Boxing


Live At The Peter-Klitschko Press Conference

21.09.05 - By Scoop Malinowski: Round one began yesterday between Wladimir Klitschko and Samuel Peter of this Saturday's fascinating high-stakes heavyweight world title Elimination bout. To the uneducated eye, both appeared very relaxed and very confident. And of course both said all the right things.

However there were some highly respected veteran boxing observers in attendance, who are experienced enough to see through the carefully constructed postures and facades of the top fighters in these situations. Klitschko arrived to the press conference at Planet Hollywood in midtown Manhattan exactly on time. He looked comfortable and relaxed, wearing a red sweatsuit. He looked very good and in excellent physical condition.

LeRoy Neiman, the artist, who has closely followed the sport since the 1940's liked what he saw in the Ukrainian. "He's not about to lose," opined the artist who has never been particularly impressed by Klitschko in the past. "He's got the look of a man who's not considering losing in any way. It's more than confident. It's not temporary confident, it's something that he lives with all the time. He's got great social conscious. He's very socially prepared, confident socially. When he gets in there, look at him, he looks more like a fighter every day."

When I suggested that perhaps Klitschko has already made the decision in his own mind - to win this fight no matter what, Neiman agreed. "He decided. He's decided the fight."

Former top ten heavyweight Renaldo Snipes, whose powerful right hand had Larry Holmes in dire straits in their 1981 world title fight in Pittsburgh, by contrast, detected a little bit of tension in Klitschko. "From what I've seen, he's a little nervous now. He's a little bit too nervous for this particular fight. He's already been to the parade before. The moment of truth is coming out. The true nerves and jitters are coming out. I gotta see the other guy when he walks in."

At that point in the press conference, Peter had still not arrived and so Team Klitschko's Bernd Bonte decided they weren't going to wait and proceeded to start speaking at the podium. Of course, all hell nearly broke loose as co-promoter Dino Duva did not approve of this power play. But Bonte would not be denied and Klitschko made his statement and then began to do one-on-ones. They would not wait.

It was a stunning turn of events. These things happen sometimes at press conferences. It's part of the mental warfare. I'm the one in charge, you will wait for me. No I'm the boss, I don't wait for nobody. I recall Lennox Lewis at the Rahman rematch press conference - Lewis made his statement on the podium, then quickly departed, without even bothering to listen to Rahman. New champ Rahman and the rest of us were all left in the dust. But the subliminal message was clear. Lennox was the boss, and he certainly was not going to sit around and wait and listen, like a subordinate, to a man he perceived as just a lucky, one hit wonder.

Klitschko was almost done speaking with the media when Peter finally arrived about 40 minutes late. He looked stoic and serious but not exactly eager to be there. Peter, dressed in a native Nigerian robe type outfit, slowly walked through the crowd and up to the makeshift stage. He walked by Klitschko who extended his hand to shake. Peter politely shook the hand. Shortly thereafter, the two posed for photographers and then locked in on the staredown. They look into each other's eyes. These moments are always riveting. Klitschko had about four inches on Peter. Klitschko looked very confident with that European reservedness - but also there was a slight hint of wicked disdain in his demeanor. As if he could not wait to explode his steel hammers onto Peter, as if he was absolutely ready and eager to regain his stature in the boxing world. Peter looked confident also. He appeared tense and intense, sporting a very impressive scowl. But there was something about the two standing there together that suggested to me that Klitschko was the predator, the hunter in this fight. I can't quite put a finger on it, but Peter almost seems to be beginning to realize what he is up against. That he will be the prey to the more experienced and physically superior warrior.

They stared into each other's eyes for about 30 seconds with the room in near silence, except for the sounds of the cameras and a few random hecklers and cheerleaders. Peter looked away first, and looked around to all the photographers. As did Klitschko. But then Klitschko wanted to look at or study his adversary some more. Peter sensed this and reconnected the eye contact. It was at that point that Klitschko quietly said something to Peter, straight to his face. Peter did not respond. It was unclear if he ignored the words of Klitschko, or that he was maybe too frozen or surprised to say anything.

(Later on I asked Peter what Klitschko had said to him during the staredown, Peter recounted, "We were waiting for you." Then Peter added, "That's right.")

Shortly after that, Klitschko left the press conference with his team. And Peter was left behind. Peter spoke with the media and almost appeared more comfortable with Klitschko out of the room. Peter revealed he hadn't studied Klitschko on video and that "I know he's going to be knocked out on Saturday night."

Peter's trainer Pops Anderson said, "Samuel is very focused. Styles makes fights and (Klitschko's) style is perfect for Samuel...You haven't seen Samuel do everything he can do. He'll take it right to him."

Ibn Cason, also a member of Team Peter denied that his man is just a one-dimensional knockout machine with mediocre technical savvy, "If someone out there makes Samuel do something else (other than early KO wins), you will see a different Samuel Peter. Im telling you the man is a complete fighter...I say it goes two. But if it goes more than four, you're gonna see a complete Samuel Peter. A complete boxer. Samuel Peter is a complete boxer. You will hail him as the truth - as the up and coming heir apparent to the heavyweight division. I guarantee you. IF it goes more than four. But it's not gonna go more than two."

I asked Neiman for his comments on seeing Peter live and in person for the first time. "He has a Joe Frazier quality. He seems a little bit like Joe Frazier. But he looks a little bit overwhelmed by the, he's catering to the scene a little bit. Not so good. He's very comfortable, he's very confident, he's very tough. But you can't...when you go against a guy who's clever, I mean a guy that's got some moves, it's a different thing. It's not a matter of him getting hit. It's a matter of how many punches he misses to get the good one in. And what the other guy's gonna be doing in the meantime...He may be a little too short. Klitschko may be a little too sophisticated for him."

I just had to get Renaldo Snipes final comments on what he saw in Peter's behavior. Snipes would know, he was one of the best heavyweights in the world for a decade, who fought many of the best in his time. I asked Mr. Snipes if Peter seemed a little tense? "Yeah, yeah. Quiet, quiet storm. I think his inside is eating him up. I saw it. I'm back with Klitschko. At first I thought Klitschko was, I could tell he was jittery and stuff. But then Peter is more afraid than he is."

When asked if he was reasonably certain of those observations, Snipes replied, "Well, it's one thing...this can lie to you. Your mouth can lie to you. I saw Klitschko's body language, he was a little jittery. You're coming down to the true nerves. Everything is coming down right now. So this guy here (Peter), to show up so calm and all that kind of stuff, he's trying to hide something. He's trying to hide his heart."

Final comments: I believe there is a chance this fight could resemble Trindad Mayorga. It seems to me Team Peter is too overconfident about knocking out Klitschko, as El Matador was with Tito. It seems they are not fully aware of what they're up against - a hungry and still confident man who is absolutely committed to redeeming his previous failures. It's almost as if they are banking on Klitschko to fall at the first sign of trouble. I sense they are underestimating Klitschko who is back on track now. After defeating Williamson and Castillo and frightening Chris Byrd away from multi-million dollar jackpots to much safer but much smaller six figure paydays, Klitschko is eagerly ready for action.

I believe Wladimir Klitschko is ready to prove to the world what Byrd, Don King, the IBF, DaVarryl Williamson and a few others already know. Samuel Peter is going to be a hard man to conquer though. That's part of why this battle is so intriguing.

Article posted on 22.09.2005



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