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Klitschko – Peter, the year’s most important non-title bout

BY JE Grant ON September 08, 2005
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All the analysis and inside-boxing talk about the upcoming Wladimir Klitschko – Sam Peter fight will not do justice to the relative magnitude of this non-title fight.

In the last few decades, big name heavyweight fighters have only rarely faced each other without a title of some kind on the line. In fact, it seems that with the proliferation of the alphabets, their bizarre ratings committees, reluctant promoters, and fighters who seem to care more about belts than real championships, heavyweight bouts with two highly truly talented fighters is becoming a scarce commodity.

Klitschko and Peter are among the youngest of the division’s elite and each needs this fight not only to land a title shot, but also to erase substantial question marks and gain wide respect.

Klitschko, a former WBO belt holder and 1996 Olympic gold medallist, comes to this fight having lost a court fight to become the mandatory IBF challenger to Chris Byrd. The fact that a man he beat within the last year, DaVarryl Williamson, leapfrogged over him to gain the mandatory shot, did not persuade a judge that something was amiss. Only the judge and the IBF ratings committee missed the absurdity of it all.

Of course with his brother Vitali holding the WBC belt, and Don King controlling the other three semi-noticed alphabet organization belt holders, his only chance at a belt is to be gained through a mandatory match that his bout with Peter is supposed to accomplish for both the IBF and WBO.

In his last bout, in April, Klitschko easily dispatched the previously unbeaten Cuban defector Eliseo Castillo in four rounds. It was a stay-busy fight against an unranked fighter of questionable credentials.

Prior to his blowout loss to Corrie Sanders and subsequent stoppage at the hands of Lamon Brewster, Klitschko was on the path to stardom. He defeated notables Axel Schultz, Chris Byrd, Monte Barrett, Derrick Jefferson, Ray Mercer, Jameel McCline and Frans Botha. With each succeeding fight he was more polished and devastating, and his talent seemed to blossom.

He did not just win. He dominated. His wins were not close calls.

Of course that was then … today his ability to win the big fights is questioned from every sector of the game. He did score the meaningful win over Williamson, but even that fight ended on an odd note. Although clearly ahead in the bout when the bout was stopped due to a cut, he was shaky at the end. He captured the technical decision but failed to impress.

To be sure, the losses to Sanders and Brewster were of the devastating variety. He seemed drained of everything at the time both stoppages.

Despite some weird claims by Klitschko of possible shenanigans following the Brewster bout, it was clear to all that he was simply blown out just as he had been by Sanders.

Still, he stands tall with a solid record of 44-3 (40 KOs), and at age 29 he, along with Peter, is one of the rare ranked heavyweights under the age of 30. He’s fast, possesses the most accurate jab in the division, and can influence an opponent into submission with either hand.

And yet, there’s the question of the chin. In each of his fights from now until he hangs up the gloves, any pre-fight analysis will include a discussion of his ability to take the big hit.

Many in boxing believe that the Sanders and Brewster fights exposed an Achilles heal. Despite his vast talent, the theory goes, the bottom line is that if you can get to his jaw, Klitschko will crumble.

Of course facing Peter is the best test of that theory that fans could imagine.

Enter the young, unbeaten, power-hitting Sam Peter, 24-0 (21 KOs). He has captured all the regional trinket belts with wins over Jeremy Williams, Yanqui Diaz and Taurus Sykes. However, such names do not inspire heavy breathing.

What is different about the “Nigerian Nightmare’s” climb thus far is how he beats his opponents. He approaches his foes as if on a search-and-destroy mission. While appearing crude at times, when he lands the big shot, knees buckle and bodies crumple to the deck. Another big plus he brings into the fight is the confidence of a very young and undefeated fighter. At this point he believes he is unbeatable.

In the televised fight with Williams, Peter threw a devastating off-balance hook that sent Williams crashing to the canvas where he remained for several minutes.

Leading up to that bout, some, including Williams, wondered about Peter's ability. Could he take on an experienced and fit opponent? Was his vaunted power for real?

While he took a substantial stride forward in that bout, the questions will again emerge as he climbs the ladder.

His detractors, and there are some, question not only his menu of opponents to this point but also his relative skills. He’s not especially quick. He’s often off balance. He looked downright ordinary against journeyman Charles Shufford, a fighter who was able to tie-up Peter and did not allow his thunder punches to meet their mark.

Few question his power or his willingness to attack, however, and that provides the intrigue against Klitschko.

Peter, like Klitschko, is also a fighter on the outside looking in. Promoted by Duva Boxing, headed up by Dino Duva, Peter is also not in the current hold of Don King. Optional title defenses by any on the King-controlled titlists are simply not in the cards unless Peter agrees to sell his future to King.

Also like Klitschko, his only path to the title is through a mandatory defense by one of the title holders – something that would prevent King from securing a long-term hold on Peter should he win.

There is little question that for fight fans the prospect of Klitschko facing Peter is juicier than watching the Ukrainian giant drub Byrd in a replay of their first meeting. Perhaps the New Jersey judge who denied his rightful rating had some ESP working and knew that we would get a special fight. Whatever the case, I’ll take it.

The Wladimir Klitschko – Sam Peter fight is set for September 24th at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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