Walker is a vital link in Rahman's entourage

Best friend has been there since the seventh grade



November 14, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - In Hasim Rahman's entourage, there are his brothers, Ibn and Yah Yah Cason; his father, John Cason; and co-managers, Stan Hoffman and Steve Nelson. But there is another member who draws the most questions, as in "Who is that Winky guy?"

Melvin "Winky" Walker, 29, Rahman's best friend, said he's gone through the "street wars" with him since they met in seventh grade. Rahman credits Walker with bringing him out of a depression after a truck accident years ago killed their friend, the driver, and left Rahman's face scarred and requiring more than 500 stitches.

"Rock was shy about coming around, but I told him from my heart a few inspiring words," said Walker, who was in the accident as well. "Hasim is a very strong person, but this thing was taking a hold of him. I told him if people don't accept you the way you are, who are they? Plus, you're living. God could have taken your life."

Separate rooms

Rahman and Lennox Lewis engaged in some cross talk on Los Angeles' KABC-TV Monday night. The fighters were in separate rooms at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino while being interviewed via satellite by host Bill Weir, who was at the ESPN Zone in Los Angeles, where the fighters scuffled on television in August.

"In the ring, when we start throwing punches, he's going to clam up in a shell like he knows he wants to right now," Rahman said. "He's the one who requested the separate rooms. I have no problem being in the same room, the same ring, the same anything with him. You're just scared, that's why you don't want to be in a room with me."

In response to reports that Rahman has bench-pressed nearly 500 pounds, Lewis said: "It's not a weightlifting contest; it's a boxing match, son."

The fighters are staying on the same floor at the Mandalay Bay, site of the fight, and Lewis told Rahman: "You know where my room is."

"We're in the same building right now," Rahman said. "You can take three or four steps out the door, I can take three or four steps and we can be face-to-face."

Hart on Lewis

Boxing historian Colin Hart, of England, calls trainer Emmanuel Steward's notion that Lewis is more talented than Muhammad Ali "totally ridiculous."

"Steward is just singing for his supper," said Hart, who has covered the sport for nearly 40 years. "Muhummad Ali never got knocked out in the prime of his career, and certainly would not have - with all due respect to Hasim Rahman - by two journeymen as Lewis has.

"Frank Bruno outboxed Lewis for five rounds," said Hart. "Frank Bruno wouldn't have outboxed Ali for even one round."

Williamson fights

DaVarryl Williamson (10-1, nine knockouts), Rahman's primary sparring partner, will fight 6-foot-7, 250-pound Andre Kopolive (9-1, four KOs) on ESPN's Friday Night Fights.

Training with the champ

The Season: Training with the Heavyweight Champ, chronicling Rahman's past two months, airs tonight at 7 on ESPN.

Fight facts

What: Heavyweight championship rematch

Who: Hasim Rahman (35-2, 29 knockouts) of Baltimore vs. Lennox Lewis (38-2-1, 29) of England for Rahman's WBC and IBF titles

When: Saturday

Where: Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

TV: HBO pay-per-view; broadcast begins at 9 p.m., main event after 11:30

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