The last time a national television audience saw Hasim Rahman four months ago, the Baltimore heavyweight was sprawled on the floor of Bally's Park Place in Atlantic City, N.J., having been knocked through the ropes in the eighth round after a right hand by Russia's Oleg Maskaev.
To add insult to injury, any chance Rahman might have had of climbing back into the ring within the allotted 20 seconds ended when the heavy metal CompuBox, which tracks the fighters' punches, fell on top of him.
The CompuBox and the judges' scorecards would have shown that he was comfortably ahead in the scheduled 10-rounder before Maskaev caught him resting on the ropes.
Rahman's painful tumble from the ring was soon matched by an equally embarrassing fall from the world rankings.
In December 1998, he was still unbeaten and ranked No. 3 by the International Boxing Federation, with an opportunity to gain the top ranking as a mandatory title challenger by beating David Tua.
Again, Rahman was firmly in command before a ninth-round punch led to a Tua knockout in the 10th.
Despite only two losses in 33 pro bouts, the 27-year-old now must prove himself again, starting with tonight's state title bout against journeyman Maurice Wilson (11-31-3) of Hillcrest Heights at Martin's West in Woodlawn.
Reacting like most fighters after a major setback, Rahman refused to take sole blame for his loss to Maskaev. He fired half of his management team and replaced Phoenix-based trainer Chuck McGregor with Adrian Davis, the Washington veteran who has tutored a number of champions, including Sharmba Mitchell and William Joppy.
"I'm through training part time," Rahman said. "I've been running around the country, working with a lot of different trainers. For Maskaev, I left Phoenix three weeks before the fight so I could spend more time with my family here.
"That really cost me. By the eighth round, my legs were gone. Everything Maskaev hit me with started hurting. Boxing is mostly conditioning. Now I'm training close to home. There's been no letup, and I'll have no excuse for not being in top shape."
But there were other reasons for hiring Davis, the last in a long list of trainers who have worked with Rahman that includes Mack Lewis, Kevin Rooney, Janks Morton and Tommy Brooks.
Rahman has never been easy to control or to accept a trainer's advice. But Davis, a clever welterweight in the 1970s, insists things will be different.
"You've got to take charge and be the boss," he said. "I had a lot more fights in my time than he has, and years of experience working with top fighters. Hasim would be smart to listen to me."
Although Rahman boasts 26 knockouts, Davis believes he has not taken full advantage of his impressive physique (6 feet 2, 235 pounds).
"That's why we've gone back to basics -- the proper way to throw the jab, the right hand, the hook and uppercut," Davis said. "I'm trying to slow him down. That's the best way. If you learn something slow, it sticks with you."
Davis is also trying to bolster Rahman's confidence in being able to go the distance against big punchers.
"A fighter mostly runs out of gas for two reasons," the trainer said. "Either he doesn't believe his conditioning will carry him through the fight or he hasn't learned to relax and tenses up when the pressure comes."
Rahman claims to have already learned a few tricks from Davis.
"He's got me disguising my punches better and also blocking the right hand and effectively countering," the fighter said. "I saw how Adrian molded Joppy into a champion in a few years. He knows his business."