Nathan’s hot dogs, the Breakfast of Champions.

Doesn’t really flow as a slogan, does it?

Yup, Wheaties is still safe.

But if heavyweight James Toney beats Hasim Rahman on Saturday night in Atlantic City, may I suggest the noted purveyor of processed meat in a tube contact Toney, and hash out an endorsement deal?

On Tuesday morning, his promoter Dan Goossen hooked Toney up with a breakfast fit for a champion…of competitive eating contests.

Goossen got six Nathan’s hot dogs, doused them with chili, and presented them to Toney, who chowed down before heading over the Copacabana, a Manhattan nightclub which was the site for the final press conference leading up to Saturday’s heavyweight showdown.

“James thinks hot dogs are a power food,” Goossen said, laughing.

Normally, fight pundits would be pondering that calorically dense, nutritionally disreputable chowfest, and perhaps conclude that any athlete who has the gall to eat hot dogs for breakfast may not have the correct mindset coming into one of the most important fights of his illustrious career. But not me. Not when it comes to James Toney. Pile on the chili, Champ, just wash it down with a Beano smoothie if we’re sitting down for a one-on-one…

Think about it: Steroids, even if they were prescribed to hasten healing, weren’t able to carve Toney’s body into a lean mass of musculature. But how he looks is completely beside the point. Maybe trainer Freddie Roach cares a little bit what Toney will weigh when he steps on the scale Friday. Roach probably doesn’t want Toney packing 260 pounds on his 5 ft. 9 inch frame. But he weighed 235 pounds while schooling underachiever Dominick Guinn on Oct. 1, 2005 (UD12). He weighed 233 when defeating rough and ready John Ruiz on April 30, 2005 (UD12), an outcome that was later changed to a ‘No Contest’ when Toney tested positive for the juice.

“I can come in at 275 pounds,” said Toney, age 37, as he calmly fielded questions from the media at the Copa. “As long as I’m in shape.” And in what had to be the most self effacing analogy I’ve heard a boxer make, Toney then compared himself to a bowling ball: “You know what a bowling ball does? It knocks down pins.”

To hammer home my point: what Toney, a 17-year pro, weighs on Friday, or Saturday night, is irrelevant. His mastery of the science of the sport, the innate knowledge of when to slip, slide, duck, counter, is what matters. No one in the heavyweight division comes close to Toney (69-4-2, 43 KOs) when it comes to exhibiting accrued savage science skills.

“I feel excellent,” Toney said. “When I said no to cruiserweight I said Hallelujah. My body is filling out like it should have been.”

For the record, for the folks who think that how Toney’s body looks or what he weighs actually matters, Toney predicts he’ll be around 250 pounds come weigh-in.

“This is my natural body weight,” he explained. “One hundred sixty, one sixty eight, one seventy five, wasn’t my natural weight. I was training in a sauna suit. I trained to lose weight. I never trained to fight.”

Bob Arum, the promoter who entered the fight game promotion racket 40 years ago this month  (Ali d. Chuvalo on 3/29/66), likes Hasim Rahman’s chances on Saturday night, so much so that he left money on the table.

For a businessman, especially one with a certified record of success and longevity, that’s saying something. Note it for the record, because a sharp capitalist like Arum may not do that again.

Arum thinks that the Hasim Rahman (44-5-1, 33 KOs) who stunned the world with his Hail Mary, Our Father, Praise Allah right hand that felled Lennox Lewis on April 22, 2001, is back in business. Arum thinks THAT Rahman, and the one that was thoroughly outboxing David Tua in their Dec. 19, 1998 bout before getting caught in the tenth round, will be standing across from Toney on Saturday night. Arum thinks THAT Rahman, not the one who’s prone to putting on the type of performance that makes a boxing commission think about testing him for Ambien usage post-bout, will be standing across from Toney on Saturday night in Atlantic City. Arum’s betting on THAT Rahman, the hungry, skilled Rahman, besting Toney on Saturday night.

“I can tell by looking in Rahman’s eyes, the guy knows this is his last chance,” Arum said when I cornered him for a minute to ask him why he’s putting so many eggs in the basket marked ‘Rahman.’ “He’s ready to go. The next three years will be Rahman years.”

Later, Arum crawled out farther on the limb, saying that Rahman, age 32, will be spoken of in the same vein as other heavyweights who fought for Top Rank, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

Quite literally, Arum is betting on it. Because the fight will be available on “HBO Free,” not HBO pay-per-view, on Saturday at 10 PM Eastern Time.

Maybe around four million people will be tuning in, but none of them will be ponying up $44.95 for the privilege. Arum thinks that Rahman will prevail, setting up even more lucrative fights down the road. He’s taking the long view here; that’s good for the sport, good for the average fan who is – quite rightly, I’d argue – sick and tired of shelling out $400 bucks a year for crappy PPV cards with a crappy headline bout and beyond-crappy undercards. Good for Arum, who’s 74 and would be forgiven if he were in a “right here, right now” mindset. And good for the HBO suits who are talking sense to the promoters and managers who have been milking the masses for too many years now. Take your bows, gentlemen, and please keep it up.

Me, I’m not feeling like Arum’s vision of a best-case Rahman will pan out. All due respect, I’ve heard Rahman talk about his high level of motivation too many times, and then seen him hand in too many stinkeroo performances, to buy in this time.

Too often, Rahman fights like it’s a job, and he’s just waiting till the shift his up, so he can grab his check and head to the pub. Toney, in contrast, he digs the action. He’s in full flow when he’s in the ring. It’s his comfort zone.

“In the ring, I’m in my calm place,” Toney said. “I like to be perfect. I like to fight. I like to inflict pain. You see their face after the fight, it’s all distorted. On Saturday, it’ll be the best against Average Joe.”

Rahman, on the other, to his credit, readily admits that he’s laced on the gloves while his head wasn’t screwed on straight. “I come in and analyze a match and if I know I can beat him, if I don’t care one hundred percent it doesn’t work for me,” he said. “I have to be one hundred percent for everybody.”

One writer asked Rahman if he was overconfident that he would beat Toney on Saturday. “I’ve covered every base,” he said. “I have never covered every base. I know what I can do for twelve hard rounds. I can go twelve hard rounds it’s going to be hard for anybody.” This time, he said, his head was on straight as can be. “I’m not overconfident, I’m very, very confident.”

Both fighters, incidentally, predicted a KO win. Rahman said if Toney follows his typical style gameplan, he’ll regret it. “He’ll be a bloody mess if he stands in front of me,” Rahman said.

Toney’s weight and body image came up time and again at the Copa. Rahman said his piece when a writer asked why he thought a body attack would pay healthy dividends. “Have you seen his body?” he asked the questioner while affixing a death-stare. “Have you seen his body and you’re still asking me that question? I can’t believe you. Look at him.”

Dan Goossen isn’t swayed by Toney’s physique. On the dais, he talked about how his relationship with Toney means more than any in his years in the biz, more so even than the Brothers Ruelas. “The man is personable, charismatic and fun loving,” Goossen said. “But he’s one bad mother inside the ring.”

Noted. Agreed. My call: Toney UD12.

If you want to see Toney/Rahman live at Boardwalk Hall in AC, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420. A seat runs from $50 up to $500.


***Didn’t we all learn something from the Calzaghe/Lacy outcome? Pay less attention to physique, more to skills. Don’t judge the book, people…

***In case you were wondering, Calzaghe’s drubbing of Lacy didn’t impact Top Rank at all in regards to the Cotto/Paulie Malignaggi June 10 MSG match. Matchmaker Bruce Trampler didn’t watch the Calzaghe clinic, for starters. “I was in Puerto Rico, so I didn’t see it,” Trampler said. “And it wouldn’t influence me even if I did. Calzaghe’s a lefty, so that’s got nothing to do with Cotto. And Cotto’s much more versatile than Lacy, more complete. I don’t see any correlation.” The slick boxing, less powerful Malignaggi, Trampler allows, will be helped by fighting on his home turf.

***Oleg Maskaev was at the Copa, perhaps giving a hint to a future matchup. He’s rated No. 1 by the WBC…For the record, Rahman is renting the WBC belt currently.

***After Saturday, we have less than a month to count down to Mayweather/Judah. Do we all agree that the odds are real, real good on a press conference melee? I think we should have an all posse vs. posse undercard on that one…

***Then Byrd/Klitschko is tops on my radar. I’m leaning toward the Uke in that one, my thinking being that Byrd won’t bother Wladdy’s hymen-thin chin. See, Frank Warren and Co., I like that phrase so much I’ve used it again. And I’m certain I won’t hear from Manny or Wlad himself, up in arms, because they actually understand what I do for a living, that I’m paid to entertain, and besides, keeping track of what wiseguy writers say about you is time consuming and energy sapping, if you have a thin skin.

***And then June, one of the best months in recent or ancient boxing history…I’m leaning towards Castillo, Tarver, Malignaggi and Wright, by a hair.