VAI SIKAHEMA WAS just getting warmed up, though not in the boxing ring. He barely even needed to do that before knocking out Jose Canseco, last week.

This time he was warming his vocal cords.

"He said he wanted a rematch," said Sikahema by phone as he drove to a speaking engagement this week. "I said it's fruitless, because it's not a matter of getting in shape. He could have been in shape and I would have knocked him out and they would have carried him out in better shape ... You can't get in shape for toughness ... it's something you have inside you. He's not going to get toughness in the gym. He's got to see the wizard and get a heart."

Boxing talk. You gotta love it.

"He posed absolutely no threat to me," Sikahema said. "I kept telling people it was an unfair fight. "

Mike Tyson couldn't have said it better.

Sikahema, the former BYU and Philadelphia Eagles return specialist, defeated Canseco last week in Atlantic City, flooring him twice in 97 seconds. The self-proclaimed "War at the Shore" lasted about as long as one of Sikahema's punt returns. The first knockdown came a half-minute into the bout, a left hook that left Canseco tangled in the ropes. Soon to follow was an overhand right, followed by several punches as Canseco crumpled.

"I ended up pushing him around. He just cowered," Sikahema said. "He's not a guy that's used to getting hit in the chin. He's like a schoolyard bully."

Never mess with a man who has 80 fights to his credit.

Even if you are 8 inches and 50 pounds larger.

"He never laid a glove on me," Sikahema said.

None of this was surprising to Sikahema, who says he's "spent a lifetime sizing people up." A sports anchor at NBC-10 in Philadelphia, he continued, "I told the promoter, 'You put me in the ring with Jose, I tell you it's gonna be a mismatch.' He thought it was just bravado. I said, 'I'm not kidding you. I would murder this guy' ... I said it would be unfair to put me in the ring with this guy."

They did and it was.

The impetus for the fight between 40-something former athletes was, naturally, money. But for different reasons. On Canseco's side, it was to stave off bankruptcy. The ex-ballplayer was looking for someone to oppose him in a celebrity bout. For Sikahema, it was a chance to donate earnings to the family of a Philadelphia police officer who was killed during a bank robbery.

Still, Sikahema's wife wasn't thrilled when he told her he wanted to fight one of baseball's infamous Bash Brothers.

"Like a lot of things in marriage, it needed time to sort of settle in," Sikahema said. "For two weeks we couldn't even talk about it. Then one night she said, 'Let's go to dinner' and I said slowly and deliberately exactly why I wanted to do this. She said, 'This isn't exactly what I signed up for when we got married; you're absolutely nuts. You're out of your mind.' My response was that standing under a punt waiting to get hit in the NFL isn't exactly sane."

In hindsight, it makes sense Sikahema would easily win. When he was a child, his father moved the family from Tonga to America, hoping to make his son an Olympic boxer. By age 14, Sikahema was an Arizona Golden Gloves champion who had qualified for the national tournament. Though he was eliminated early, that was no disgrace — the winner in his weight division was Sugar Ray Leonard.

Sikahema's boxing career cooled as his college football career took off.

About 1 1/2 years ago he began boxing again, merely to stay in shape.

"I'm perfectly comfortable in the ring," he said.

Thus, when Canseco's representatives started scouting for an opponent, a Philadelphia promoter knew just the guy. Sikahema prepared by studying boxers like Tyson and Evander Holyfield, who defeated opponents with much longer reaches. Then he trained under former world champ Larry Holmes.

Canseco never stood a chance. Sikahema connected on an overhand right at the start of the fight to set the tone.

"From that moment on," he said, "the fight was basically over."

His advice to Canseco is not to pursue a rematch, but instead find another celebrity who merely dabbles in the sport.

His suggestion: "Go fight Danny Bonaduce."


E-mail: rock@desnews.com

Sikahema's wife wasn't thrilled when he told her he wanted to fight one of baseball's infamous Bash Brothers.