Rahman due for a breakthrough vs. Toney

LAS VEGAS -- A thorough search of the Internet has revealed that Hasim Rahman:

1. Has never boasted he would break the world record in the 100 meters.
2. Has never said he would eliminate the federal deficit.
3. Hasn't vowed he would win the NBA Slam Dunk contest.
4. Has yet to say he's going to be the first man to bat .400 since Ted Williams.
5. Hasn't predicted a win in the world hot dog eating contest (though he appeared as if he had entered just prior to his rematch with David Tua).
6. And hasn't bragged of designing a car that gets 75 miles a gallon.

Everything else, though, is in play. The WBC champion for the time being has pretty much predicted he'd do just about anything that isn't listed above.

Let's face it: The man can talk. And given that he knows how to avoid the bleeps that keep television viewers and radio listeners from hearing much of what James Toney has to say, there is no one in the heavyweight division who can compete with Rahman when it comes to flapping his gums.

He's 41-5-1, which is a winning percentage of 88.3. That's not too bad if you're Joe Torre or Bill Parcells, but it isn't all that great if you're a boxer who has touted himself as the greatest thing since Jack Johnson was a baby.

"You got to believe in yourself," he said, chuckling. "Would you want me to say I'm going to lose?"

The way I figure it, Rahman has fought 10 truly significant fights: Two against Lennox Lewis, two against Tua and one apiece against Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz, Oleg Maskaev, Corrie Sanders, Monte Barrett and Kali Meehan.

In those 10, Rahman's 4-5-1, knocking out Lewis, Sanders and Meehan, getting knocked out by Lewis, Tua and Maskaev, winning a decision over Barrett, losing by decision to Holyfield and Ruiz and fighting to a draw with Tua in a fight that Rahman clearly deserved to win.

That's not bad, considering it's two more wins over men who have once held a share of the heavyweight title than I have, but it's hardly the type of record that would make a promoter mention his name in the same sentence as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

Of course, that's what Bob Arum did when he said that 100 years from now, boxing historians will remember that his promotional company will have promoted three great heavyweight champions: Ali, Foreman and Rahman.

Rahman, no doubt, has the physical skills to be very good -- very, very good, even -- though I'm not sure if even on his best day the ultra-confident Rahman would care to put himself in the same sentence as Ali and Foreman.

Rahman is as physically strong as any heavyweight alive. He has quick hands and feet light enough to make him a candidate for his own guest spot on "Dancing with the Stars."

But he was a professional and in big fights before he ever really learned how to fight. He had no amateur career to speak of and never learned the technique a great athlete needs to become a great fighter.

Much of what he has accomplished as a professional -- and two stints as a heavyweight champion is a lot, despite what the detractors may say about him -- came as a result of his extraordinary physical gifts.

He's the anti-Toney. Toney is a guy with an answer for every situation in the ring. He's a wonderful technician, a superb defensive fighter who can stand inches from an opponent and manage to avoid being hit.

Toney isn't a bad athlete, but he has nowhere near the physical gifts that Rahman has. He's not as big, he's not nearly as strong, he doesn't punch as hard and he's not as quick.

But he's also a 2-1 favorite, though that may say more about Rahman than it does about Toney. It's obvious, though, that Toney has made many believers in his 76 professional bouts.

If Toney loses this bout, if somehow Rahman manages to do what no fighter ever did before and stops Toney in the first round, he's still a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Toney's legacy as one of the greatest fighters of this or any era is ensured regardless of what he does from this point forward.

Rahman, though, is a much different story. By the time he steps into the ring to defend his title against Toney on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., Rahman will be 33 years, 4 months and 11 days old.

By the time Ali was that old, he already had wins over Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Foreman, Jimmy Ellis, Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry and Bob Foster, among others.

If Rahman is going to be remembered the way Arum has predicted, he's got a lot of work to do.

Everybody and his brother is picking Toney. I've picked Rahman so many times in the past and been burned, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.

I was wrong for picking him to beat Lewis in their rematch. Wrong for expecting him to demolish Holyfield. Wrong for picking him to blow away Ruiz.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

So it's time to be right for a change.

Sooner or later, the guy that Rahman brags about has to show up.

I think this may be that time.