Hasim Rahman believes WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko did everything he could to avoid a title defense against him, possibly even faking a back injury.

Klitschko feels Rahman disrespected him by making such an accusation.

Neither pulled many punches yesterday at a news conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., to formally announce that the long-awaited 12-round bout between the two will be Nov. 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

The fight was first scheduled for April 30, but was pushed back twice because of injuries to Klitschko before the champion's camp announced April 20 he had undergone surgery to remove a small spur from his spine, sidelining him through the summer.

Before Rahman took the microphone, he left the stage briefly, came back wearing a chef's hat and holding a tray of food he said was for Klitschko.

"I just had some chicken Kiev prepared for him, because I am so happy he's not chicken anymore," Rahman said afterward. "We're finally getting in the ring. I'm glad he's all healed up. I just hope and pray he doesn't stub his toe or prick his finger before November 12th."

Promoter Bob Arum said the 34-year-old Klitschko will earn $7.8 million and Rahman, who turns 33 five days before the fight, will collect $4.2 million.

Klitschko, from Ukraine, is 35-2 with 34 knockouts. Rahman, from Baltimore, is 41-5-1 with 33 knockouts.

Klitschko maintained his poise when Rahman presented him with the plate of food, but it was obvious he was upset.

"You talk about me, I am chicken to fight you. That's not true," Klitschko said. "I bring you dessert on November 12th." . . .

Leavander Johnson remained in critical condition after undergoing emergency surgery for a brain injury suffered during a weekend bout. The 35-year-old lightweight was placed in a medically induced coma following surgery. He was in the intensive care unit at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Persinger said.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Maryland tight end Vernon Davis was named the ACC's offensive lineman of the week after catching five passes for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia. Davis is seventh in the country in receiving yards. . . .

Maryland's Oct. 1 game against Virginia will start at noon and be televised on WDCA-20, the ACC announced. Virginia Tech's Oct. 1 game at West Virginia will also start at noon and will be broadcast on ESPN. . . .

Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball was released from the hospital after being treated for viral meningitis. . . .

Michigan safety Ryan Mundy is expected to miss the rest of the season with an unspecified nerve injury, Coach Lloyd Carr said.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports

WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko, left, and Hasim Rahman traded recipes for each other's ruin at a news conference announcing their bout.