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Boxing champ, longtime advocate Rahsaan dies

The Portland boxing community has lost a man who was always in its corner. A. Halim Rahsaan, a 1964 national boxing champion for the famed Knott Street Boxing Club, died Friday at 62, five days after suffering a stroke.

Rahsaan, a Portland native, fought in the ring under his former name, Bill Cross. In recent years, he was a persistent advocate for recognition of the Knott Street club. He successfully pushed to have the team inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Knott Street joined the hall in 2005.

'He was a natural-born leader,' says Herman Brame, who attended Jefferson High with Rahsaan and went on to star in track and field for the University of Oregon. 'He was a doer, not a talker, although he was eloquent and a good writer and historian.

'He was a terrific person,' said Chuck Lincoln, who served as Rahsaan's boxing trainer for about eight years. 'And he was a really beautiful boxer. He had the skill, the power and everything else that was necessary.'

The Knott Street gym, in its heyday in the 1960s and '70s, was a fixture in Northeast Portland. It was at 77 N.E. Knott St., now site of the Matt Dishman Community Center, and produced 10 national Amateur Athletic Union boxers. The team won the 1961 national championship, and two of its boxers made the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.

'Halim really wanted the Knott Street fighters to be honored for what they accomplished,' Brame says. 'I'm glad he got to enjoy that big night last year' at the induction ceremony.

Rahsaan attended Benson and Jefferson high schools and competed in football, basketball and track and field. He was active over the years in a variety of community projects and issues, helping Portland youths and striving to keep them off the streets and away from drugs.

'He always fought for positive changes in the black community,' said Ron Herndon, director of Albina Head Start. 'Much of his work had to do with education and trying to make things better for children. He worked very, very hard as a drug and alcohol counselor to help people who were trying to overcome those problems.'

'He's been a mainstay of this community for many, many years, from his boxing days to his advocacy days,' said Tony Hopson, founder, president and chief executive officer of Self Enhancement Inc. 'For the black community, he's been a stalwart many of us have leaned on for support, guidance and wisdom. He was never short on his willingness to say the things he felt needed to be said about equality and justice.'