He answers the door naked to the waist. His chest has just the right amount of hair and loads of muscle. He is in pretty great shape, especially for a 36-year-old psychologist -- a professional who makes his living sitting, listening to people talk.

He's happily married, three kids, so he's not trying to bag a babe. It's better than that. Brian Raditz, BS, MS, PhD, EdD, is making his professional boxing debut tonight at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Rockville. Four rounds against someone named Lester Richardson, 24.

For a purse of $250.

But of course this isn't about money. It's about something Raditz has always wanted to do -- ever since he watched the Friday night fights as a kid with his grandfather in Northeast Philadelphia. Sylvester Stallone's not the only one. Boxing is a dream in Philadelphia -- home of Joe Frazier, Joey Giardello and many, many more. Kids in Washington want to be president. Kids in L.A. want to be movie stars. Kids in Philly -- boy kids, leastways -- dream of the ring.

Raditz excuses himself for not being fully dressed and pulls on a blue crew neck. His hair is neat and he is painfully cleanshaven. His skin has that healthy glow that athletes have when they've been out running. He's 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, a lean super-middleweight. The only apparent marring on him is a scar on his left eyebrow. He got cracked with a bat when he was reckless and 3.

"I've never been injured bad playing ball," he says of his short-lived pro football career. "Off the field, I'm very dangerous to myself. Put me in the ring and I'm safe."

We'll see.

This is not your ordinary boxing story, because Brian Raditz is not your ordinary boxer. Raditz works five days a week as a clinical psychoanalyst in Bensalem, Pa., getting $100 per hour to counsel the depressed and anxious and sufferers of chronic pain; then, late at night, all alone, he lets himself into a gym that trusts him with a key, switches on the lights and punishes the heavy bags for hours.

This is relatively new, but Raditz has been drowning himself in the sport of boxing for years, on the other side of the ropes. He's managed fighters, and done a remarkably good job at it, considering it's a sideline. He currently is managing "Slam Bam" Tracy Spann, the No. 1 IBF lightweight contender.

"We're often going over fight films, looking for different strategies and ways of improving Tracy," says Raditz. "In doing that, I've learned a lot. I've learned how to work the body, put different combinations together. I've learned how not to be just a one-dimensional fighter -- at least in thought. We'll see if I can execute it."

He's also learned the intimidation power of a punchy nickname.

His is: Brian "Messin' With Your Mind" Raditz.

In boxing, as in all sports, success is not just based on pure strength. It's a mind game. Strategy. Pacing. Timing. Focusing on your strengths and your opponents' weaknesses. This is where Raditz-the-Psychologist steps in.

"When patients come to me," he says, "and they say they have problems, one of the things I do is try to find the weak areas, dissect them and have the patients help themselves." He says he first helps them to address their anxieties, then to reach deep and find their strengths -- "what they can capitalize on."

Same for boxing. "I like to analyze it, break it down. For me, boxing is more of a mental approach. Physically, I'm not like I used to be, when I was playing ball. So I try to capitalize on other areas."

Capitalize on your strengths. Like opening the door shirtless for a pre-fight interview. Don't project the image of a middle-aged suburban doctor. Psyche out the opponent. Psyche up yourself.

"I don't think I've ever been afraid of getting hurt in anything I've done," he says. "I may have questions, like, 'Am I really in shape?' or 'Can I hit hard enough to hurt somebody?' I'm anxious about that, but not really worried about getting hurt."

Raditz speaks in boxing cliche, up to a point. "I don't go in there," he says, "with the idea that I want to beat someone to a pulp. I go in there to really exercise what I have learned to do and see what happens with it. I don't want to hurt my opponent. I'm not going in there with the idea that I want to kill this guy. I'm going to go in there to fight hard."

So far, so predictable. Then, he says of his fight tonight:

"I'll try to hypnotize my opponent."

He does not appear to be speaking metaphorically.

Psychologist Raditz has been called in to consult on spinal surgeries; he has developed a method of putting patients to rest without anesthetizing them. He uses "deep relaxation" techniques.

"I relax or hypnotize them, so they have more awareness of what's going on during the procedure. It's worked really well."

Does he really think the evil eye can work in the ring?

He shrugs and smiles and clams up.

Just a little pre-fight sparring.

For tonight's fight, Brian Raditz has already spent the winner's purse on tickets for his cousins and uncles. His wife may or may not come, because she's nervous. His mom and dad won't be there, because they don't know about it.

He is asked: What would you say to a 36-year-old patient who is to have his first professional fight but hasn't told his parents?

A big laugh. "I'd say, 'You're not stupid.' ...

"You know, people ask me, 'You're a doctor. Why do you want to box?' I'm not making a career out of this. I just wanted to have one or two fights. If I were to make a career out of it, I think I'd really be fooling myself."

As a teenager, Raditz used to hang out at the neighborhood gym, work out, maybe spar a few rounds. But his parents steered him into other sports: baseball, basketball, football. He became a star cornerback at Glassboro State College in New Jersey.

In 1975, he was signed as a free agent by the Redskins under head coach George Allen. The Redskins' defensive coach hooked Raditz up with a World Football League contract with the Philadelphia Bell. During the preseason, he was in a car accident and dislocated his hip. End of football. Time to work on the mind.

He studied psychology as an undergrad at Glassboro, went to Hahnemann University in Philadelphia for postgraduate work, and Memphis State for his doctorate.

In 1976, he was offered simultaneously a new chance with the Redskins and an internship through the New Jersey human services department. He turned down the football option and went with the internship. His first placement was the state prison in Trenton.

"I told them, 'I gave up football to play it safe,' " he says, laughing, "and they said, 'We put you at Trenton state prison because you played football.'

"I didn't have any fear there," he says, "but maybe that wasn't even wise."

But he did learn something at Trenton that may be useful tonight:

"We had a saying in the prison. The strong take from the weak and the smart take from the strong."