Don’t expect a cordial slap on the back at center ring on March 18. Don’t expect a friendly nod, an affable smile or a sincere ceremonial touching of the gloves before the opening bell.

Expect early mayhem.

Hasim Rahman doesn’t like James “Lights Out” Toney. Not a bit. Can’t stand him. Would like to see him trip and fall in the mud.

And the dislike isn’t one of those poorly-hidden con jobs played out to the wide-eyed public, a slick way to boost ticket sales on a slow day. No, this is the real thing, a true-blue dislike, the genuine deal, the “get-out-of-my-face” attitude you carry with you on your sleeve.

If you want to know why Rahman doesn’t like Toney, all you have to do is ask him. And that’s what somebody did on a recent conference call promoting his WBC heavyweight title fight with Toney at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City (HBO).

“I don’t like people who just target everybody,” Rahman said. “You got a problem with somebody, I can respect that. If you don’t like me for some reason, that’s fine. You just don’t go on everybody. This man goes on everybody. He thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s going to win every fight. Very, very cocky, arrogant person, and I can’t respect that. And I’m going to show him he don’t belong in the ring with me.”

Enough with the niceties, Rock. What’s your gut feeling?

“He’s going to get knocked out or he’s going to quit on his stool or blame one of those steroid injuries for the reason he’s quitting,” Rahman said. “I’m going to punish him. I just don’t like this guy. He’s a fraud.”    That opinion came across a few months ago when Rahman says he took a swipe at Toney when the two crossed paths at a party in Mexico.

“I came into the building and let them know the champ was here and [Toney] got upset,” Rahman said. “So when I was walking toward him and came by where he was, he like shoved me out of the way with his forearm, so I just slapped him in the mouth. Then he threw a little temper tantrum like a 5-year-old, like he really wanted to do something. But he was restrained by, like, a finger. He just did some loud cussing. Just running his mouth.”

As for the real hitting, Rahman says he doesn’t see Toney giving him any problems in the ring. Of course, Rahman doesn’t see anybody in the division giving him problems.

“[Toney] can talk, but he can’t back it up,” Rahman said. “This will be his last championship fight.”

Any predictions on the fight, Rock?

“I’m going to bloody him up, swell him up and punish him. I’m going to make him find a way out of there. He’s going to get out of there one way or another. He can go out of there on his own or he can get carried out of there. He’s going to be out of there before 12.”

Rahman says all this in a calm, clear voice. He might as well be telling you how to change the oil in your car.

Asked when was the last time he fought a guy as small as the 5-foot-9 Toney, Rahman sounded like he already had the answer written down.

“I think I gave my son a spanking right before I left (for training camp),” he said. “It’d be pretty much the same kind of thing. Little guys have to come to me and I’m going to punish him.”

At least it’s not personal.