Boxing


Klitschko v Peter: Wlad to Derail the Peter Hype Machine

08.08.05 - By Peter Cameron: Until the evening of the 7th March 2003, the night of the Sanders fight, Wladimir Klitschko was considered by many as the next great heavyweight champion, the man who would take over from Lennox Lewis when the mighty Brit finally retired. Klitschko had won Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996, the perfect end to an awesome amateur record of 134 wins in 140 fights. Going into the Sanders fight he had built up an impressive professional record, with 40 wins, 36 by knockout, and one defeat.. He was a huge favorite to comfortably dispatch of the aging Sanders, and rumors were already beginning to emerge of a mega-fight with Lewis later in the year. Two brutal rounds of boxing later and Klitschko's dream seemed shattered forever. A humiliating knockout at the hands of retiring journeyman immediately wiped poor Wladimir off the heavyweight radar.

Brother Vitali's stunning, high-octane performance against Lewis a few months later saw a shift in the balance of power between the two brothers. Suddenly Wladimir, always considered the brighter prospect of the two, now found himself back in the shadows as Vitali took the spotlight.

Just when Wlad Klitschko fans thought it couldn't get any worse, their man then suffered a further humiliating knockout at the hands of Lamon Brewster. For Brewster, the fight transformed him from supporting role to major player in the division. For Klitschko, it signalled his abrupt and unexpected end as credible contender.

Yet Klitschko has been thrown one final lifeline, in the form of Samuel "The Nigerian Nightmare" Peter. A fight with Peter, a boxer gathering momentum with each fight and already being heralded as the future of the division, is the best possible match for Klitschko. It could have taken years of lesser fights before Klitschko would have been given the opportunity to fight a real contender and eradicate the humiliating memory of those crushing knockouts. Instead, in just over a month's time, he has the chance to restart his career and thrust himself straight back into contention.

What adds to Klitschko's good fortune is that Samuel Peter is being hyped as a great boxer, with many fans convincing themselves he is already better than the current crop of champs. Peter is being marketed as the new Mike Tyson. He is being packaged and sold as the savior of heavyweight boxing. Yet this ridiculous hype is based purely on his admittedly impressive punching power and his young age (he turns 25 on 6th September). It feeds into people's impatient desire to see the emergence of the next great heavyweight. Fight fans are so desperate for a new hero to send the current bunch into retirement that they are allowing themselves to be taken in by the Peter hype machine.

Peter has an unbeaten record of 24 wins, with 21 coming by way of knockout. Indeed 17 of those were dispatched within three rounds. Peter's victims are often unconscious before they even hit the canvas. The problem is that punching power is probably Peter's only asset. He is not a great technician and, at a shade over six feet tall, is quite short for a heavyweight. His 77 inch reach is hardly imposing and is 4 inches shorter than Klitschko's jab. He is also very slow, a real plodder, and he tends to telegraph his big punches. Were it not for his exceptional power, it is difficult to believe Peter would be box office material.

A more detailed examination of Peter's unbeaten record tends to support the idea that he is being hyped far greater than his talent deserves. His 24 opponents had a staggering 140 losses between them, and none of them have been household names. In his 19th fight, Peter puffed his way to an unconvincing ten round decision against limited Charles Shufford.
Wladimir Klitschko fought Shufford back in 2001, flooring him three times to win by stoppage in six rounds. Shufford had only suffered one defeat at the time, but went on to lose another three after the Klitschko fight, before facing Peter in May 2004. Peter won relatively comfortably on points but his reportedly terrifying power certainly wasn't evident on that night!

The biggest shame about Klitschko's two knockout defeats is that they will most likely turn him into a far more cautious boxer. After his shock loss to Oliver McCall, Lennox Lewis became more defensive, unwilling to open up for fear of being caught. I suspect the same transformation will happen to Klitschko's style. Klitschko has always had a phenomenal
workrate, throwing and landing an incredible amount of punches each round. Yet in doing so he leaves himself open to the risk of counter-attack. Against Peter, Klitschko will probably work behind his jab much more, wary of the Nigerian's power. He will also want to conserve energy, desperate to avoid a repeat of the Brewster debacle when he completely ran out of steam in the fifth.

I believe Klitschko will easily beat Peter, either on points or by late stoppage. Klitschko has by far the greater skill and technical ability. Provided he doesn't expend too much energy in the early rounds, and avoids those thunderous blows Peter will be aiming at his chin, Klitschko should prove too strong for the Nigerian Nightmare. A victory would catapult Wlad straight back to the front of the queue. He would be entitled to a crack at IBF champ Chris Byrd, a man he has already easily beaten earlier in his career. By the summer of 2006, we may well see a situation where the two Ukrainian brothers are the premier fighters in the division, each holding a version of the world title. Although Wlad's legacy can never recover from those disastrous knockout losses, he has the talent to still become the dominant heavyweight of the next few years, alongside his brother Vitali. As for Peter, I fear the hype machine is about to be exposed in spectacular fashion.

One final thought. This match-up is great for heavyweight boxing and is already beginning to generate a buzz in the division which has been missing for some time. It is a proper, honest contest between two exciting stars who are risking everything. A loss for Klitschko could well mark the end of his career. It would surely be impossible for him to recover from a third defeat in just over two years. For Peter, a loss would dent his charge to the top and wreck the premise that he is the next great champion. With so much at stake, this could well prove to be the best heavyweight fight of the year and both camps deserve praise for taking the fight when other safer options existed.

Article posted on 08.08.2005



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