The Ongoing Heavyweight Mess

Samuel PeterMatthew Hurley: After dismantling the always shaky, and probably shot, Oleg Maskaev in six rounds, newly crowned WBC belt holder Samuel Peter breathlessly proclaimed himself ready for any heavyweight out there. With Don King’s flag waving histrionics peeking over his broad shoulders providing the requisite touch of lunacy, the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ repeated the world “tomorrow” like a mantra when asked if he was ready to fight WBC ‘Champion Emeritus’ Vitali Klitschko.

The very idea that Vitali, a fighter who hasn’t fought since 2004 and can’t even make it through breakfast without injuring himself is Peter’s mandatory defense is further proof that sanctioning bodies will always remain the biggest thorn in the side of boxing. Should this fight actually be signed Las Vegas will lay odds as to how long it will take Vitali to blow out his knee or injure his back in training camp, further wasting everybody’s time.

On top of that his brother, IBF and WBO titleholder Wladimir is intent on unifying the belts but remains forever deferential to his older sibling. Both Klitschkos have said it’s been their dream to hold the heavyweight titles in a brotherly embrace and that they will never fight each other. It now seems obvious that Wladimir is hopeful that Vitali will stay on the sidelines and allow him to achieve his goal of becoming the unified champion. He said as much to his trainer Emanuel Steward.

Steward, worked the HBO telecast for Peter-Maskaev, couldn’t keep the smile off his face when questioned by Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman about a rematch between his fighter and Peter. With tongue planted firmly in cheek Steward claimed to be very impressed with Peter’s development as a fighter in the past few years. However, the smile on his face told the real story. He sees nothing in Peter that would indicate Wladimir would have as rough a time with him as he did back in 2005.

In that fight Klitschko hit the deck three times but convincingly won every round in which he wasn’t picking himself up from off the canvas. His spills to the mat also came courtesy of punches to the back of the head, an ongoing tendency Peter continued in the Maskaev fight. But during the broadcast Steward actually waved off those indiscretions as a result of Peter’s lack of technical skills and his penchant for wide swinging punches. What he saw from ringside Saturday night is a fighter whose conditioning remains suspect and still fights more like a raw prospect than a heavyweight champion. Such is the current state of the division, however, that Peter actually now is a title holder and because of the idiocy of the WBC may be forced to make his first defense against Vitali Klitschko, a fighter who remains the embalmed corpse this sanctioning body keeps propping up every six months to keep the division in a state of confusion.

Wladimir Klitschko will continue to maintain that he wants nothing more than to give the fans what they want, a unified champion, and Samuel Peter, despite his limitations, is a fighter willing to step into the ring with anyone. Those admirable qualities aside, the division will remain at the mercy of the sanctioning bodies. Steward himself, who wants nothing more than to see one heavyweight champion, said as much at a press conference announcing Wladimir’s unification bout with Sultan Ibragimov.

“It’s all well and good,” he said glumly. “We may actually see a unified champion. But once the sanctioning bodies demand mandatory defenses the belts will get splintered again. We’ll be lucky if it lasts six months.”

It’s an unfortunate truth in boxing, particularly in the heavyweight division, but Steward is correct. Hopefully by that time one fighter will be able to transcend the belts rendering them meaningless.

Article posted on 12.03.2008

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