Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Peter can thank his power and a forgiving sport for second shot at Klitschko


Given how abysmal were his outings against Vitali Klitschko and then Eddie Chambers, you could be forgiven for wondering how in the hell Sam Peter lucked into a shot at the world heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschko on Sept. 11 in Germany.

Naturally, some of it has to do with the byzantine way in which the sport’s so-called governing bodies rank fighters. Some of it has to do also with Teddy Atlas passing on a shot at Klitschko that Alexander Povetkin earned ostensibly with wins over the highly accomplished trio of Jason Estrada, Leo Nolan and Javier Mora.

You could make the argument too that Peter’s occasionally bone-breaking power and hyper-aggression — evidenced for the first time in a long while against poor Nagy Aguilera in an IBF “eliminator” last March — make him a highly marketable attraction.

There remains something intoxicating, now more than ever, about a big heavyweight who says to hell with it, charges in and blasts a guy to the floor.

It’s especially attractive when contrasted against Klitschko’s aversion to throwing power punches until well after his opponent begins showing signs of jab-induced rigor mortis.

Peter, who is unranked by THE RING, said during a recent conference call that he’s aware that he’s got plenty to atone for and — get this — promised to make good.

“I have a lot to prove. I have a chance to redeem myself from the 2005 fight. It is going to be a great fight. I am getting another chance to prove that I am the best heavyweight champion in all,” Peter said.

And as proof that his ability to intimidate others hasn’t waned, no one asked him what in the hell he was talking about.

This new Peter, who makes no more sense now that he is with Top Rank than he did when he was with Dino Duva, continued.

“The loss was a bad mistake,” he said. “This time I am going to prove that I can become a champion again. For sure, on Sept. 11 in Germany it is going to be a great fight. I don’t have much to say because I know that my gloves will speak for me in the ring.”

The history Peter and Klitschko share is important. When they met in September 2005, an apparently emotionally fragile Klitschko tumbled to the canvas every time one of Peter’s sweeping right hands came within a foot of landing.

You couldn’t blame him. It was only his third fight since Lamon Brewster’s chin exhausted and knocked him out in Las Vegas.

That Klitschko went down three times in all against Peter and still won a deserved decision tells you all you need to know about how it went every moment Little Brother wasn’t hyperventilating his way through a mandatory eight-count.

Nevertheless, images of a panic-stricken Klitschko looking up at Peter will sell the fight both in Germany, where it needs no selling, frankly, and in the U.S., where we all will get to watch it live on, ahem,

Peter said that this time, when he knocks Klitschko down, he will keep him down.

“This time around anyone I touch will not be standing up. I don’t think Wladimir will be able to stand me after four rounds.”

There are those who can’t stand Peter after more than four minutes, but let’s leave personalities out of this, shall we?

The fight remains relatively intriguing because of the perception that despite Klitschko’s improved technique and defense, his chin, should someone actually succeed in reaching it, will be shown to consist of something slightly less sturdy than a wet table napkin — and not one of those good, expensive ones you can’t find at Wal-Mart.

Klitschko, to his credit, has rendered the point moot through a title reign so compelling HBO has gotten out of the business of airing heavyweight title fights.

That’s some statement — for Klitschko and for the state of heavyweight prizefighters in America.

Still, that Peter is getting yet another big fight despite the misery that was his performance in other big fights is not something new in boxing, the stubborn certitude of old-timers notwithstanding.

Jersey Joe Walcott won the heavyweight title in his fourth attempt — and that was when there was only one heavyweight title one could win. Jack Sharkey lost his first title fight, albeit via suspicious foul.

Jimmy Braddock lost 22 fights before beating Max Baer. It took South African puncher Gerrie Coetzee three tries to win a portion of the heavyweight title in 1983.

Tim Witherspoon lost in his first world title fight, as did Greg Page, though admittedly neither performed as wretchedly as did Peter against Vitali Klitschko.

It took giant English stiff Frank Bruno four tries to win a title even when there were three versions to get, and Wladimir himself was stiffened by Ross Puritty, of all people, long before he transformed himself into the paragon of patient, snore-inducing precision he is today.

So don’t blame modern boxing — or Peter, for that matter — for the chance he has before him now. This is and always has been a very forgiving business.

Some random observations from last week:

So Texas gave Antonio Margarito a license. Deal with it. Cripes, I haven’t seen so many panties in a bunch since Ross cheated on Rachel (and it wasn’t really cheating; they were on a break). ÔǪ

Won’t it be hilarious if Margarito knocks Pacquiao into next week? ÔǪ

To all you misguided UFC yahoos celebrating Randy Couture’s win over James Toney: don’t get so cocky. Gary Shaw — who else? — has signed Kimbo Slice to a boxing contract. Even Shaw will have a hard time finding guys Slice can beat. His first 10 opponents, if he gets that far, will make the guys on Butterbean’s record look like Jack Dempsey. ÔǪ

Congratulations to Giovani Segura on his win over Ivan Calderon. He’s not pretty to watch but he gets the job done. ÔǪ

There is no truth to the rumor that the eye injury that prompted Mikkel Kessler to withdraw from the Super Six tourney occurred when someone showed him how much money Sven Ottke made fighting stiffs without ever leaving Europe and Kessler’s baby-blues literally exploded with regret. ÔǪ

Sure, Hank Lundy can fight a little, but what a drama queen. 

The bad news is not that Alexander Povetkin and Bruce Seldon engaged in an “unsanctioned” bout — who cares? — but that, according to Thomas Hauser, Seldon, who’s in great shape for a 70-year-old, actually won the first round. ÔǪ

Poor Kassim Ouma. You know things are near the end when Joey Gilbert thinks he can beat you. 

Reader comments at the end of my column last week included entries from guys unhappy about my stance on the governing bodies. They made clear their belief that the sanctioning bodies are actually good for boxing.

This made three things very clear: They’re doing wonderful things these days with brain-trauma patients; I must never again pay attention to reader comments; and quite often people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

Bill Dettloff, THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer, is the co-author, along with Joe Frazier, of “Box Like the Pros.” He is currently working on a biography of Ezzard Charles.

Bill can be contacted at [email protected]