Five years is a long time in boxing. Sam Peter, who earns a rematch and a monster paycheck against Wladimir Klitschko tomorrow in Frankfurt, Germany, has lived a virtual lifetime since losing a decision to Klitschko in 2005.
After being stopped in a dreadful performance against Vitali Klitschko in 2008, Peter hit the skids and weighed a whopping 265 pounds when Eddie Chambers put on a Silly Slap exhibition against him in his subsequent bout. Peter blamed promotional difficulties for his troubles and signed with Top Rank, where he began a rebuilding process that saw him drop to a fit 237 pounds in his last fight. The irony is that Peter did not have to bother to get in shape for his recent opponents—they were all excavated from a columbarium and posed no threat to Peter. Woebegone Marcus McGee and 363-pound Gabe Brown were ring stiffs of the highest rank, but Ronald Bellamy, whom Peter, 34-3 (27), stopped last September, is an argument for the abolition of whichever state commission licenses him. Bellamy has lost nine fights in a row and has been removed from the ring on a gurney in two of them. These last two years trampling corpses means Peter, still only 30, might not be
in fighting shape. Like most fighters these days, he is gym ready, but a lack of meaningful action might leave him unprepared for a big test in Klitschko.
Wladimir Klitschko, 34, has improved since his poor showing against Peter in 2005 and has perfected lessons learned at the Emanuel Steward School of Heavyweight Boxing. Number one among these lessons, apparently, is: “If an opponent gets close to you grab him around the neck with both hands and force his face into your crotch.” Eddie Chambers tried to dissuade Klitschko from using this tasteless maneuver a few months ago when he picked Klitschko up and suplexed him to the mat. Klitschko still won by last second KO. Among other fighters Klitschko has beaten in the last few years are Ruslan Chagaev, Tony Thompson, Hasim Rahman, Sultan Ibragimov, and a completely shot Lamon Brewster.
With his squid-like holding, his simple strategy of taking a half-step back when an opponent lunges, and his physical advantages, Klitschko, Kiev, Ukraine, has managed to dominate nearly every second of every round since he met Peter in a bout where he suffered three knockdowns. But he has never been particularly exciting over that stretch, and HBO–citing the fact that they are not C-Span–threw him overboard for his cautious approach.
Klitschko, 54-3 (48), may be “Dr. Sleephammer” at times in the ring, but he remains a difficult puzzle to solve. In order to beat Klitschko a fighter must be able to step hard with a double or triple jab–to close the gap and push Klitschko onto his back foot–and rip shots off from there. Unfortunately for Peter, he does not have the kind of athleticism or footwork to put Klitschko into that position. Peter, Las Vegas via Nigeria, moves in the ring like a man fording a wild river with two sandbags draped across his shoulders. There is always a chance that one of his wild rights may catch Klitschko by surprise and flatten him, but Peter looks like he is past his best days, and Klitschko is the kind of fellow who puts his seat belt on at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Klitschko will probably score a late TKO after dishing out measured punishment from the sound of the opening bell.