Bio: Samuel Peter
09.08.07 - Those looking for the next Mike Tyson should keep their eyes on Samuel Peter. There is no hotter heavyweight prospect in the fight game today. When his boxing abilities catch up to his vaunted punching power, The Nigerian Nightmare may be unstoppable. At age 26, with a 76-percent knockout ratio, the time for him to win his first world title may be now..
Article posted on 10.08.2007
He grew up in a loving, religious family in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria with two brothers and a sister in a home with no running water. Little did young Samuel know he was honing his natural athletic ability-not to mention a 19" neck-when he hauled huge jugs of water on his head from the nearest well located miles away from his home.
Like many boys growing up in Nigeria, young Samuel grew up playing soccer until a foot injury sidelined that pursuit. At 16, he became interested in boxing after a fateful visit to his school by the country's national team.
"I watched them and I said, 'I can do that,'" Peter said. "I went to go and train with them to see what was going on. When I went the coach told me, 'OK, come on.' He put me in with a guy who had been boxing for about six months before me and I just knock him out."
Peter trained with the Nigerian national team and participated in the 2000 Olympics where he made it to the quarterfinals before losing to future Italian champion Paolo Vidoz. This brought Peter to the attention of many prospective managers and promoters in professional boxing, most notably Ivaylo Gotzev.
Even though Peter had only participated in 20 amateur matches, winning 18, Gotzev saw raw athletic ability he felt could be molded into a future champion.
"I knew Samuel lacked experience but I could see he had athletic abilities," Gotzev said. "I also noted the fear in his opponents' eyes after he hit them, which told me his punching power was very real."
"When I met him, he had no interest in turning professional. He was just a good-natured guy that liked athletic competition. I explained to him that I felt his potential in boxing was unlimited and could be a profession for him. Others couldn't see through his unpolished skills but I did."
Gotzev soon had 19-year-old Peter training in Lennox Lewis's gym in London. Gotzev noted when Peter would sprint to the finish line at the end of a typical training jog, he would leave the others behind as though they were standing still. Gotzev was so curious, he later timed him in the 100-meter dash.
"I was blown away when he ran 100 meters in less than 11 seconds," Gotzev said. "I instantly realized how athletically gifted Samuel is. He could have competed in track and field on the world stage. Had he been born in America, I'm sure he could have been wildly successful in the team sports played here."
Peter won his first professional fight with a first-round knockout in 2001 at age 20. Going into his fifth fight, Gotzev brought in trainer Andy "Pops" Anderson, who was training Calvin Brock at Johnny Tocco's Gym in Las Vegas at the time.
Gotzev had created enough interest in his young prospect that highly respected promoter Dino Duva agreed to sign Peter just prior to his seventh fight.
"When I started working with Sam beginning in November 2001, he only had three pro fights," Duva said. "There wasn't much of a buzz coming out of the Sidney Olympics. The word was that he had good power but was raw. What I saw was amazing hand speed, power and determination when Ivaylo brought him to the states."
If it was professional experience he needed, Peter certainly wasn't getting a lot of it during his first 18 bouts. He won them all by knockout, and, incredibly, he had taken care of all his business in just 41 rounds.
Word of Peter's punching power was making the rounds as evidenced by the fact in his next two matches-with Charles Shufford on May 17, 2004, and Jovo Pudar on Aug. 5, 2004-boxers began to stay away from his blows, seemingly happy to lose lopsided 10-round unanimous decisions to the young Nigerian.
Now just 24, Peter won the vacant North American Boxing Federation continental heavyweight title by defeating veteran Jeremy Williams (41-4-1) by scoring a stunning knockout just 27 seconds into round two in Las Vegas on Dec. 4, 2004. His devastating left hook left Williams out cold.
Peter added the United States Boxing Association national belt by defeating Yanqui Diaz (13-1) by technical knockout in round five. Peter scored five knockdowns in this destruction, which took place in Miami on Jan. 22, 2005.
After scoring a third-round technical knockout over Gilbert Martinez in Las Vegas on April 29, 2005, and disposing of Taurus Sykes by knockout in round two on July 2, 2005, Peter took on the toughest challenge of his career.
Former World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko had rebounded from a knockout loss in 2004 at the hands of the notoriously tough "Relentless" Lamon Brewster by notching wins over DaVarryl "Touch of Sleep" Williamson and Eliseo Castillo. Klitschko now had to get by the still-undefeated Peter to win another world title shot in an International Boxing Federation and WBO eliminator.
The two met in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 24, 2005. Klitschko was, like many before him, wary of Peter's power. The giant Ukrainian was content to out-box Peter through the first four rounds of the contest.
Peter rallied in the fifth round; stunning Klitschko by scoring two knockdowns, but the 25-year-old knockout artist lacked the ring savvy to finish his foe. The veteran Klitschko not only survived the round but returned to boxing and winning rounds.
Peter's vaunted punching power revealed itself again in round 10, when he sent Klitschko back to the mat but was unable to finish him.
After the full 12 rounds, it went to the scorecards for a decision. Peter almost scored an upset but fell short by identical scores of 114-111 favoring Klitschko. Suffering your first loss is never easy, but Peter had the consolation of knowing he had floored his opponent three times while he has never been knocked down in his career.
Peter rebounded with a unanimous-decision win over Robert Hawkins at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Fla., on Dec. 15, 2005, and a first-round knockout over Julius Long at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., on April 28.
Peter had earned his way into another world heavyweight elimination bout, this time to determine the No. 1 position for the World Boxing Council against one of the craftiest pugilists in history, James "Lights Out" Toney.
They squared off in a classic match-up between boxer and puncher at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 2, 2006. From the outset, it was obvious that Peter's boxing skills had improved. Where others had failed the Old School boxing test that Toney always gives, Peter earned passing grades.
Peter also came into the fight in better condition. Toney gave him the tough looks, the rolling-shoulder defense and cat-quick precision punching from all angles that are his trademarks after a life spent in the ring.
Through it all, Peter gave more than he took, often wobbling the notably durable Toney with his powder blue and white gloves that matched his trunks. In a testament to how far he has come, Peter won the decision with two judges scoring it for him 116-111 and the final judge favoring Toney 115-112.
Toney immediately appealed the decision and the WBC Board of Governors voted 21 to 10 on Sept. 26 in favor of an immediate re-match. In their ruling, the WBC cited divided opinions among the media and fans, and the fact that it was a good fight the first time.
Their second meeting took place four months later on Jan. 6 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a South Florida hotspot that helped to attract celebrity attendees like Shaquille O'Neal, Hulk Hogan, Fat Joe and Anna Nicole Smith-who made one of her last public appearances prior to her death by drug overdose on Feb. 8.
For the first time in his career, Peter took the positive step of secluding himself in a South Florida training camp. Each day when he came to have his hands wrapped prior to training, he watched a continuous loop of his first fight with Toney over and over. What better way to learn Old School boxing techniques than watching the master James Toney?
The dedicated training regimen and studies paid off for the Nigerian knockout artist. He came to the scales at 249 pounds, eight pounds lighter than in the first fight. It was obvious a great deal of his fat had been converted into heavier muscle. He was sculpted. For his part, Toney came in one pound heavier after a much-publicized nutritional diet of what Toney called "green drinks" and training with Billy Blanks of Tae Bo video fame.
From the outset, it was apparent that Peter's footwork and stamina had improved greatly. He was simply much lighter on his feet. It was also clear that Peter wanted to show all of his newfound boxing skills.
He started fast, landing heavy jabs in the opening round. Then he rocked Toney with an overhand left, but his follow-up shot clubbed Toney behind the head, and referee Jorge Alonso warned him for the illegal blow.
Peter came out fast again in the second and knocked Toney down with a left jab to the chin five seconds into the round. It was the first time Toney-who is known for his granite chin-had been down since his 1994 super middleweight title loss to Roy Jones Jr.
Peter continued to pound on Toney during the round, bulling him to the ropes and unloading a series of rights and lefts. When Toney finally was able to land a hard right hand in the third round, Peter didn't flinch. Instead, he marched forward and threw back.
By the fifth round, Toney's left eye was swelling. He was standing flat-footed and taking lots of punches. He was tired, too, fighting with his mouth hanging open. The defensive wizardry that made Toney so effective was nowhere to be seen. All the while, Peter slugged away, looking like it was only a matter of time until Peter scored a knockout.
It was more of the same in the seventh and eighth with Peter landing a few big shots and the 38-year-old Toney throwing one punch at a time and breathing heavily, never able to mount a serious offensive challenge or damage.
There were no questions when the scorecards were read. One judge scored it 119-108 while the two others had it 118-110, all for Peter.
Peter was humble in victory. When asked if he was the best, his answer was refreshing.
"I'm not the best yet," he said. "The champions have the belts, so I have to give them credit first. But I will be the best. You saw what I did tonight. I taunted him [Toney]. I gave him the Muhammad Ali shuffle, with a little Floyd Mayweather, too.
"This was my best fight. I fight the best. The South Florida camp Don King made me do was great. He didn't let me stay in Las Vegas. I had a great training camp. I even missed Christmas. I ran on the beach for the first time and I loved it. I had a great team.
"It will be sweet to be the very first heavyweight world champion from Africa."
Duva points out that he believes the best is yet to come from Peter.
"Sam has made tremendous progress over the last few years. He has developed boxing skills to go along with his power, great chin and heart of a champion. The scary thing is that Sam hasn't even come close to reaching his potential. I think Sam Peter is going to rule the division. The best is still to come."
When not in the ring, Peter often wears the colorful and traditional clothing of his native Nigeria. His favorite food is also from his continent: fufu. It is an African staple formed with a starchy foundation that is eaten all over sub-Saharan Africa. Fufu is usually prepared in a process that is pounded, boiled or stirred until it is a very thick, sticky mass-much thicker than mashed potatoes, which is its nearest American counterpart.
Peter and his wife Enobong married in 2002. They have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-and-a-half-year-old son.
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