Heavyweight carousel

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Talk about scene fitting the scheme.

Tuesday's media conference to introduce Hasim Rahman to the sporting press in Mannheim, Germany, was held in a home appliance warehouse in an industrial park on the outskirts of the city.

Gleaming rows of washing machines, stoves and refrigerators formed the backdrop as the American challenger for the IBF and WBO heavyweight titles owned by Wladimir Klitschko fought to stay awake after a 12-hour flight from the other side of the planet.

The bout goes tomorrow at the SAP Arena in Mannheim -- and the name of the venue pretty much describes the 12,000 suckers who have bought tickets.

"I'm a little sleepy right now, but I'm looking forward to putting on a good performance," Rahman said. "It will be a great fight ... which I plan to end early"

Klitschko, the Ukraine-born champ who lives and trains in Germany, played the role of gracious host.

"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.

Such is the current state of the fragmented heavyweight championship of the world.

It would have made more sense for the two of them to tie on aprons and use one of those stoves to cook up a mess of hot dogs and perogies for the assembled press. At least a demonstration of their skill at whipping up signature national dishes would have created some buzz.

Instead, we're left with the prospect of the shop-worn Rahman -- a late replacement for Russia's Alexander Povetkin -- trying to regain the championship he briefly owned after a freakish KO of Lennox Lewis seven years ago.

Rahman's record of 45-6-2 (36 KOs) is nothing to sneeze at, but nobody outside his immediate family really believes the 36-year-old has anything more than the overrated "puncher's chance" against Klitschko (51-3, 45 KOs).

Rahman was trailing on all three scorecards when he KO'd Lewis with a massive right hand in South Africa in 2001. Lewis redeemed himself six months later with a fourth-round stoppage.

"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."

Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who will be in Klitschko's corner, was with Lewis when Rahman delivered the coup de grace in '01.

"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."

Rahman was scheduled to fight Klitschko's older brother, Vitali, for the WBC belt in 2005, but the fight was postponed twice before a series of training injuries forced Klitschko to retire for four years.

Rahman kept the interim title with a decision over Monte Barrett and a draw with James Toney before being KO'd by Oleg Maskaev in August 2006.

Vitali Klitschko returned from a 47-month layoff in October to reclaim the WBC title, stopping Samuel Peter in eight rounds.

Meanwhile, injury-plagued Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA's "champion in recess," will make his comeback against Costa Rica's unbeaten Carl Drumond (26-0) on Feb. 7 in Rostock, Germany.

For my money, Chagaev, who last defended his title in January against light-hitting Matt Skelton of Britain, is the only legitimate threat to Vitali Klitschko's status as the best heavyweight on the planet.

A native of Uzbekistan, Chagaev took the crown in a decision over seven-foot-one Russian giant Nikolai Valuev 18 months ago, then had two scheduled rematches with Valuev fall through because of injury. Valuev regained the interim WBA title by beating John Ruiz in August.

Valuev is slated to meet Evander Holyfield on Dec. 20 in Zurich, Switzerland, with the winner to fight Chagaev by June 26.

PPV LOVES OSCAR

So much for MMA's claim to being the "undisputed leader" of pay-per-view.

Last Saturday's welterweight bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas generated about 1.3 million PPV buys (at an average of $55) to easily become the most successful pay-per-view event of the year.

It also marked only the fourth time a non-heavyweight bout surpassed one million buys -- and De La Hoya has been in all of them.

The MGM Grand Garden was packed, with an announced attendance of just over 15,000. The one-sided bout was stopped after Round 8 when De La Hoya's corner threw in the towel.

LOCAL AMATEURS SHINE

Alberta Amateur Boxing's provincials championships wrapped up in Calgary last weeked with some strong performances by Edmonton-area clubs.

Avenue Boxing's Chad Bigras won at heavyweight, while stablemate Erin Krekoski took the female welterweight title.

Cougar Boxing Club's Norman Bradford and Jonathan Andre won at light-welter and light-middle, while West Edmonton Knights' Robbie Cusine, Cody Gates and Kyle Matuk took their division crowns at lightweight,welterweight and light heavyweight.


Videos

Photos