Lewis exits to Rahman taunts

`He's scared of me!' champ yells as rival snubs photo session

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November 15, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- Yesterday's news conference for Saturday's heavyweight rematch ended with Lennox Lewis and his entourage walking out, refusing to pose for the traditional photos between the fighters.

Shouting at him as he left was Baltimore's Hasim Rahman, the man from whom Lewis hopes to regain the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation crowns he lost via a fifth-round knockout in April.

"Come on back, Lennox! I'm not going to hit you in the mouth until Saturday!" Rahman yelled as Lewis departed. "The man is scared of me, y'all! He's scared of me!"

Organizers feared a confrontation similar to the one that resulted in a scuffle between the fighters at an ESPN studio in August, so they separated them, as they have all week during satellite interviews for local and national television and radio media.

Promoter Don King crooned as he announced the undercard, but iron railings separated the two stages and podiums, and several local police officers were on hand, just in case.

Rahman's camp was on the left and Lewis' on the right.

"It's a good thing these bars are there so this man can feel safe," Rahman said. "I don't care how much running, how many adjustments you make, you can't adjust to something you don't know how to make adjustments to.

"I know they're getting ready for the man they saw in South Africa, but this new man is hungry. He has a lot to prove, and he's ready to knock Lewis out again. I'm not looking for a decision. I'm going to knock Lennox Lewis out."

About 20 minutes after the news conference, it appeared the incident was the farthest thing from Rahman's mind. He went to the room of his best friend, Melvin "Winky" Walker, where, as a devout Muslim, Rahman was led in prayer by his brother, Ibn Cason. Walker and trainers Adrian Davis and Duke Buchanan also prayed.

Later, it was up to his suite, where he beat, first, Buchanan, and then Cason in intense games of dominoes.

Not until a reporter brought it up did he discuss the fight.

Rahman told how he thrives incidents such as the one at the news conference. He considered it yet another mental victory en route to what he anticipates will be a physical one this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino.

"Part of the promotion is to cooperate by posing for pictures and things like that. His refusal to do that, it's another moral victory for me," Rahman said later, struggling to focus on the question while engaged in dominoes.

Lewis, whose room is right down the hall from Rahman's, claimed a victory because he -- not Rahman -- got the penthouse suite. "I walk past his room all day, every day."

If Lewis has appeared subdued during all the hoopla, he says it is only because he is eager to get on with the business of separating Rahman from his senses.

On Tuesday, in his suite down the hall, he spent a little more than an hour saying as much to several members of the British media and one reporter from an American newspaper.

In the fight, he promised he will cut off the ring more. He said he will go back to the double-left hook that he felt hurt Rahman at the end of the third round in their first match. And with everything from uppercuts to "an eye-splitting jab," he promised to dominate the man whose "lucky punch" earned him the title.

"I'm going to teach Hasim Rahman the respect that you should show as a true champion. I mean, you can't wear a crown and believe that, all of a sudden, you're the king and you should get so much respect, basically, from one punch," said Lewis, who turned 36 on Sept. 2.

"It's OK to be a champion, but you have to act like one. And he takes it to a different level. He looks like a Muppet when he does it. I think respect comes from winning a number of fights," Lewis said. "I've said to myself that I'm refocusing, going to reclaim my belts. I think I've got more attributes than this guy, and I'm aiming to prove it."

Rahman, for his part, said he is in much better shape and is an overall better fighter than the one who knocked out Lewis in South Africa.

Lewis said he has studied the fight for hours and noticed a flaw in how Rahman jabs. Rahman, said Lewis, has more of a counter-jab and turns his head sideways and jabs upward every time Lewis throws his own jab.

Rahman has trained in the 7,000-foot altitude of Big Bear City in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. He promises to maintain a sustained physical effort against Lewis.

"Let's not get in there and run around the ring. Let's not have any holding," Rahman said to Lewis from the podium at the news conference. "People paid a lot of money to see us, so let's get in there and fight."

After beating Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas in their return bout after a controversial draw in New York, Lewis said he had four fights left in his career. He knocked out Michael Grant and Frans Botha before winning a lopsided, unanimous decision over David Tua.

Mike Tyson was supposed to be his next opponent, but when talks fell through, Rahman was picked. He was supposed to be an easy fight, but the 20-1 underdog foiled Lewis' plans for a big-money bout with Tyson.

"It's just money," Lewis said when asked if he was angered that Rahman ruined his plans. "This guy is going on the confidence of one punch and that my time is gone. He believes that Lennox Lewis is old and not there and I'm an old man, or something like that.

"If he's going off of that, then that's to my advantage. He hasn't seen the best of me yet."

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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