Samuel Peter: The Beast in Man

01.08.05 - By Barry Green: “If I cannot overwhelm with my quality, I will overwhelm with my quantity.” Emile Zola (1840-1902.

Every so often a heavyweight comes along that stirs the bloodthirsty juices in us all, leaving us panting to see more in the hope for a legitimate “Baddest Man on the Planet”. This wanton desire to see a monstrous behemoth destroy a whole division often has a flip-side: the murderous puncher who is more George Eliot than George Chuvalo when it comes taking a smack in the chops!!! For every Foreman and Tyson, there’s always a Frank Bruno and Tommy Morrison. Which begs the question: which type is Samuel Peter.

Hitherto, the big Nigerian, now based in Las Vegas, has an almighty impressive record of 24-0, with 21 bouts coming inside the distance. The youthful, relentless slugger is the new ‘noise’ that is emanating from the heavyweight scene and he has emerged as the “boy most likely”; a reckless KO machine (albeit an untested one) that is annihilating all comers and
bringing back the buzz that has been lacking in this division since the retirement of Lennox Lewis.

The ’Nigerian Nightmare’ is a shot in the arm for the game and brings the added mystery of hailing from the far reaches of Africa. A rare heavyweight treat in all too familiar fistic sea of Americans and Europeans. His record also compares favorably with some of the biggest hitting champions of all time, whose professional records are remarkably similar at the same point in time that Samuel Peter is at right now. Take a look:

Lennox Lewis: 24 wins (21 KO’s) Britain’s best ever heavyweight was WBC champion by the time of his 24th fight. Explosive right-hand power and ramrod jab saw him become the only dominant heavyweight champion of the last fifteen years. His class in opposition was better than that of Peter’s at this stage in his career and he had beaten two former world champions to boot.

Mike Tyson: 24 wins (22 KO‘s) Blew all the Sammy Scaff’s and Dave Jaco’s that they could throw at him before finally taken the distance in his 20th fight, which coincidentally was his first real step-up in class, when he beat James ‘Quick’ Tillis in a close contest that saw two of the judges score the fight six rounds to four. Still, his presence gave some much needed glamour to the heavyweight division which was at its lowest ebb for many a year...until now!

George Foreman: 24 wins (21 KO‘s) The man who now makes a fortune from altering the state of my morning fry-up was once a mighty monolith that clubbed opponents into submission with sheer brute force and a wrecking-ball menace that came from both fists and, in my opinion, is the prototype of what most people think a heavyweight champion should look and fight like.

Joe Frazier: 24 (21 KO‘s) Smokin’ Joe’s record is easily the most impressive at this stage of their respective careers as his quality of opposition was far beyond any of the others listed. He had already been recognized as the New York State world champion, and beaten such foes as Oscar Bonavena (twice), Eddie Machen, George Chuvalo, Buster Mathis and Doug Jones. His 24th fight came against the fantastically named Dave Zyglewicz, not a great fighter but worth a few points in Scrabble; and with a surname that sounds like the noise one makes when punched in the testicles. In his next bout he would destroy Jimmy Ellis to become undisputed champion of the world (that's Frazier not Zyglewicz).

Rocky Marciano: 24 (21 KO‘s) Rocky scored a slew of 1st round knockouts in his first ten pro bouts (seven out of ten when before the opening stanza had ended) but the class of opponent was fairly poor. Marciano was brought along shrewdly by matchmaker Al Weill and legendary trainer Charley Goldman, similarly to what Peter has now. A wise move which undoubtedly paid dividends when it was time to become step up in class and challenge for, and win, the heavyweight championship of the world.

Joe Louis: 24 (20 KO‘s) The Brown Bomber is often regarded as the best of them all when it comes to the mastery of the knockout. As formidable as his power was, his opposition at this stage almost as weak as Marciano’s. It was in his 23rd fight that he finally fought a rated opponent but wasted no time in dispatching Primo Carnera with all the ease that he’d show during his 12-year reign as heavyweight king.

Judging by this list, perhaps the omens are good for Peter? But Peter be warned that two fighters who knocked out every one of their vanquished opponents inside schedule at the 24-fight stage of their careers soon proved to be badly lacking in the stamina department: Earnie Shavers and Frank Bruno. They don't make this list as both fighters had also been defeated by the time of their 24th contest (’The Acorn‘, who’s now a neighbor of mine in the north of England, actually had 39 KO’s in his first 39 wins! Some record- but not enough to secure the big prize of heavyweight champion of the world.) I don’t want it to seem that I’m picking on my fellow countryman when I again mention ‘Our Frank’ but his uncanny ability to turn into a zombie when a punch landed on his kite is perhaps unparalled in heavyweight championship history. He often didn’t go down, just stood there- frozen, half-unconscious, making me think I’d accidentally pressed the pause button on my VCR. Will Peter end up the same? Are we set for the new George Foreman or the next Frank Bruno. Only time will tell, but my money‘s on the former.

The one underlining theme in the ‘class’ department in the aforementioned list appears to be show that fighters who won Olympic Gold Medals were ushered up the class ladder far quicker than those who didn‘t (except Audley Harrison that is, whose next fight is against Tiny Tim.) This is probably due to greater TV exposure, general media backing and the disgruntled masses who demand better match-ups. Peter is coming along very nicely but is about to run into his biggest test yet- that of former WBO titleholder Wladimir Klitschko. The bout, mooted for the autumn, is for the right to challenge for the IBF title currently held by Chris Byrd. This crossroads fight is somewhat of a pity, as I hoped both would feature largely in the heavyweight division during the next few years. Both Klitschko brothers doing well is good for the game but the rise and rise of Peter is definitely a far more valuable asset if boxing is to recapture the general public in its attempt to climb the ladder of popularity it once had in the 1980s.

Today’s heavyweight scene bears a striking resemblance to the pre-Tyson era when the viewing public were bored senseless with watching yet another Witherspoon/Tubbs/Page flab-a-thon, which usually comprised of two hugs and a submission (see John Ruiz, etc for today‘s comparison.)Back then, the boxing community instead turned its attention to the middle and welterweights, where a feast of fight night delights was oft served upon our plates- Duran, Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Pryor have now been replaced by Mayweather, Hatton, Barrera, Morales and Pacquiao (in terms of hardcore fandom that is.) Then Tyson came along and the 'heavies' were headline news again. For Tyson then read Peter Now? Well, you never know. Maybe I’m dreaming and perhaps it is a long shot... but for the sake of the future of heavyweight boxing let’s hope Peter goes all the way to the summit and becomes the next GREAT heavyweight era that will be one step closer come September.

Article posted on 02.08.2005

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