During Saturday night’s post-fight press conference Hasim ‘The Rock’ Rahman suggested he better get himself a heavyweight title belt soon, if for no other reason than to keep up his suddenly over-sized pants.

At Madison Square Garden this weekend a leaner, meaner Rahman broke down Kali ‘Checkmate’ Meehan in scientific fashion and solidified his position as the top contender in the heavyweight division. A full 25-pounds lighter than the 257 pounds he carried into the ring against Mario Cawley earlier this year, Rahman worked his piston jab and went to the body in a fashion we haven’t seen in years. With a smaller waist Rahman was able to use movement in the ring and inch closer to having a championship belt around his waist.

Starting from the opening bell, Rahman was the aggressor in the fight and set the tone with his fantastic jab followed up with right crosses and combinations to the body of his Australian opponent. If he seemed much busier than in the past, it is because he was.

The pace and punishment continued in the second round when Rahman landed a textbook right cross off the jab and then followed with another punishing jab. Meehan was hurt on the ropes but managed to close out the round as the die had been cast for the night’s conclusion. Rounds three and four were nearly identical as it was stiff Rahman jabs, hard work to the midsection, right hands, uppercuts and a demonstration of how effective boxing basics can be. As the fourth round concluded Meehan wobbled back to his corner on uncertain legs, prompting his corner to step in and stop the fight as the beating had become so one-sided.

In a heavyweight division void of one great fighter, one this night, Hasim Rahman looked as good – or better – than any.

After a perfect 5-0, 4 KO year in 2004, the Baltimore native finds himself in a strong position for a title shot and major payday in the coming year. This comes after Rahman had gone winless since his shocking knockout of Lennox Lewis back in April 2001. He suffered a dramatic KO loss to Lewis in the rematch and then was lackluster in a technical decision defeat to Evander Holyfield. After being on the wrong end of the scoring that resulted in a draw versus David Tua, he lost again in an ugly boring fight to WBA champion John Ruiz (who always seems to be in ugly fights).

Rejuvenated and rededicated to taking his fistic career seriously, Rahman has a lot of options ahead. His friendships with IBF champ Chris Byrd and new NABC belt-holder Larry Donald may have to be put aside in order to make the fights fans want to see. Interestingly, it was Donald who helped Rahman turn things around by beating Rahman in sparring, just by committing to the jab. Now Rahman once again realizes he can work everything in his arsenal off what may be the best jab in the heavyweight division. Unfortunately, the thanks that Donald may get for reminding Rahman to use his jab may be a beating.

Most fight fans have appointed WBC champion Vital Klitschko as the top big man in boxing and in December he will put that claim to the test against Danny Williams. The winner of that bout certainly would be an interesting opponent for Rahman. Lamon Brewster represents the WBO in the heavyweight picture and is also an option.

Perhaps the most likely scenario will be a rematch with Ruiz. As Don King works with both fighters it would be easier to negotiate and Rahman surely would want to avenge his poor performance of last year. Should they meet and Rahman be successful, he would then own one of the coveted title belts to make unification bouts with the likes of Byrd and Klitschko.

Saturday we saw the best Hasim Rahman we have seen in a long time. He put his natural talent on display and used all the punches in his heavy-handed arsenal to break down and dominate his foe. Without an extra 25 pounds weighing him down, Rahman looked like a champion once again.

Now he merely needs to get a championship belt around his trim waist.