You jumped on the bandwagon for nothing: Some Hard Truth about Sam Peter

By Jason Peck: Every now and then some guy with reputation for knockouts emerges on the scene. And every time he comes along, the pundits fall over themselves and call him king – it never fails. But being champ means more than a reputation..

To me, too many people jumped on the Sam Peter bandwagon. And I’m tired of hearing about how he’ll walk through WBC champion Oleg Maskaev. To date, Peter’s victims have been non-contenders and a former middleweight (who gave him trouble, I might add). Fans can pad Peter’s record all they want, but the simple fact remains: If Peter prevails against Maskaev on March 8, he will have beaten the most credible opponent in his career. And not by a little bit, either.

Peter’s unimpressive victory over the unheralded Jameel McCline shocked many; Peter even visited the canvas three times en route to victory. Somewhere out there, the “Nigerian Nightmare” should be thankful that the WBC kept him away from a Top Ten contender, as a courtesy to its newly-appointed champion.

I have a simple explanation for his performance: Sam Peter just isn’t that good.

I’m no recent critic. Since the early days, the fans lost no time in declaring him heir apparent to the heavyweight title. Along the way, they praised Peter for skills he never had, applauded him for improvements he never made, and let him fight lesser opponents without criticism.

The alphabets tossed him title shots – at one point, Peter could pick and choose between them. Ring Magazine ranks him second in the division, and demands that Wladimir Klitschko fight him again to determine their true champion. And soon after Mike Tyson retired, many made ridiculous comments that the torch had been passed down from Tyson to Peter.

First off, it’s always irritating when people use the phrase “like a young Mike Tyson” to describe any heavy-handed fighter. How ignorant – it makes it sound like young Mike was a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. Instead, he was expertly trained, incredibly disciplined (courtesy of Cus D’Amato) and physically sharpened to a razor’s edge. Quite the opposite is true – few boxers are “like a young Mike Tyson”. That’s why there hasn’t been a young Mike Tyson since a young Mike Tyson.

Peter’s got a great jab, you say? I haven’t seen it. Vast improvement? Please – all he did was lose some pounds he shouldn’t have had in the first place. He’ll gain them back. And hard-hitting? I ask you, when was Peter’s last knockout?

But even his fans inadvertently admit his inferiority. Peter earned the Klitschko fight with wins over Taurus Sykes, Jeremy Williams and Gilbert Martinez. After losing to Klitschko (despite some great rabbit-punching), he decisioned Robert Hawkins and knocked out Julius Long (14-7). A close decision over James Toney followed, then a better one.

Now imagine the firestorm of criticism that Klitschko or Maskaev would face if they lowered their opponents to Peter’s level. For reasons beyond me, Klitschko somehow gets derided NOT knocking out Sultan Imbragimov, and for making a boring fight.

So where’s the hate for Peter? He’s been not knocking people out for two years now. And you want a boring heavyweight bout – check out Peter’s 2004 stinker against Jovo Pudar. It felt like watching “Punch-Out”’s King Hippo fight his reflection.

Klitschko likewise earned heavy criticism in his WBO days for beating second-tier fighters like Ray Mercer, Francois Botha and Jameel McCline. Any of the above would be a high point for Peter. Indeed, the latter was almost TOO high.

Maskaev likewise received no accolades for his underdog victory over Hasim Rahman, an accomplishment that eluded the (then) highly-regarded James Toney. In fact, the boxing media had been covering Maskaev-Peter as though Maskaev should somehow feel guilty for holding the title.

I can’t tell you how many times I read nonsense about how Peter was a “stylistic nightmare” to Maskaev, although the writers inevitably never explain the finer points of the Sweet Science. Just the crude elementary of Peter’s rumored power colliding with Maskaev’s supposedly perpetually-exposed chin.

But why the assumptions? Maskaev may be slow, but he’s a good boxer, and certainly not stupid enough to stand motionless with his guard down. And unlike McCline, Maskaev’s right hand is known for its power. Now that Peter’s chin has been exposed, one must wonder what a solid shot from “The Big O” could do.

Have we gone past the days when one can get a title shot without earning it? Is the heavyweight division really in that bad of shape? I’d like to think not.

Remember this: Names don’t matter in the ring. Neither does reputation, TV contracts or magazine endorsements. In the coming months, Peter will face more challengers at a world level. The result will shock – but should it?

Article posted on 05.03.2008

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