Sam Peter will KO Oleg Maskaev

Oleg MaskaevBy Geoffrey Ciani: At the peak of his talent, Oleg Maskaev was widely considered the third best heavyweight on the planet in the lead-up to his bout against Canadian contender, Kirk Johnson. A series of knockout victories against Hasim Rahman, Sedreck Fields, and Derrick Jefferson helped elevate Oleg into the lime light, and his bout with Johnson was supposed to represent his transition into the big time. Instead, a lottery left hook from the Canadian pugilist derailed his championship aspirations.

That was back in October of 2000. In his very next contest, he was stopped almost effortlessly by the underachieving giant, Lance “Goofi” Whitaker in a bout that barely lasted over a round. A month later, his former victim, Hasim Rahman shocked the world when he dethroned a poorly prepared Lennox Lewis in South Africa. For Maskaev, this surely must have represented the low point in his career. Not only did he lose back-to-back fights whilst on the brink of greatness, but adding insult to injury, the man whom he had beaten at the start of his ascent was now the universally recognized heavyweight champion of the world.

Things would get better for Oleg, but not before getting even worse. On St. Patty’s Day 2002, Maskaev was pitted against veteran journeyman Corey “T-Rex” Sanders (not to be confused with the semi-pro golfer from South Africa). Maskaev was well ahead on the scorecards through seven when, seemingly out of nowhere, Sanders mustered up a devastating combination which sent Maskaev crashing to the canvas. The referee determined Maskaev was unable to continue, and the bout was stopped. As a result, the boxing community had officially written him off as a legitimate contender.

As we all know, boxing is a sport often defined by the improbable. Lo and behold, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Oleg defied the odds and mounted a successful comeback, which included ten consecutive victories, eight coming by way of knockout. As fate would have it, this helped pave the way for a rematch with Rahman, who just so happened to be the reigning WBC champion. Once again, Maskaev beat Rahman via dramatic knockout victory, making him the modern day equivalent of James J Braddock.

Unfortunately for Oleg, his championship reign is about to come to an end when he defends his title against Nigerian pugilist, Sam Peter. For Maskaev, this one represents a stylistic nightmare. Maskaev is an established aging fighter who is slow and chinny; Peter, on the other hand, is a hungry young fighter with tremendous power. It does not take a rocket scientist to do the math for this one, the writing is on the wall—Peter is going to win this one by way of knockout, most likely in the middle rounds.

These two were originally scheduled to square off October of last year, but Maskaev was forced to pull out a few weeks prior to the bout, citing a back injury as his reason. Instead of facing Maskaev, Jameel “Big Time” McCline was chosen as a replacement, and the two would do battle for the right to call himself the WBC interim champion. Most observers viewed this as a coronation for Peter. After all, McCline had already fallen short in his previous three bids for a title and his best days were clearly behind him. Peter did go on to win the fight, but not before being dropped three times in the process.

This raised many questions regarding Peter’s chin, leading many to believe Maskaev has a genuine chance to win, especially since Jameel McCline was never known for having exceptional power. The argument in favor of a Maskaev victory is predicated on the idea that since McCline was able to drop Peter three times, his chin must not be as good as previously thought. Furthermore, if McCline was able to hurt Peter, why not Maskaev, who was always viewed as having decent power and good finishing skills? Logically, it is a pretty sound argument. However, I still reject it.

It is true, McCline has never been known as a knockout artist. Historically, he has fought way too timidly to effectively take advantage of his tremendous size and strength. As a result, he never took too many chances and rarely committed to his punches in a way that would maximize his strength. Against Peter, he landed a beautifully timed shot. It came from a funny angle and was clearly a punch that Peter never saw coming. The key here, is, that the subsequent knockdowns would not have happened were it not for the first haymaker which found its mark, and that the initial knockdown stemmed largely from McCline’s hand speed more so than power.

Peter is not likely to get caught by such a punch from Maskaev, mainly, because Maskaev is not capable of delivering the type of punch which floored him. Oleg employs a simple, yet effective style which depends almost entirely on him establishing the jab. His punches are slow, and often telegraphed, which means Peter should have little trouble seeing them coming. Although his defense has improved since the days where he was bested by Johnson and Sanders, nobody is going to mistake Oleg for Floyd Mayweather when it comes to defensive prowess, so Peter should have no trouble finding the mark with his power punches, and he should be able to handle whatever return fire Maskaev is able to muster up.

In the end, I just cannot envision a scenario whereby Maskaev is triumphant. He is too old, too slow, and too prone to be exposed by Peter’s best asset—power. This should be a fairly entertaining scrap while it lasts, and I am not usually one to make bold predictions, but, barring some unforeseen freak occurrence, I fully expect Peter to be victorious in this one. If I am right, hopefully this will pave the way to what I believe is the best potential match-up in the heavyweight division—a rematch between Peter and reigning IBF/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko.

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Article posted on 04.03.2008

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