Is Samuel Peter the heavyweight divisions wildcard?

By Bill Patrice Jones - It may not be an opinion every boxing fan agrees with, but in my estimation the heavyweight division is suddenly looking much healthier. There seems to be quite a few exciting potential matchups to be made in the top 10. You have Wladimir Klitschko sitting atop of the pile, seemingly unbeatable and in the form of his life. Wladimir has become one of the most difficult champions to beat in his own time. Each new challenger faces an impossible uphill task in which they must overcome a huge array of disadvantages. After Wladimir is Vitali Klitschko, little needs to be added about such a fine champion. Though some signs that he may be slowing down have been on display in his last few fights, few can expect to be competitive let alone victorious when they face him..

Though the Klitschkos sit head and shoulders above the rest of the pile those who follow in the rankings shape up quite nicely. There is the charismatic and explosive WBA ruler David Haye, the exceptionally brave and highly skilled Tomasz Adamek (who may be called a Polish Evander Holyfield), the still unproven but technically sound Alexander Povetkin, the effective southpaw Ruslan Chagaev and the up and coming Odlanier Solis. Other decent fighters like Chris Arreola fill the rest.
Among all of the other heavyweights is Samuel Peter, the former WBC champion and probably the divisions wildcard. Since his rejuvenation under Top Rank Peter has made the heavyweight division look a lot more interesting, realistically though what are his chances of having a big impact in the future?

Samuel Peter often receives polarized responses in boxing circles. Some consider him a huge waste (up until now) of massive potential, others a hugely overrated C level puncher who conned boxing fans into thinking he was the next Mike Tyson.

Sam Peter first rose to prominence as an explosive knockout artist, winning 24 straight contests 21 of them by knockout. Peterís conditioning varied in these contests; however, once Pops Anderson was on board he came into his important bouts in very good shape. Taurus Sykes, Jeremy Williams and Yanqui Diaz were all expected to give Peter a decent workout and all were dispatched in emphatic fashion. Peter may have been raw in these early days, but he possessed a tremendous natural power and a sort of fearless warrior spirit in the ring. Though his defence seemed suspect Peter certainly made up for it with a sturdy chin.

In 2005 Peter was matched with Wladimir Klitschko who was on the comeback trail. At the time few imagined Wladimir would go on to completely dominate the division so in hindsight his performance seems more impressive. Peter came in at a fit and ready 243 pounds and was arguably in the best form of his life. He fearlessly pursued Klitschko throughout an enthralling contest. He had the will to walk through a highlight reel of hard right crosses and the power to shake Klitschko when he caught him. When you look at how one sided Wladimirís contests tend to be today, what Peter was able to needs to be appreciated. More accomplished fighters technically have since stepped into the ring with Klitschko and been given a horribly one sided beating for their trouble. Peter was capable of almost knocking Wladimir out because his chin and his punch power were worthy of respect.

After his points defeat things started changing. Those around Peter made a determined effort to turn him into a more polished boxer. Whilst it was not overtly noticeable at first, this direction in the Peter camp seemed to detract from his punching power and in ring aggression. Peter was being told to take his time and outbox his opponents. Though Pops Anderson remained the lead trainer Cornelius Boza Edwards Don Kingís handyman was holding an increasingly influential role in Peterís camp. Though an accomplished trainer it did not seem that his influence was completely positive for Peter. Samuelís weight moved from the low 240s to the 250s and his speed and mobility suffered greatly. He took James Toney the distance in a dull contest and questions began. Was Peter on the wane?

Peter answered his critics with a comprehensive and dominating points victory over James Toney in their rematch. Whilst many hail this as Peterís career best performance, it needs to be considered a little bit more carefully. Yes Peter showed an array of combinations and in ring savvy he had never before used; however, was James Toney simply a blown up middleweight riding his luck at heavyweight? Peter was allowed to open up on Toney regularly but never came close to stopping him. Some thought the second Toney fight meant Peter would stand a good chance against Klitschko in a rematch. Yet if you watch the tape back you see that what really troubled Klitschko in their fight was movement and ruthless aggression. Neither were in display for long periods in the Toney fight.

If Peter had showed how improved he was against Toney in the rematch, he was about to show why his camp was clearly having troubles with their man. Peter was almost blitzed by Jameel Mccline when they fought for the interim WBC title. Peter displayed his new arsenal of punches to comprehensively outbox Mccline for the better part of ten rounds. This was reasonably impressive, but Mccline was never more than a stop gap opponent.

Cornelius Edwards kept talking up his man throughout his preparation for the Oleg Maskaev fight. He told reporters that Peter would be an improved version of himself the night he fought Toney. The reality was far from it. For whatever reason Peter turned up in very poor shape. He showed half the desire or fearlessness he had against Klitschko when they fought. He boxed at a sedentary pace and slowly lumbered around until Maskaev got caught with one right hand too many. The finish was good but the overall performance very poor.

When Peterís bout against Vitali Klitschko was announced many commentators noted that Peter was a better and more confident version of the fighter who had boxed Wladimir in 2005. In fact the opposite was true. Peter was ten pounds heavier and employing a more measured approach which had limited success. His movement was next to nothing because of the added weight and he seemed reluctant to engage his opponents forcefully. Cornelius Edwards officially replaced Pops Anderson as head trainer for the Vitali fight. In the end everything conspired to lead Peter to a horribly one sided beating. Later on he complained of rifts in the camp over money affecting his preparation. This did not come as a shock to many, since such poor training for a bout of this magnitude had baffled many.

So what of Peterís sudden comeback? After the Eddie Chamberís fiasco Peter ditched his old team and jumped ship to Top Rank where he began rededicating himself to the noble art. He racked up three victories over journeyman and got his fighting weight down to a much more respectable 241.

When he signed to fight Nagy Aguilera some thought it could prove to be a surprisingly difficult contest. Instead Peter weighed in his lightest in years. 237 and a half pounds, he had not been that light since his seventh pro fight. He looked trim, toned and pretty fast. He finally let his hands go the way he used to and had Aguilera out of there in two rounds.
This latest edition of Sam Peter may still be an unknown quantity. Until an accomplished and powerful heavyweight lands a punch on him we wonít know how much punch resistance he has left after Vitali. We also donít know how he will deal with the pressure of another world title fight.

Going by the Aguilera performance Peter could suddenly make the heavyweight division that much more interesting. He has the knockout power to stop quite a few of the divisions top men. It was certainly refreshing to see him look once more like the natural heavyweight he started out as.

Can he beat a Klitschko? Itís very unlikely. But does he deserve one more shot? Yes, because ultimately Peter is a far more dangerous fighter than the average top ten heavyweight out there. He may have disgraced himself in Berlin against Vitali but he has been man enough to face up to it. He wants one more opportunity to reclaim the destiny many wrote for him years ago. For all his faults and misgivings this author would love to see Peter have one last shot at the big time. In heavyweight boxing you are never more than two fights away from a huge opportunity. Itís what makes it so enticing. The prospect of a once vanquished figure rising from the ashes is exciting for fans. Peter secured 4 million dollars for his defence against Vitali so money may not be his primary motivation. Its healthy for the division to have a wildcard and letís hope that he can provide at least one more fight like that against Wladimir in 2005. The division needs it. Fans always get excited about aggressive squat heavy power punchers and Peter is still the best of that mould out there.

Article posted on 10.06.2010

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