The Associated Press filed this article from Monday’s Samuel Peter-Vitali Klitschko press conference in Berlin, Germany. In one of the most significant heavyweight championship fights in years, Peter and Klitschko will battle for the WBC Heavyweight Title Saturday on SHOWTIME. Both fighters stake claim to the belt, Peter won it with a victory over Jameel McCline in September of 2007 and defended it against Oleg Maskaev earlier this year, while Klitschko was stripped of the belt in 2005 after withdrawing from a fight due to injury. On Monday, tensions rose as the controversy over the belt continued when Peter ripped the belt out of Klitschko’s hands and stormed off the stage.
Peter snatches belt from Klitschko, storms offstage before fight
BERLIN — Samuel Peter angrily ripped the WBC belt from Vitali Klitschko’s hands and stormed off the stage Monday at a news conference to promote their heavyweight title fight.
In their pre-fight news conference, Samuel Peter, right, ripped the WBC belt from Vitali Klitschko’s hands before storming off the stage.
The two fighters — both called champions by the WBC — were engaged in the routine pre-fight stare-down with both holding the belt, when Peter, urged on by trainer Stacy McKinley, angrily snatched it from Klitschko’s grasp.
Klitschko looked surprised, then bemused.
“What happens here is a show,” Klitschko said ahead of Saturday’s bout at the O2 World Arena. “The real fight is in the ring.”
Peter was reportedly angry that the conference was conducted mostly in German — which Klitschko, a Ukrainian, speaks fluently — and responded by answering the few English questions posed to him in his native Nigerian tongue.
Peter’s American promoter, Dino Duva, didn’t hide his displeasure about being in Europe.
“I’m a little upset that everyone is speaking in German,” Duva said. “I didn’t want to fight in Germany. But [German broadcaster] RTL paid the most money and that’s why we’re here — I make no bones about it.”
The 37-year-old Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) has been out of the ring since an eighth-round win over Danny Williams on Dec. 11, 2004. He lost the WBC belt in 2005 after withdrawing from a title bout because of a torn right knee ligament.
The WBC made him “champion emeritus.” But Klitschko, a powerful but injury-prone puncher, said he’s ready to reclaim the title outright and quell any doubts about his age and health.
“I know people thought I would get injured in training,” Klitschko said. “No. I’m healthy. I’m ready to fight.”
The 27-year-old Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) took the WBC interim title by easily beating Jameel McCline on points in September 2007. During that bout, McCline dropped Peter to the canvas with a sharp uppercut in the second round.
“All the great heavyweight fighters have been knocked down,” McKinley said. “What’s important is that you get up again.”
Earlier this year, Peter took care of Oleg Maskaev with a devastating sixth-round knockout in a Cancun bullfighting ring, a fight that strengthened his grip on the WBC belt.
After that victory, Peter called for — but didn’t receive — a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali’s younger brother and the holder of the IBF and WBO heavyweight belts. It was the younger Klitschko who dealt Peter his only loss.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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