Only a little older, but so much wiser


Standing on a podium and speaking into a microphone at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Baltimore boxer Hasim Rahman filled the room with his bravado.

"I'm not looking for a decision. I'm looking to knock Lennox Lewis out again," Baltimore's first world heavyweight champion said on Nov. 15.

But two days later, it was Rahman who went down. A right hand from Lewis swiveled Rahman's head, sending him to a fourth-round knockout loss and enabling Lewis to reclaim the heavyweight title he'd lost to Rahman in April 2001.

Rahman has toned down his act during preparation for Saturday's comeback against Evander Holyfield in Atlantic City, N.J. And that is just part of Rahman's different approach.

"In order to run your mouth, you've got to walk the walk before you talk the talk," Rahman said. "Right now, I don't feel I've earned the right to talk the talk."

Rahman spoke last week from his training camp in New York's Catskill Mountains. What happened against Lewis, Rahman said, is that he choked.

"If we fought, and I could really say I performed and he came out with something better, then it wouldn't bother me," said Rahman, 29. "I know I was in great physical shape. ... I'm just disappointed that I didn't let myself perform."

Rahman said that he entered the rematch with Lewis believing he could repeat his fifth-round knockout.

"First punch I threw, I wobbled him, but I didn't follow up. I shook him up the first time I grabbed him, but I didn't get physical," Rahman said. "I was content to give rounds away, feeling that as soon as I could hit him, I would knock him out. It was like, 'I'm going to hit him on the chin and the fight's over.'

"[But] you can't go out with world-class fighters, champions and think that when you hit them on the chin, it's going to be over."

Rahman doesn't blame just himself, however. He and former trainer Adrian Davis had a "strained relationship," Rahman said. The two didn't speak the five weeks before the title match, the fighter said.

Though Rahman won't give many details of his split with Davis, the ex-champion said he was distracted by his trainer's presence in the corner of stablemate William Joppy, who won the middleweight title on the Rahman-Lewis II undercard.

"With my trainer and cornermen working another fight, when it was time to check Lennox Lewis' hand wraps before the fight, I got into an argument with Lewis' camp," said Rahman, adding that, had he not already paid Davis, he wouldn't have used him.

"The chemistry wasn't there. And if you noticed, I'm getting ready to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, and I was back there [in the dressing room] by myself, really, at a precious time."

Davis acknowledged that he and Rahman had a poor working relationship before the second Lewis bout.

"We had a disagreement on a religious point early in camp," said Davis, who, like Rahman, is a Muslim. "After that, we weren't talking much. There was a problem about the money. I got an advance before the fight, but after the fight, I didn't get all my money."

Rahman's preparation also was compromised by his decision to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by fasting on the day of the fight, to the point of being weakened, according to his co-manager, Stan Hoffman.

In the end, it was his fault, Rahman said, for failing to "bring it" against Lewis.

After breaking with Davis, Rahman hired trainer Bouie Fisher, who earned Trainer of the Year from the Boxing Writers Association for taking Bernard Hopkins to the undisputed middleweight title last year. Under Fisher, Rahman said he is "doing everything totally differently" to get ready for Holyfield, who turns 40 in October and is 1-2-2 in his past five bouts.

"You ever seen the move Alcatraz? That's how it's been in camp with Bouie Fisher. It's like prison. The man is really working me hard," Rahman said. "Before, I just did what I wanted to do. If I felt like boxing this many rounds, I boxed that many rounds. If I felt like jumping rope, I did it. ... I didn't really listen to [Davis]. If I didn't want him holding my [sparring] pads for me, he didn't hold them."

But with Fisher, Rahman said, "It's not camp, it's prison. You hate it when he trains you, but you want to learn."

While training in Big Bear City, Calif., for the rematch, Rahman gave nearly unlimited access to ESPN as part of a one-hour documentary that aired the night before his loss. Rahman also clowned for cameras from Skysports, England's equivalent to ESPN.

But until participating in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday, Rahman was on a "media lockdown," said co-manager Steve Nelson.

"Fights are won and lost in the gym. And I used to laugh, joke, play around. But this time, it's been extremely hard for me," Rahman said. "It's similar to the first time right before I fought Lennox Lewis. The days are quick. It's running real smooth.

"I can really show the world I'm capable of being heavyweight champion again and that not Rahman-Lewis I, but Rahman-Lewis II, was a fluke."

And this time, he'll let his fists do the talking.

Fight facts

Who: Hasim Rahman vs. Evander Holyfield

Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

When: Saturday, approximately 10:30 p.m.

TV: HBO, 10 p.m.

Records: Rahman, 35-3-0, 29 KOs; Holyfield, 37-5-2, 25 KOs

Purse: Rahman, $2 million; Holyfield, $5 million

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