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After a stellar amateur career, which included a 213-4 record, 15-1 against international competition, and a spot in the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, Raheem turned professional on November 16, 1996, with a 4th round KO win over Clifford Watford. Being among the less touted of the '96 U.S. Olympians, Raheem worked his way up the rankings slowly, before finally receiving a shot against Rocky Juarez. Raheem lost to Juarez in what many thought was a "hometown" decision. Raheem was continuously hassled throughout the fight by the referee. After the match, HBO commentator Larry Merchant said, "That referee made it seem like Raheem was fighting two people."
Raheem's next big fight was against legendary Mexican Erik Morales on September 10, 2005 in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Morales was a heavy favorite and the matchup was viewed as warmup for his already scheduled superfight against Manny Pacquiao. Raheem surprised everyone by dominating the fight from the beginning by using excellent footwork and body movement, and never let Morales find his rhythm. Raheem won by unanimous decision, winning Ring Magazine upset of the year for 2005, and cemented himself as a lightweight contender.
On April 29, 2006, Zahir Raheem lost by split decision against Acelino Freitas for the recently vacated WBO Lightweight title. This was Raheem's first world title fight. On the 5th of July 2008 Raheem was knocked out by a South African boxer Ali Funeka.
Won the Bantamweight Olympic Trials in 1996, by defeating the following boxers:
- Rosendo Sanchez (points)
- Teaunce Shepherd (points)
- Steve Carter (points)
- Steve Carter (points), this bout was at the Olympic Box-Offs in Augusta, GA
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Raheem lost in the second round. His results were:
- "Zahir Raheem ready to step it up against higher caliber opposition". Boxingnews24.com. 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-05-01.