"I feel sharp and I feel good, man. I feel like I never took any time off. See, I took time off from fights, but I still be in the gym training and sparring, so I'm still there. It's like I never left, but I know it's a big difference now being in there with headgear and the big gloves as opposed to no headgear and 8 oz. gloves. It's a big difference, yes, and that aspect, yeah, it feels like it's been awhile. As far as being around boxing, I'm always in the gym, so it's like I feel I never really went nowhere. I just haven't been under them lights in a while," stated jr. welterweight Zahir Raheem, who talked about his return to the ring after more than a 2-year layoff. Check it out!
PC: Tell us about the comeback! How are you feeling?
ZR: Man, I feel good, man. I feel really good. I have a gym, so I'm always in the gym. I have been doing little exhibitions here and a little sparring here. I got a call from Brian Halquist about fighting and making a run for it, so I said, "Hell yeah, let's do it." I feel good, I'm healthy, and in good condition, so I love it, man. I feel good.
PC: Sometimes fighters need that time away from the sport. The win over Erik Morales was supposed to open the door for bigger things, like a fight with Manny Pacquiao, and that never happened. Do you think you needed the time away from the sport because things didn't happen the way you felt they should have?
ZR: Well, yeah, I did. When you talk about wear and tear on a fighter's body, man, constant training and fighting is one thing, but then the mental anguish of the business side of the sport can also be detrimental to a fighter at times. So I think me being an outsider for a few years now and training people and running my business and looking at life from a different aspect and resting my body has really helped. I wasn't worried about the politics or why this person didn't fight me or why this fight didn't go through, why this door didn't open or why this door didn't close. I didn't worry about none of that. I just enjoyed life. And I had a nice rest and a nice vacation and it was peaceful while staying in shape and doing conditioning, and I really needed that. I feel alive.
PC: Did you keep up with what was going on in the fight game while you were away or did you completely block it out with the exception of training?
ZR: Oh definitely! That's my life. I don't watch nothing else but boxing. Whether it's on the internet, website, TV, or video tape and in the gym, I'm always playing old fights definitely.
PC: You have been out for 2 years. What do you think of the landscape of the fight game since you've been away?
ZR: Hey man, I just was sitting back and watching it and enjoying the show like everybody else (laughing), honestly.
PC: I gotcha. What weight class will you return at?
PC: Damn, you really did stay in shape then (laughing).
ZR: Yeah! Yep!
PC: That's a hot division, and I'm sure you're not trying to jump right into the lion's den, but what caliber would you like to face?
ZR: Man, I'm not gonna sit here and blow smoke and tell you, "I'm taking two fights and I'm gonna do it, man. I'm gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." I'm not gonna do that to you, but I will tell you I'm gonna take it one fight at a time. I feel good. If I'm going by how I been looking and feeling during training and while I'm doing exhibitions out there in the ring, my timing is good and I got a little stronger. I feel good. But I'm gonna get in the ring and let that do the talking and see how things go, you know what I mean? I'm gonna let that dictate my tempo. I'm not trying to rush it. I'm going to let my performance dictate my tempo.
PC: Did it have to be a perfect situation for you to come back?
ZR: What do you mean by perfect situation (laughing)?
PC: Well, for Brian to reach out to you and not just you coming back under any banner and just taking fights just to be taking them?
ZR: I mean, I wasn't fishing. It was just perfect timing.
PC: So it was more about timing than the actual situation?
ZR: Yeah, it was definitely more about timing.
PC: I know you said you have been doing some sparring and things like that. How do you feel physically when you get in there?
ZR: I feel sharp and I feel good, man. I feel like I never took any time off. See, I took time off from fights, but I still be in the gym training and sparring, so I'm still there. It's like I never left, but I know it's a big difference now being in there with headgear and the big gloves as opposed to no headgear and 8 oz. gloves. It's a big difference, yes, and that aspect, yeah, it feels like it's been awhile. As far as being around boxing, I'm always in the gym, so it's like I feel I never really went nowhere. I just haven't been under them lights in a while.
PC: Who do you enjoy watching fight these days?
ZR: Floyd, Adrien Broner, Chad Dawson, Andre Ward shoot it's quite a few I enjoy watching; USS Cunningham, ooweee (laughing), and Bye Bye Jennings and Fred Jenkins. A lot of dudes, man.
PC: You really stayed in the game. You would be surprised at how many fighters stepped away from the game couldn't tell you what's going on right now. They don't even watch it anymore.
ZR: For real? Wow...nah, not me; that's in my blood, man. I like Gamboa too.
PC: And for you to be a part of such a successful Olympic team, with Floyd and Fernando Vargas, and just a great team of fighters, you have to be disappointed with what has been going on with the teams?
ZR: I mean, it's disappointing because it's like if you are a Vietnam Vet and you see soldiers go to war and not being prepared well and coming up short. That's like family. Anybody that goes to the Olympics is like a branch of family because you understand what they are going through. Being on the Olympic team is making history, so you understand what they are going through, so all I can do is not point the finger and say, "Oh, it's the talent or this or that." I can't say what it is, but it's definitely not the talent because those guys are talented. But to see those guys get swept like that, it was ugly and embarrassing.
PC: How often to you want to fight in 2013?
ZR: I'm trying to make some noise in '13, I can tell you that much. It ain't gonna be a slow paced thing where I wanna take my time. I'm gonna make a stance in 2013. I can't tell you when, but some time in 2013, it's gonna be a stance taken and improved.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]