Rahman gets fresh beginning

His plan is to beat Cole, return to title picture


March 11, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

As the "opponent" opposite Will Smith during the filming of a movie about Muhammad Ali, Al Cole's job was to expose himself to danger, thereby making his counterpart look good.

Smith was nominated for an Oscar, but perhaps Cole, in his role as the battered Ernie Terrell, also deserved consideration.

"I had to learn to mimic Ernie Terrell. He didn't move. He stood straight up. I had to learn to cross my feet. I dropped my hands," Cole said.

The former cruiserweight champion, who will turn 40 next month, vows not to be so cooperative tonight in a 10-round bout at Michael's Eighth Avenue, when he takes on former heavyweight titlist Hasim Rahman (35-5-1, 29 knockouts) as part of the latter's career restructuring plan.

Rahman, 31, is coming off a loss by unanimous decision to John Ruiz in Atlantic City, N.J., that earned Ruiz the World Boxing Association crown. The loss dropped the Baltimore native to 0-3-1 since knocking out Lennox Lewis in April 2001.

But Rahman said Cole is part of a three-fight plan he hopes will land him back in the heavyweight title picture.

Rahman has been training with Roger Mayweather in Las Vegas, having moved there before his fight with Ruiz. Rahman and Cole arrived in Baltimore on Monday. They appeared at a news conference at Michael's the next afternoon.

"I feel I can become heavyweight champion of the world again in 2004, and it starts [tonight,]" Rahman said. "Al Cole is a tough, durable guy who has been able to hurt top 10 contenders. But I want to show he doesn't belong in the ring with me. I can't think of a better way to show that than to walk in and destroy this guy."

Cole (34-12-3, 16 knockouts) has won only three of his past 12 fights. He blames poor preparation, personal problems and deaths in the family -- six of 10 critically ill relatives have died in the past four years -- for his lack of focus during the most recent portion of his career.

"I didn't watch tapes, hadn't been to boxing matches, stopped going and watching," said Cole, a cruiserweight champ until rising to heavyweight in January 1996. "I lost the desire. I had to go back and study myself. That's what made me come back and start winning again over the past year and a half."

Cole won decisions in eight and six rounds, respectively, over David Izon and Joe Lenhart in March 2003 and October 2003. He was back in the ring on Nov. 30, losing a 12-round decision to Lance Whitaker in his last fight -- one taken on just 10 days notice.

Although Cole routinely has accepted fights on short notice -- sometimes within a week of a bout -- he said Rahman made a "mistake" in allowing him a month to prepare.

"I know what they're thinking," said Cole, who has been training in Florida with Rahman-sized contender Shannon Briggs. "This time, I've done my homework."

The tough and wily, 6-foot-5, 237-pounder has a habit of making it difficult for fighters looking to make a name for themselves by defeating him.

"Most people want to capitalize off my name. They know I'm a tough guy who won't lay down. They figure, we get a good name like Al Cole, a tough, rugged guy, if we can beat him, it'll put us back into position [for a world title,]" Cole said. "But once they're in with me, they know they're in a fight. Everybody I fight, I've had them hurt or in trouble."

Young fighters such as Kirk Johnson and Jeremy Williams sought easy paydays against Cole, only to find themselves in disputed draws. Cole said his previous opponent, Lance Whitaker, was on wobbly legs down the stretch.

"I hit him with some right hands, had him cut and swollen over both eyes. He hasn't had a fight or been the same since then," Cole said. "Everybody knows I'm a tough opponent. I can box, move, take a shot and give a shot. I hurt fighters. I punish them."

Said Rahman: "I'm glad he's not afraid of me. He believes he can out-box me, but it's not going to happen."

Rahman said he relied largely on his jab to batter and bloody the faces of recent opponents David Tua (a draw) and Ruiz, but he won't be content to "watch my jab cut him up round-by-round."

Rahman's 255 pounds are four shy of his ring heaviest against Tua, yet he insists, "I'm strong, and I'm fast."

Fight facts

What: Ballroom Boxing. Hasim Rahman (35-5-1, 29 KOs) of Baltimore vs. Al Cole (34-12-3, 16 KOs) of Spring Valley, N.Y., 10 rounds, heavyweights

Where: Michael's Eighth Avenue, Glen Burnie

When: 11 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $70 general admission still available

Undercard: Ishmail Arvin (8-0-1, five KOs) of Baltimore vs. Willie Lee (10-2, seven KOs) of Gulfport, Miss., six rounds, middleweights

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