The perfect ending for either man would be forcing the other to swallow his pride, preferably along with a trickle of blood.
Hasim Rahman and James Toney have a lot in common for two men who so deeply despise one another.
They're both considered among the top few heavyweights in the world, hoping to become the people's champion. They're both immensely talented fighters who've victimized themselves with negligent conditioning.
And they're both notorious trash talkers, possessing a wit wicked enough to make a normal man's lower lip quiver.
Tonight they'll try to turn vitriol into violence in a classic confrontation of put up, or shut up. Rahman and Toney will fight for the World Boxing Council championship at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The most significant heavyweight matchup since Lennox Lewis retired three years ago will be shown on HBO as part of a free-preview weekend, making the 10 p.m. telecast available to cable and satellite viewers whether they subscribe or not.
"I'm going to bloody him up, swell him up and punish him," Rahman said. "I'm going to make him find a way out of there. He can go out on his own volition, or he can get carried out of there."
Toney, not surprisingly, predicted the opposite.
"I'm going to destroy him," Toney said. "I'm going to knock Hasim right out. I've been one of the best fighters in every division I've been in. After [tonight] everyone is going to fully know there's only one heavyweight champion out there, and that's James Toney. I'm the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound."
To see them side-by-side, Rahman would appear to have a considerable edge. He's a natural heavyweight, chiseled at 6-foot-2 1/2 and 238 pounds. Toney is one pound lighter, but carries it on a 5-9 frame.
Rahman, who will have more than a 6-inch reach advantage, joked that the last time he dealt with an opponent this small was when he spanked his son.
"Everyone is saying Hasim Rahman is bigger than me and he's stronger," Toney said. "Man, you can be big all you want. He's lacking in the one area which really counts. That's heart."
Many are betting on Toney, a 1-to-2 favorite. His career is much more decorated. Toney (69-4-2 with 43 knockouts) has been a middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight champion.
Toney defeated World Boxing Association champ John Ruiz a year ago but forfeited the belt after testing positive for steroids. Toney claimed they were prescribed to help him overcome a torn biceps and triceps.
Toney has had better success against common opponents. Toney made Evander Holyfield look foolish in October 2003. Sixteen months earlier Holyfield beat Rahman, the fight stopped after eight rounds because grotesque swelling bulged from Rahman's forehead. Rahman lost to Ruiz, too.
What makes Toney so difficult is his slipperiness. Rahman (41-5-1, 33 KOs) is a big puncher who once starched Lewis with one punch, but tonight's opponent will be far trickier to hit. Toney's torso, shoulder and head shift smoothly, as if on ball bearings.
"Rahman has a good jab and a strong right hand, but he won't hit James with it," said Toney's trainer, Freddie Roach. "James doesn't get hit with right hands. He's the best defensive fighter out there. Heavyweights can't hit him."
Rahman's trainer isn't too worried. Thell Torrance has enjoyed success in the corner of four Toney opponents. Montell Griffin (2-0), Mike McCallum (0-1-1), Sione Asipelli (0-1) and Vassiliy Jirov (0-1 in an epic, back-and-forth brawl).
"James Toney is so slick," Rahman conceded. "I don't know if he's been hurt or not because he won't show you. But I know if I hit him he's going to hurt. He can fake, fake, fake and then when he opens his eyes up he can still be faking and his people can let him know what happened to him."
Amherst junior welterweight Vincent Arroyo will fight on the undercard, facing New Yorker Adam Czacher in a bout scheduled for four rounds. Arroyo is 3-0 with two knockouts. The 18-year-old is promoted by Williamsville's Rick Glaser. Czacher is 1-1-1.
>Tale of the Tape
[Graphic - see microfilm]