"I want to leave an impression to where they want to see me again. I want to get the mouths running like, "I know who that is," and even the people that don't know me, I want them to know who I am afterwards and what's going on and what I have to offer. I want to make a statement. I'm looking to get out there and enjoy the competition. I'm not putting on no pressure or saying I gotta do this or I gotta do that. I'm going to go out there and be myself and have fun," stated jr. welterweight contender Zahir Raheem, who talked about his upcoming January 10 clash with Bayan Jargal on ESNP2 Friday Night Fights. Check it out!
PC: Another fight for you coming up on January 10th. It's gotta feel good to have ESPN exposure.
ZR: I've been feeling good, man, just being consistent, training, and fighting. I feel good, man...real good.
PC: When you were coming back off of the break you took from boxing, did you gauge in your mind how long you would think it would take for you to be feeling this good or did you want to just let everything play itself out?
ZR: Nah, I just wanted to let it play itself out. I didn't make myself any promises. I just went at it, man.
PC: In your last fight, Tim Coleman struggled to make weight. You guys agreed on a catchweight and you did good work to the body and stopped him in the 2nd round. In fact, none of your opponents have seen the final bell during this comeback for you. What does that say about you to be able to take time off and stop guys like you have been?
ZR: Well, I don't considerate it as any time off really. I own a gym in Stone Mountain, Georgia and it's a big gym with a lot of clients in there, so I live in the gym. I've been doing a lot of sparring and training. I know people haven't seen me on TV, but I've been active. I'm gonna tell you though, if I would have took these 2 to 3 years off and not stayed in the gym, I don't know nobody that could come back and compete at a certain level at all. I couldn't see it.
PC: But some people thought that you fell out of love with boxing and just disappeared and was doing your thing outside of the sport.
ZR: Yeah, I even fought in 2 or 3 exhibitions. I had a couple of fights that fell through that I was training for. I didn't know until I did get with Brian Halquist after the first fight I had with him and he came up to me and was like, "Oh my God, you haven't lost a step," and I'm thinking like, "What? You acting like I won a championship fight or something like that. What did you expect?" But I see now that he wasn't the only one that wasn't expecting too much. But I would never say, "Wow, I look tremendous and I looked good." Nah, I would never do that until I get these titles, man, and start fighting these grade A guys; then I could start judging myself as my own worst critic. But as long as I'm fighting the caliber that I am fighting now, I don't really grade myself. I just don't do it.
PC: How does it feel to have the platform and the ESPN audience to see you in your next one?
ZR: Hey man, it's exciting and in life, we learn and I tell you, one thing that I realize is that every opportunity is a privilege and not a right. I appreciate it so much, man, from the heart, sincerely.
PC: It's been awhile since you have been on television. What are you looking to showcase on the 10th?
ZR: I want to leave an impression to where they want to see me again. I want to get the mouths running like, "I know who that is," and even the people that don't know me, I want them to know who I am afterwards and what's going on and what I have to offer. I want to make a statement. I'm looking to get out there and enjoy the competition. I'm not putting on no pressure or saying I gotta do this or I gotta do that. I'm going to go out there and be myself and have fun.
PC: It seems like that's your new approach is that you won't put any pressure on yourself and you will enjoy boxing this go around. Is that the case?
ZR: Ah man, you know, boxing is 89 to 90% mental and anything that takes your concentration and doesn't allow you to do what you gotta do is not beneficial. So for me, to not add pressure by itself is an A+.
PC: Who has been the most beneficial to you during this comeback?
ZR: My manager, Malcolm Lawson, man. He has been very supportive and he's just one of those guys that pumps me up. He's just always in my ear shooting me with that boxing bolt. He's been very instrumental to me inside and outside of the ring and he's like a brother to me. We would go to family gatherings and have deep conversations and we have a good relationship spiritually and it's very instrumental for me.
PC: 2013 was a great year for boxing. Is there anything or anyone that sticks out in your mind?
ZR: It ended with a bang and I think it's gonna begin like that in '14 and end like that again because not just the athletes; you don't have a whole lot of good boxing sometimes because of the political side of it, man, can mess up the sport where it don't allow fights to happen, but things have shook a little bit in that aspect. In 2014, it's gonna be a great year for boxing. And as far as anyone or anything sticking out in my mind, just everything as a whole. I have no one in particular that I got my eye on, but I will say I'm so proud of Floyd, man. We came up together as kids and I'm just so proud of him to see that he's still doing it at the level that he's doing it at. He is doing so good and I'm just proud to be able to say that I came up in the amateur ranks with him and we are good friends and I'm just really proud of him and how he handles himself with the business side of things and everything.
PC: Do you keep in touch with guys from the '96 Olympic team?
ZR: Yeah, I mean, occasionally we all touch base. If we lose contact, one will contact the other and then the other will contact the other and it's like, "Give him my number." So yeah, but not too much an everyday thing, but yeah, you would be surprised. I just spoke with Fernando Vargas 2 days ago and I hadn't talked to him in like 3 years. I spoke to Antonio Tarver about a month ago. I always talk to Zab though. I heard from Nate Jones about a year ago. It was a great team. We had Terrance Cauthen and David Reid. I speak to all of them. I talked to them about 2 months ago. I speak to them and then a year or 2 may go by and then we will talk again. The only guy I really miss is Rhoshii Wells, man. He was on the team and he was a good brother. He passed away, God rest his soul and may he rest in peace. That was awhile back.
PC: We are in 2013. When people come up to you and say you were a part of the 1996 Olympic team, does it feel like it was that long ago or does it seem like just yesterday?
ZR: It seems like just yesterday, but it's like, damn, that was so long ago because you look at how many Olympics was after that. That's what lets you know; it's like, whoa. Even when people bring it up, it's like, "Wow, really!"
PC: I look forward to seeing you back on the tube. I wish you the best and we will speak soon. Is there anything you want to add?
ZR: No sir, Percy, man; it's always a blessing to talk to you. I know when I talk to you, I'm in the big leagues again brother. I love talking with you, man. You are on top of your game. I can tell by the calls you get and the people you interview. You are one of the best....best in your profession, man.
PC: I really appreciate that, but honestly, man, interviewing guys like yourself let's me know I have made it. Thanks, Z!
ZR: No problem, man; keep it up and I want everyone to tune in to ESPN on January 10th!
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]