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Amateurs to talk with fists

The Baltimore Sun

Two amateur boxers with local ties will each take big steps in their careers this weekend, with one, Hasim Rahman Jr., 15, making his first move and the other, James Berry, 19, trying to continue on his way toward a berth in the 2008 Olympics.

Hasim Jr., 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, whose football prowess once caught the eye of coaches at Gilman, is just half an inch shorter than his father, former two-time world heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.

Using fists nearly as massive as his dad's, the younger Rahman in his first fight will take on an opponent to be determined during an amateur event tonight at the Pikesville Armory.

"Six years and one week ago, my father won the world championship; now, it's my turn to make the name of Hasim Rahman a name that everyone's talking about again," said Rahman, referring to his father's fifth-round knockout of Lennox Lewis in South Africa on April 21, 2001."It seems I've been preparing like a world champion from Day One, like I've spent my whole life waiting for this moment. My family will be there, and there will be a lot of high expectations - the same expectations I have for myself."

Berry, of the UMAR Boxing Club in Baltimore, was named Outstanding Boxer of the Regional Golden Gloves tournament in Waldorf earlier this month. He beat Mondre Pope of Norfolk, Va., 4-0, in their four-round, 141-pound title bout. The victory earned Berry a berth in the National Golden Gloves tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., from Monday to May 5. The winners earn berths in the box-offs in the summer in Colorado Springs, Colo. The winners of the box-offs make the Olympic team.

Trainer Marvin McDowell said Berry will have to fight "probably five times" to win. The opponent for Berry (53-12), a winner of six straight bouts, will be determined from among some 20 regional champions by a draw on Sunday, McDowell said.

Berry also can make the Olympic team by winning the U.S. Amateur Championships in Colorado Springs in June.

Rahman, who lives with his parents in Las Vegas, was at ringside in last August, when his father lost his World Boxing Council crown to Oleg Maskaev, also in Las Vegas. Hasim Sr. has a comeback bout against Taurus Sykes of Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 14 at Rochester, N.Y.'s Main Street Armory.

The younger Rahman, nicknamed "Little Rock," has trained for the past five weeks. He has spent some time under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame who was in Lewis' corner for both of his fights with Rahman Sr. Steward, who trains International Boxing Federation heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko, once called Hasim Jr. "much more well-rounded and fluid" than his father, "and, of course, he's inherited that powerful right hand."

Hasim Jr., who spent a few weeks with Steward during Klitschko's preparation for his Nov. 11 knockout of Calvin Brock, said: "There's no way any other amateur with no fights can be as prepared as I am. There's no way I'm not ready for this. I'm so focused to prove myself. People don't want to see me go in there and throw a million punches and gas out. I have to look like a champion from Day One. I can't come all the way out there and make it a boring show. I have to make it exciting. It's going to be a blast."

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