Peter Wakes Up The Heavyweights

samuel peter19.01.07 - By John Stanley: The giants have been sleeping for too long, but now that one of them is awakening there's going to be hell to pay. Since the great Lennox Lewis retired, we’ve been waiting for the big men to pull their socks up – in vain, so it seemed. It got so depressing that a pair of bloated cruiserweights were able to lull scores of juggernauts into mediocrity with little more than a traditional Detroit shoulder roll and the odd counter punch here and there.

While some marvelled at James Toney’s and Chris Byrd’s genius (and hoped to God that they never fought each other in what could’ve been a purgatory of lazy counter punchers), it was humiliating for their opponents and disconcerting for the fans to see some talented behemoths flailing at air.

It was long clear that neither Byrd nor Toney were going to be the saviours of the division. In his sleep-inducing reign as IBF heavyweight titlist (barring a thriller against Jameel McCline), Byrd was lucky to escape with his crown numerous times, and Toney’s only title win north of 190-pounds was overturned when he tested positive for banned substances.

Thankfully Samuel Peter (28-1, 22 KOs) got sick of the stalemate, even if he took his darn time.

If we all cursed the day that Ike Ibeabuchi was sent down – after showing so much promise by tracking Byrd down and knocking him insensible as far back as 1999 - Nigeria sent us another heir apparent in Peter, who turned pro in 2001. With a more stable personality than volatile Ike, and greater one punch power, Peter held the dubious distinction of being the heir apparent to a great might have been.

Along the way, Peter must have taken his power for granted (seven of his first nine fights were first round KOs). In spite of a listless 2004 decision over Charles Shufford, there seemed to be no urgency to straighten the flaws along the way, with a 2005 loss to Wladimir Klitschko doing nothing to change his approach, even though he had the fragile Ukrainian down thrice.

If he'd been a bit better, surely he could've finished him off?

It was symbolic, then, that Peter would face blubber-necked, pot bellied Toney, whose inelegant will-o'-the-wisp tactics (from the waist up, that is) seemed to have got the better of the wide swinging 'Nigerian Nightmare,' who looked hideous at a career heavy 257 last year. But when Peter was awarded the split decision, and the WBC controversially ordered a rematch, the heavyweight division was given a kick in the right direction.

Forget that Peter should've got his shot at WBC titlist Oleg Maskaev. He needed to learn some of the finer points first, and the process was speeded up when Stacey McKinley was added to Team Peter, after Don King bought out flagging promoters Main Events, whose best fighters either got beaten or defected in a horrible 2006.

Just as Maskaev got a happy payday against Peter Okhello, Samuel, 26, showed off a new body (247-pounds) and an advanced set of skills to give James Toney his second one sided loss in a 19 year, Hall of Fame career (the other being to Roy Jones in 1994), earlier this month.

Using a Lewis-style cocktail of patience and power, Peter broke Toney's rhythm with a pole like jab (dropping 'Lights Out' in the second), busting him up with hooks and refusing to get suckered in like last time. It was a showing both mature and exciting, and Peter made sure he could 'touch' that rolling head before exploding on it with controlled fury.

A muscled up Toney was forced to come out of his shell, but the smaller man's foolhardy gambles made him easy prey for Peter's varied and impressive arsenal, and many felt that the scores should have been wider 119-108 and 118-109 twice after a twelve round masterclass.

It's always dangerous to go overboard on the strength of one showing, but there is a buzz about Peter, who one hopes can adjust to a variety of sizes and styles.

The world doesn't stop when seven footer Nicolay Valuev puts his WBA crown on the line (as he does tomorrow, vs Jameel McCline, in Switzerland), and while Wladimir Klitschko has class, the most suspense around him is when he'll unravel. But Peter versus either of those two would have a compelling aura, in lieu of his newfound ability.

Though every Valuev fight looks a physical mismatch, the Russian's power has to be doubted - Monte Barrett looked down-and-out in the opener, but lasted all the way to the eleventh on the Illinois show last October - and we've yet to see the giant's chin really tested. Sam stands little over six foot, but is an extraordinarily big boned athlete of real raw power.

John Ruiz couldn't make a dent on Nicolay, but what of Peter's jabs, right crosses and hooks? There's plenty of target, that's for certain.

Now with WBC heavyweight titlist Oleg Maskaev trying to wriggle out of his mandatory defense against the Nigerian, there is a sense of destiny about Samuel Peter.

Article posted on 21.01.2007

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