Klitschko wary of Rahman's punch
Date: 2008-12-14 11:00:00
Submitted By: Boxing Dump
OGGERSHEIM, Germany — Hasim Rahman looked bemused by the setting: rows of washing machines stacked upon refrigerators. What he really needed, though, was a bed. The jet-lagged American fighter could barely keep his eyes open during Monday's news conference ahead of his heavyweight title bout against IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko. Come Saturday, Rahman said, he would be ready to end the fight "early." "I am a little sleepy right now, but I am looking forward to putting on a good performance," Rahman said. "It will be a great fight." Rahman and his entourage arrived in cold and foggy Germany at 6 a.m. At one point, while a fight promoter spoke, Rahman put his head on his arms on the table and looked ready to doze off. He never took off his thick parka with fur-lined hood. The news conference was held in a vast home appliances and electronics store in a drab industrial neighbourhood outside Mannheim, where the fight will be held Saturday, with no trace of glitz and glamour. Klitschko was a lot more alert and just as confident of ending the fight inside 12 rounds. "I am not going to underestimate him in any way. I am going to do my job and I will try to do it quickly," Klitschko said. Both fighters were well behaved and polite to each other, shaking hands before the news conference. Perhaps the most suspenseful moment came during the customary staredown - whether Rahman would manage to keep his eyes open during it. The 36-year-old Rahman was selected as the replacement for Alexander Povetkin of Russia, who pulled out of the fight because of an ankle injury. Rahman previously held the title in 2001 after knocking out former Canadian Olympian Lennox Lewis. He has a 45-6 record (36 KOs), with two draws. Klitschko (51-3, 45 KOs), generally considered the world's top heavyweight, stopped Tony Thompson in the 11th round of his last bout on July 12. He has been the IBF champion for 2 1/2 years, and he reclaimed the WBO belt last February with a one-sided decision over Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden. A Ukrainian, Klitschko often fights in Germany. "This is his last chance to be a world champion again," Klitschko said of Rahman. "I expect a real challenge. If he comes such a long way to fight the best man, he wants to win naturally." Rahman said he had sparred more than 100 rounds and proclaimed himself in top shape. "I know he is extremely strong and quick. I have to be ready to take punishment and to dish it out. I am very fit and well prepared," he said. Klitschko's trainer, Emanuel Steward, was in Lewis' corner seven years ago and knows how much of a punch Rahman packs. "Wladimir is very focused. He realizes how dangerous a puncher Hasim is," Steward said. "We take him very seriously. We consider him more dangerous than Povetkin. We expect a very tough fight. Wladimir considers him the most dangerous one-punch fighter he's ever faced." The plan for retaining the title is simple, according to Steward: avoid Rahman's big right hand and let Klitschko use his own firepower. Rahman was scheduled to fight Klitschko's older brother, Vitali, in 2005 for the WBC belt, but the fight was postponed twice before Klitschko retired following a string of injuries. Rahman was awarded the title, which he later lost to Oleg Maskaev, in his last fight in August 2006. Vitali Klitschko returned from the 46-month layoff to reclaim the WBC heavyweight title on Oct. 11, stopping Samuel Peter after eight rounds. Ruslan Chagaev is the WBA heavyweight champion.