When it comes to training, Fisher keeps Rahman going

Hopkins' former trainer keeping fighter on toes for bout with Holyfield


May 29, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Trainer Bouie Fisher has put the "work" into workouts for Hasim Rahman.

Fisher, running Rahman through 2 1/2 - to three-hour sessions in preparation for the Baltimore heavyweight's fight Saturday against Evander Holyfield, inevitably would hear from his boxer that Rahman was too tired to keep going.

Fisher would respond: "You're tired? Well, so am I, but you won't have time to be tired on June 1. Do it again! "

"That's the kind of thing we'd go though every day, but now, it's going real smoothly," Fisher said last week from Rahman's camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

There, in the House of Champions facility owned by one of Rahman's co-managers, Stan Hoffman, Fisher routinely put the former world heavyweight champion through grueling workouts.

"It's a lot of pad work, technical work, drilling things into him. I'm like a sergeant in the army," said Fisher, who was named Trainer of the Year recently for helping Bernard Hopkins to a knockout victory over Felix Trinidad for the undisputed middleweight world title.

"Hasim doesn't mind the work, but he's not used to the discipline and being drilled the way I'm drilling him," said Fisher, whose methods include monitoring Rahman's diet. "I just tell him, `I have a job to do, and you have to do your job. I give the orders, you take them, and then it will all be right on June 1.' "

That's Saturday, when Rahman will step into the ring at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., against Evander Holyfield in Rahman's first fight since being dethroned in November via a fourth-round knockout by Lennox Lewis.

Rahman fired former trainer Adrian Davis shortly after his loss to Lewis, citing a strained relationship. He signed with Fisher, whose boxing experience spans more than 50 years, only days before Fisher severed a 13-year union with Hopkins.

Rahman said: "I've never met a genius, but he's definitely on top of the game of boxing." If boxing were education, Fisher, who quit school when he was 13, "probably would be a Harvard professor," Rahman said.

Born to a family of sharecroppers in South Carolina in 1927, Fisher, his three brothers and his mother Mary moved in with relatives in North Philadelphia when he was 11.

They were transplanted into one of the city's toughest areas.

"There were three gangs there. Coming from a farm with no history of the city, kids made fun of our speech, which is why I fought all of the time," Fisher said. "I'm not going to lie and say I won every battle. I came home many a day with my nose bleeding, my eyes puffed up. My uncles would kick my butt and send me right back out."

Pretty soon, though, Fisher said, "I was accepted in the neighborhood because they knew I could fight."

But Fisher said his fighting got him into trouble in school, and counselors advised him to "quit school and get a job. I didn't know any better."

After his mother died when he was 13, Fisher took up amateur boxing. At age 18, he turned professional, winning 13 of 18 bouts and fighting for "$40 a fight" during a career that scarcely spanned six years.

Fisher's wife of 53 years, Peggy, gave birth to the first of their eight children when he was 20 years old. "I had to quit boxing and get a job," said Fisher. "I worked in a sewer hole, ice house, construction, a milk dairy - you name any type of dumb, hard job and I can tell you something about it."

Fisher began training amateur fighters at Champs Gym in Philadelphia in 1955, under the tutelage of Quinzell McCall, whom he considers his mentor. As a boxer, Fisher said, he was the worst example of what he warns fighters against today.

"I was the guy who thought I knew about boxing, took all of the shortcuts, didn't work hard, didn't know anything, always had an excuse," said Fisher. "All of those things that I failed in as a fighter, I was taught how to put together and teach. It's just the opposite."

Fisher worked with such notables as Bennie Briscoe, Jesse Ferguson, Ivan Robinson and, starting in 1989, an ex-con named Bernard Hopkins.

The two became so close that Hopkins said before the Trinidad fight that he wanted to win for his wife, for his daughter and for Fisher.

"I want to see Bouie up there at the Boxing Writers Association of America banquet, getting the Trainer of the Year award that is so long overdue," Hopkins told the Philadelphia Daily News three days before his Sept. 29 victory.

"Bernard is family," Fisher told the News. "He respects me and has love for me, just like I respect him and have love for him."

But the night Fisher received his award and Hopkins his for Fighter of the Year, the men sat at different tables and did not speak.

Fisher won't talk about the split with Hopkins. In fact, he won't even say Hopkins' name.

"I always look for a better tomorrow, and I walked right from one position into another that is just as great," said Fisher.

And on the date of Rahman-Holyfield, Fisher clearly expects big things from his heavyweight.

"Holyfield is a damn good fighter who knows all of the tricks. But one thing he's going to find out is that Hasim Rahman can hurt him," Fisher said. "This is a test for Hasim Rahman, who is just 29 years old. And once he passes the test, he can be one of the rulers of the heavyweight division. He wants back what he enjoyed for a few weeks."

Then, like the sergeant he's been in camp, Fisher said: "The young soldier's coming out."

Fight facts

Who: Hasim Rahman (35-3-0, 29 KOs) vs. Evander Holyfield (37-5-2, 25 KOs)

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

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

TV: HBO, 10 p.m.

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