Every so often, an undefeated heavyweight comes along and catches the eye of many in the media. For 2005, the flavor of the month seems to be Samuel Peter. The 24-year-old Nigerian boasts a record of 23-0 (20 KOs), and is riding a three-fight knockout streak, started by his highlight reel second-round KO of Jeremy Williams last December on SHOWTIME.
Many considered it to be the knockout of the year. Taurus Sykes considered it to be the start of a media creation, one he intends on discrediting this weekend.
“I must’ve watched a different fight than everyone else that night,” says Sykes (23-1-1, 6 KOs), who prepares for his showdown with Peter this Saturday night on SHOWTIME (9:00 PM/ET, live from Reno, NV; tape-delayed on the West Coast). “I saw Peter knock out Jeremy Williams. So what? Jeremy Williams is a cruiserweight; his chin is very weak. Unlike Jeremy, I can take a punch. I am boxing, not like these other cats that are just looking to make a quick buck. (Peter) is going to be in for a fight.”
If so, it will be the first time in a long time Peter receives one. His past few opponents have offered little in terms of competitive action. Sykes should change that, as he is no stranger to going some rounds. Sykes is slick and boasts the skills to pay the bills. But six knockouts in twenty-five fights suggest a long night of boxing if the Brooklynite is to emerge victorious.
Sykes insists he is ready. What he questions is whether or not Peter can keep up as the fight goes on.
“I don’t question myself,” insists Sykes. “I’ve gone enough rounds to know what it takes to pull out a big win. But Peter will be forced to answer a lot of questions this weekend. I’m not going to lay down like his past few opponents have. He has a real fighter in front of him, not a part-time fighter. He is going to be fighting someone who lives this and breathes this. He’s been fighting guys who have second jobs and don’t care about the sport. For me, boxing is all I do.”
When you grow up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, it’s easy to fall in love with boxing. Former undisputed heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe both hail from that same corner of the world, as well as current undisputed welterweight kingpin Zab “Super” Judah.
Sykes was somewhat of a late bloomer, having first laced them up at age seventeen, but he picked it up quickly and capped his five-plus year amateur career by taking the 1998 NYS Golden Gloves as a super-heavyweight. With the Olympic Trials another sixteen months away, Sykes decided the time had come to enter the pay ranks.
To date, his career hasn’t exactly drawn comparisons to that of Tyson or Bowe. The lack of punching power has denied Sykes the mainstream appeal often found with any talent offering the slightest semblance of talent. His resume is respectable, but a loss to Owen Beck early in his career and a 2003 draw with Imamu Mayfield standout as much as any of his wins.
Sykes knows he needs a notable win to burst upon the primetime scene. That was why he campaigned for a Peter fight. Stealing a book out of Antonio Tarver’s playbook, Sykes literally talked his way into this fight. Earlier in the year, Sykes and Peter jabbed back and forth at one another long before the bout was signed. Sykes took it to a personal level by insisting he would have “jabbed him all the way back to Africa. Before the fight was over, he would have whispered in my ear ‘My name is Toby.’”
Peter took the bait. After dusting off no-hoper Gilberto Martinez this past April on ESPN2, he agreed to a summer showdown. Sykes couldn’t have been more pleased.
“This win will help put me on the map,” says Sykes. “That’s the only reason why I wanted this fight. They keep calling him the next up-and-coming prospect. I thought that was me? Honestly, I don’t think anything of him. But they keep calling him the next big thing, so now I got to take that from him, show everyone that I am the one.”
Sykes offered a glimpse in his performance, a dominant points win over Friday Ahunaya this past March on ESPN2. Ahunaya was no match for Sykes in the boxing department, and that’s all it took for Taurus to pull out the win. On display was his jab, which dominated the fight. Sykes knew he didn’t need much else, and fought accordingly. Hardly the way to make the networks beg for more, one would think, but SHOWTIME thought enough to bring him on for this Fourth of July weekend. Peter paid him enough mind to sign for the fight. Somewhere between his jab in the ring, and jabs outside the ropes, Sykes is doing something right.
“People can say what they want, but the truth is that they want to see me fight because I bring something different to this division,” says Sykes. “The division is wide open, and there’s nobody to get excited over. Belts are going from hand to hand like ladies are going from man to man. We need to bring all of the belts to one person. The other so-called champs keep talking about doing it, but how long do we wait for them to stop talking? I need to get there so I can speak with actions. The Peter fight will propel me to that level.”
Action speaks louder than words, and Sykes has had plenty to say heading in to the fight. If he has more to say with his actions, then we can expect some fireworks in Reno on this Independence Day weekend.