Saturday night on HBO we witnessed Dr. Wladimir Klitschko pass another test on his way to second run to a heavyweight title shot. This time “Economics” was in session and Wlad learned how to pace his punch output with designs on surviving the twelve round distance of a heavyweight fight.
Previous Klitschko collapses were why many – myself included – felt that hardnosed and harder hitting Samuel Peter would be a nightmare opponent for the Emanuel Steward project. The 6’6” giant had previously run out of gas against Ross Puritty and Lamon Brewster, and was caught, dropped and exposed by retiring South African Corrie Sanders. Recently he had his hands full with DaVarryl Williamson.
While I felt that the Nigerian Peter would be able to withstand Klitschko’s power, that his opponent would fade down the stretch, and that power-punching Peter would eventually drop and stop the younger of the towering Klitschko brothers, I was only partially right, which is a flattering way of saying I was completely wrong.
While it is true that Samuel Peter, now 24-1 with 21 knockouts, did get to Klitschko and test his chin, he failed to put himself in a position to earn a decision which left him like a lounge singer waiting for his next big hit. And it never came.
Even in victory some criticism has come upon the 45-3 (40 KOs) Klitschko. Some have said that he made the fight “ugly” because he constantly held Peter and tied him up in close. The fact that it was a good strategy and was an obvious part of the game plan put together by Steward, and executed very well by Wladimir, seems to have been missed. Just because the masses wanted to see Klitschko get knocked out doesn’t mean he erred by not allowing it to happen. He won ugly on Saturday, but he won, and in the end that is all that matters to him and his team.
The early rounds Saturday told us all we would need to know about how the fight would go.
Just as 6’5” retired heavyweight royal Lennox Lewis had done before him in victories against the likes of 5’9” David Tua and 5’11” Mike Tyson, “Steelhammer” Klitschko kept his shorter, dangerous opponent at bay with a punishing jab followed by thunderous rights. While Peter was always in the fight because of his ability to end the night with a left or a right, Klitschko got up from the canvas three times and won nearly every round in which he was able to stay vertical.
In winning “ugly,” Klitschko proved he could go the route and did so by using his punches in an economical manner. Having learnt that “more” isn’t always “better,” Dr. Klitschko paced himself to last the distance and withstand any late charge that may have come. Samuel Peter proved what many suspected, that his body is built to last with tree trunk legs and a shock absorber neck. Klitschko punished the 25-year-old who now calls Las Vegas his home, but the “Nigerian Nightmare” just kept coming.
In winning the fight, Wlad proved that he has graduated his Economics class by demonstrating that he could throw meaningful punches when it counted, as opposed to just counting how many punches he could throw with less attention paid to where or if they landed.
It made for an interesting heavyweight fight, perhaps not the most exciting in recent memory, but one that had fans wondering who would crack first. Would Peter crumble under the measured jabs and heavy rights of his Ukrainian opponent, or would Klitschko fail to fight the perfect fight designed for the distance? While you can’t really say that Samuel Peter failed in his first major test, it is apparent he has work to do. He has the power to end the fight with one shot, was successful in knocking Klitschko down three times, and he did take some heavy, heavy shots and kept on firing. It was just a matter of his opponent fighting that much better on this night.
Whether or not this is the same Wladimir Klitschko who defeated elusive, slick boxing Chris Byrd remains to be seen. And the best part is we may get to see exactly that.
The Klitschko-Peter fight this past weekend was sanctioned and an eliminator for the IBF heavyweight title. Mr. Chris Byrd just happens to be the IBF champion right now (Byrd is set to defend his title against DaVarryl Williamson this weekend on Showtime). Should Byrd be successful, as is expected, a rematch with Wladimir could be most intriguing.
In October of 2000, Byrd was dropped in both the 9th and 11th rounds as Mad Wlad won a dominating decision. When the 120-106, 119-107 and 118-108 scores were read, Wladimir Klitschko was able to call himself “heavyweight champion.” If all goes according to plan, what once was thought to be impossible may now be considered probable.