The Education of Samuel Peter
09.01.07 - By Chris Acosta: Learning is a painful endeavor. Whenever our minds are forced to work outside their frame of reference, there is a reflexive tendency to resist. That's why so many people give up on learning new languages or musical instruments. If you're able to buckle down and see it through to the end however, the rewards take on an almost mystical value in terms of wisdom and experience.
Article posted on 10.01.2007
Samuel Peter (photo by Wray Edwards / ESB) is very much a work in progress. When he was coming up through the ranks, he was viewed as something of a poor man's Ike Ibeabuchi, the former heavyweight contender who also hailed from Nigeria. Like Ike, Peter was built like an S.U.V and hit like one. But unlike his countryman, Samuel lacked the finesse to go with his brute force. Fortunately, Peter also lacked the psychotic episodes that sent Ibeabuchi to prison on rape charges back in 1999..
His flaws were evident when he faced moderately talented boxers like Charles Shufford and Jovo Pudar. He didn't know how to cut off the ring, he was wider with his punches than is professionally acceptable and seemed either unable or unwilling, to punch in combination. Still though, his knockouts of Jeremy Williams and Taurus Sykes reminded us that one punch can erase an awful lot of bad print.
When Sam was pitted against the supposedly fragile Wladimir Klitschko in 2005, it was assumed that it wouldn't matter what the Nigerian didn't know. He was a puncher and Klitschko couldn't take a punch so the math was basic elementary. But inspired by his own failures, the gigantic Ukrainian survived three knockdowns and boxed with discipline, jarring Peter several times with pinpoint blows to earn a decision. Suddenly, many of the media were questioning Samuels power. If he were indeed the lethal hitter his management led us to believe he was, he should have been able to keep the china- chinned Klitschko on the canvas.
But boxing doesn't work that way. Despite what the boxing media tells us, it is quite possible for a fighter to re-invent himself. That's one of the things that makes the sport, not to mention humanity, so compelling. Klitschko never lost faith in his ability which has always been overwhelmingly apparent. But he realized that boxing for all of its grace was at its nucleus, primitive, and he's become all the better for it.
Sam Peter didn't let his first loss discourage him. He blew through a terrified Julius long in one round before facing the boxing equivalent of a New York Times word puzzle: James Toney. Coming in at a career high 257, Peter quickly found that the majority of his punches missed their mark and sometimes, invited stinging counters that marked up his face. But the same determination on display against Klitshcko showed up again and he managed to land his share of thudding bombs that caught the eye of two of the three judges. Most people thought the decision went the wrong way and they may have been right. So with Don King drumming up his usual superlatives about revenge and redemption the two met again this past Saturday to set the record straight.
Toney under the conditioning of fitness guru Billy Blanks claimed to have undergone a physical and commitment revelation. Peter came in eight pounds under the previous bout, indicating an increased level of conditioning. But Toney was clearly still fat and though many will say that appearances don't win fights, they also don't hurt in some cases. Samuel immediately threw more jabs than is customary. He wisely punched to the right side of Toney's body which is readily available being as how "Light's Out" leans to that side. He also punched with various degrees of force, which kept Toney guessing and himself from being too easy of a target. After flooring James with the last of a three jab combination, he didn't force an issue he knew was loaded with field mines. Instead, he kept a comfortable distance and opened up with accurate bursts. In other words, he learned something.
It wasn't a perfect performance; Samuel sometimes resorted back to old habits but you could almost see him respond to his own reminders. For a puncher to resist the temptation to do what prefers to do as opposed to that's best for the situation, it was very impressive.
He won hands down against a man who doesn't allow you to look good, and shined.
So what does this say for his future? The best news is that the division doesn't have another defensive whiz in its midst (unless Chris Byrd is still active). He isn't likely to encounter an opponent with such savvy ever again. From here on out, Samuel Peter will be able to land his powerful fists - his reward for not having succumbed to frustration- and we'll see the brutal knockouts again. Having learned from the master, Sam will likely be encouraged to keep getting better and better. And if his enthusiasm can bring his boxing ability to match his strength, he will be what Ike Ibeabuchi failed to be.
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