by decision. Jakubowski was a decent fighter but with a padded record and was no match for Rahilou, who stopped him by TKO in 7, after dominating the fight and winning all the first 6 rounds on two of the scorecards and 5 on the third. The fight took place in Casablanca, Morocco, 5 July '97.


Rahilou had one fight above the 140 limit and won it by SD8, against Silvio Walter Rojas of Argentina, to cap off the year successfully. He made his second title defense 21 February next year against fellow Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Mendy, who previously captured the WBC lightweight title and held it briefly. It was a classic French showdown as Mendy was one of the best French fighters back then at the lower weights and in the end, Rahilou had to fight hard to retain his title with the scores of 115-111, 115-112 and 114-113. He then accepted to fight the best American junior welterweight at the time, Sharmba Mitchell. Mitchell had an extensive record of 42-2 and had fought several quality fighters already. He was a tricky fighter with his awkward style and physically strong. The fight happened 10 October '98 in Paris and Rahilou found himself on the canvas twice in round 2, once in round 3 and once in round 7. Mitchell threw many low blows and was penalized one point in round 10, but still nothing could stop him from taking the title from Rahilou in the end with the scores of 116-110, 116-107 and 118-105. The fight was promoted jointly by Don King and Michel Acaries. Michel's brother Louis was Khalid's trainer. It had been a painful lesson in world class boxing for Khalid Rahilou. However, in his next fight it would get even worse. He had had good luck against Danish fighters before, but this time he would fare worse against the 11-0 Thomas Damgaard, whom he tried to recapture his Euro title against. Rahilou had to come to Copenhagen to fight Damgaard since Danes are known for being reluctant to fight abroad. Damgaard knocked him out in round 4 on 16 April '99 to end his dreams of getting back on track.


This fight effectively spelled the end of his career. Rahilou took a year off before returning next April to fight the 10-39-5 Jozef Kubovsky and easily won by TKO2. He beat several other lower-level fighters before fighting for the WBA Inter-Continental title against 25-0 Souleymane M'Baye, 23 May 2002. He put up a good fight against the much younger future WBA champion but was down twice in round 5 and lost by a unanimous decision, 118-110, 116-112 and 115-112. Now aged almost 36, Rahilou realized there was nothing better to do but quit, leaving behind a record of 37 wins, 16 by ko, and 5 losses, 3 by ko. Khalid Rahilou is one of the few world champions of Moroccan heritage and was in his prime a world class fighter, but he hit his stride rather late, winning the world title at almost 31 and so his moment in the spotlight couldn't last long. Today he lives in Casablanca and runs a boxing gym.



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