Boxing can be the theater of the unexpected, sport's finest purveyor of The Upset, that shocker of a spectacle when one man takes the script, tears it in half, douses it with lighter fluid and torches it, to the amazement and delight of his audience.
On Saturday in Hamburg, I do not expect Hasim Rahman, the 39-year-old former heavyweight titlist, to offer boxing fans another installment of stellar drama. Yes, he has done it before, back on April 22, 2001, when he exploded a right hand on champion Lennox Lewis' chin, and left South Africa after scoring a fifth-round KO with the WBC and IBF belts in hand. But that was 2001, when The Rock could still use that nickname, and not have to defend himself from witty snipers-with-words who crack on him for coming to the ring in less than sterling shape. For his last fight, on June 11, 2011, Rahman weighed 284 pounds in a TKO6 win over Galen Brown. When he dropped that shock and awe on the Brit Lewis, in 2001, he was 238 pounds. And at the Friday weigh-in for his title challenge against Russian Alexander Povetkin in Hamburg, Rahman was 256 pounds.
Those choosing to look on the bright side are more than welcome to note that Rahman, who somehow managed to convince the WBA to rate him their No. 1 challenger, isn't in the 280s, 270s or 260s. But the chance that Rahman could pull off another jaw-dropper win would have been much higher had he whittled his form down to the 230s area.
I asked Povetkin's former trainer, Teddy Atlas, if he thought the Marylander Rahman (50-7-2 with 41 KOs; has been stopped five times) could surprise Povetkin (age 33; 24-0 with 16 KOs; coming off February MD12 win over Marco Huck) and the boxing world yet again.
"Povetkin should knock Rahman out in three or four rounds," the ESPN analyst and Staten Island resident told me. "Rahman has nothing left. He's been active, but in with C- and D-caliber guys."
Atlas said he would have been OK with Povetkin fighting Rahman, when he worked the Russian's corner, as "an easy mandatory," and noted that Rahman will still possess a right hand that is capable of doing damage. But that weight ... Atlas said an athlete can't puff up to 300 pounds, then peel some of that off and expect to perform at a world-class level.
Atlas had Rahman sit next to him for a chat on a recent "Friday Night Fights" and asked him how serious he was about the Povetkin fight, because his bulk was noticeable. Rahman didn't counter with much pep, protesting that he was working hard to get in top shape, but said, because the original scrap was postponed because he hurt his hand, that he'd get a second chance. Atlas said the grapevine told him Rahman looked winded after just a couple of rounds of sparring a few weeks ago, so he isn't optimistic that the boxer is hiding a reservoir of stamina under that hidden six-pack. "I like Rahman, I wish him luck," Atlas said. "But at this point in life, he really needs to be serious about this."