With new trainer, Rahman doesn't plan to pull punches

Mayweather has ex-champ using more combinations

Boxing

December 12, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Since losing his November 2001 world heavyweight title rematch with Lennox Lewis, Hasim Rahman has had three of the most prominent trainers in the business. And the word they use most in assessing Rahman is "potential."

But Rahman also enters tomorrow night's World Boxing Association interim title bout against former champion John Ruiz as something he never thought he would be: a 31-year-old ex-champ.

"I never expected to be fighting much past 30, and if so, I expected to still be champion," said Rahman, whose knockout of Lewis in April 2001 earned him the title of undisputed world champion. "If I don't win this belt, I'm not going to be anyone's opponent. If I don't win, there's no need for me to be fighting."

One of Rahman's former trainers, Bouie Fisher, calls Rahman "a good right-handed puncher with a great future in front of him and, certainly, a great shot at winning another championship."

Buddy McGirt, who was in Rahman's corner for his March draw with David Tua, called Rahman "a very intelligent fighter" who at times is too focused on scoring knockouts.

"I'd like to see him develop and use his jab more than anything else, which will make him a much better fighter," said McGirt. "If he does that, I don't see anybody beating him. There's so much more he can do. It's just that Hasim Rahman has so much ability and potential he hasn't used yet."

Roger Mayweather is Rahman's newest trainer and the eighth of his career. Having worked with Rahman since August at his Top Rank training facility in Las Vegas, Mayweather said the pay-per-view audience and the sellout crowd at the Boardwalk Hall will see the best in Rahman tomorrow night.

Mayweather said he worked with Rahman (35-4-1, 29 knockouts) on the same technique he did with his nephew, lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather, who is considered one of the sport's best fighters.

"My thing is not to just make Rock a heavyweight champion, but an exciting heavyweight champion. So I train him like my nephew - ripping combinations - not that one-two stuff he's been doing back in Baltimore," Mayweather said. "It's not just about giving him power - he already has that - but just keeping his hands busy and giving him more speed. Punches win fights; catching and thinking doesn't. The key is, for a big guy, if you're busy, you're winning."

Rahman said he's ready to put Mayweather's work on display.

"I'm going to be able to throw more combinations and really let my punches go. I'm going to be setting the pace with everything following my jab," said Rahman, who will be facing a durable, rough-and-tumble brawler.

"I never thought I'd be fighting John Ruiz, a nasty fighter with a nasty style, but I'm in better shape, had a better quality of sparring, it's been generally a better camp," said Rahman. "I'm going to be more explosive than Ruiz has seen. I'm not interested in out-jabbing him. Make no mistake, I'm looking for the knockout."

Rahman was at his largest (259 pounds) and perhaps most vicious, against Tua. His hard right hand and forceful jab ripped gashes around the Samoan's eyes. At times, Rahman pushed around Tua, whom he floored with a jab just at the bell ending the 12th round.

But Rahman, who was a weakened 224 pounds for his bout with Evander Holyfield in June 2002 (a technical decision loss), said strength trainer Leonard Ellerbee gradually worked him to the 246 pounds he will carry into the ring against Ruiz, 31, who will weigh 241.

"I'm strong, quick and I feel good that whatever I weigh Saturday night, it's not going to be a problem because I'm in real good shape," said Rahman. "I feel like the division is wide open, and I plan on making my case for where I'm going and why I should be a champion ready to get into elimination tournaments. Whatever it takes, I want to make it one man, [one title belt]."

NOTE: Rahman sparred until last night, a rarely used practice in the sport because of the risk of injury. But Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron Pryor and Holyfield were known to spar in the days before big fights, according to boxing historian Michael Katz.

Fight facts

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

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Bouts: In order of scheduled appearance:

Zab Judah (29-1, 21 KOs) vs. Jaime Rangel (29-4, 25 KOs), junior welterweights

Alejandro Garcia (22-0, 21 KOs) vs. Travis Samms (22-0, 17 KOs), super welterweights

Hasim Rahman (35-4-1, 29 KOs) vs. John Ruiz (38-5-1, 27 KOs), heavyweights

Ricardo Mayorga (25-3-2, 22 KOs) vs. Cory Spinks (31-2, 11 KOs), welterweights

William Joppy (34-2-1, 25 KOs) vs. Bernard Hopkins (42-2-1, 31 KOs), middleweights

TV: Pay-per-view

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