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Can Vitali Make It To Oct. 11 Injury-Free?

BY Michael Woods ON August 27, 2008
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Samuel Peter is slated to fight Vitali Klitschko on Oct. 11 in Berlin. I have a suggestion in naming the promotion: “The Tiff---With a Capital IF.”

Klitschko, the 37-year-old former WBC heavyweight champion, has not boxed for real since he beat up sad-sack Danny Williams in Dec. 2004. Since then, he pulled out of a fight with Hasim Rahman in April 2005, then injured his back, and then, when the fight with Rahman was reset to Nov. 2005, he suffered a knee injury which propelled him to hang up the gloves. But we all know that when the gloves are hanging up, as long as a man is still out-of-coffin, he usually feels a tug to put them back on. After failed mayoral bids in Kiev in March 2006 and May 2008—the “magic” of consultant Rudy Giuliani couldn’t help Vitali the second time-Klitschko is back for another go round.

The 6-7 hitter out of the Ukraine is back to regain the title he insists is still rightfully his, though it has been strapped around Sam Peter’s waist since Peter beat Jameel McCline for the WBC’s interim strap, before getting the real deal from oft injured Oleg Maskaev in March.

Forgive me if I choose not to hold my breath waiting for Vitali (35-2, 34 KOs) and the 27-year-old Nigerian Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) to actually get it on, because you’ll recall Vitali wanted to come back in January 2007 to fight Peter, but allowed Peter to fight Maskaev first. Good thing, because Vitali’s back acted up, and he had to have spinal surgery, scrapping his bout with Jameel McCline in Sept. 2007. He healed up, supposedly, and said in February that he’d be back. So far, his body has held up, and the principals involved in the Oct. 11 fight, which will run on Showtime (before the Antonio Tarver/Chad Dawson faceoff) insist that we will see Vitali in the ring against Peter, no ands, buts, or IFs.

Peter believes Vitali won’t pull out, and brashly predicted that he would be the first man to stop Vitali. “This fight won’t go past six rounds, trust me,” the Nigerian said. “I will not leave it to the judges in Berlin.”

Peter has grown in his trash-talking abilities in the last few years. “He hasn’t fought anyone like me,” he said. “It’s not gonna be a tough fight. He’s a bum.”

Others are less certain Vitali won’t break a body part between now and Oct. 11. “I’m skeptical whether Vitali can pull it off,” said Ivalyo Gotzev, Peter’s manager, who has been run ragged trying to cut through the sanctioning body silliness as this fight has been made and unmade countless times. “He pulled out on so many occasions. Hopefully, there will be no lame excuse, like his back, his elbow, his knee is hurt. This is the last train for him. If he leaves, he won’t be able to catch another one.”

The manager spoke at Gallagher’s steakhouse in NYC on Wednesday to pump up the bout, which is being headed up by Dino Duva, with Team Klitschko’s Tom Loeffler. “If it was up to me this fight wouldn’t happen,” Gotzev said. “Vitali should have had one or two fights to prove himself.

Klitschko didn’t seem to think so. “People are skeptical, and say Klitschko has been out more than three years,” he said. “Don’t worry. I don’t lose my skills in three years.”

Klitschko, who stood a full head taller than Peter in the staredown at Gallagher’s, also believes the fight will not go the distance. “The fight will end before twelve rounds,” he said. “I will give my best to be the winner, and take my title back, and write the history of boxing. There has never been two brothers as heavyweight champions.”

Peter’s trainer Stacy McKinley is also pretty certain Vitali will show up. “I think he will show up,” said the Ann Arbor, Michigan native, who worked with Gerald McClellan, Tony Tucker and Oba Carr, among others. McKinley says Peter will weigh about 245 pounds on Oct. 11, and that would be his lightest since he lost to little bother Wladimir (UD12, after knocking him down three times) in 2005. Peter has been training for the last five months in Nigeria, McKinley told TSS. And, the trainer said, Vitali will tumble in front of Peter, a vaunted puncher who’d gone three straight bouts without a stoppage until he finished Maskaev early. “He’s gonna knock Vitali out,” the trainer said. “He will walk straight through him. He’s a boxer-puncher-fighter, an Earnie Shavers type.”

Promoter Duva then shared with TSS his degree of certainty that Vitali will show up. “I can’t be 100% sure, but I’m 90% sure he will show up. This is his last shot.”

As with every big time promotion, Duva will take out an insurance policy to recoup funds if the card is cancelled. He hasn’t yet determined how much of a “Vitali premium” he’ll have to pay, but seemed pretty confident that even if Vitali isn’t 100%, he’ll man up and battle through injuries. “He’ll be there as long as he can get in the ring,” the promoter said.

SPEEDBAG Lou Duva spoke, and had the gathered laughing when he said, “(NY Daily News columnist) Bill Gallo and I took an hour and half getting up the stairs.” Peter reminds Duva of Rocky Marciano, the ultra-vet said, in that he’ll throw “six punches, miss five and hit you with the sixth, and you go down.” Duva likes Peter’s chances Oct. 11. “I guarantee that he will KO Klitschko.”

--Sign that the economy isn’t that strong. A “light brunch” was served, and because I showed up an hour after the set start time, 11 AM, there wasn’t a crumb to be found. Full disclosure: a presumably untouched pastry sat on a table, and so I looked left, looked right, and tore of a hunk to quiet my grumbling belly. Don’t tell anyone…

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