Chambers vs. Peter: Sucker Punched by the Heavyweights

30.03.09 – by Karl E. H. Seigfried – A little while ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about the fighters I thought were currently the best and the most exciting to watch. After I went on about fighters like Pacquiao and Margarito (this was before Plastergate), he said, “All these little dudes! I love the heavyweights. I wanna see dudes who can knock somebody out!” I asked him when, exactly, he had last seen a heavyweight fight. When he started talking about Tyson, I mumbled something polite and went back to reading The Ring..

I have repeatedly had my heart broken by the heavyweights in recent years. I can’t count how many times I’ve bought into the hype surrounding some fight that will “bring clarity to the heavyweight division,” only to end up watching two fat guys slowly walk in circles around the ring. I was even dumb enough to twice (TWICE!) pay good money to watch heavyweight “title fights” promoted by Don King at the United Center here in Chicago. Brewster-Golota at least provided 53 seconds of beat-down excitement; Rahman-Barrett was just a whole lotta nothing.

So, I swore not to believe in the heavyweights again. Especially not in a “crossroads fight”–which I should have known is really promoter code for “used-to-be vs. never-will-be.” Sometimes, I wonder if HBO, ESPN, and the promoters all conspire to keep good heavyweights out of the division, so that every fight can be advertised to fans as “the one heavyweight fight this year that may not stink out the house.” The division that has the longest history, the most crossover celebrities, and the most legendary tales of glory is now the saddest weight class. Admittedly, the minimumweights probably won’t produce a superstar champion anytime soon, but I think you all know what I’m saying.

When reading the pre-fight coverage for Eddie Chambers’ bout with Samuel Peter, I fell for the trick yet again. Maybe, I thought, maybe we could have an exciting fight. Maybe we’ll see a classic boxer vs. puncher bout, and something great will happen. Maybe we’ll see someone declare himself the true contender for the world heavyweight title. Maybe Peter will finally live up to the promise he showed when he first showed up as the new one-punch knockout powerhouse of the division. Maybe Chambers will be the first American heavyweight in a long time to do something serious.

Then, on Friday night, the two fighters walked into the ring, their weights were announced, and I knew I had been sucker punched one more time. Peter, at 265, was at the heaviest weight of his career. Chambers, at 223, was one pound less than his heaviest, but definitely at his heaviest in the last four years. When did it become okay for heavyweights to come in sloppy fat and undertrained? Seriously, Chambers had enough rolls around his midsection to fill a bucket from KFC. Maybe one or both fighters is secretly on the Toney Training System.

There were reports coming out of Peter’s training camp that not much hard work had been going on. This was completely obvious by at least round three, with the “Nigerian Nightmare” pawing his jab in the air like a sleepwalker. By round four, he was pushing punches rather than throwing them. He did manage to land one right to the head in round two, a couple of lefts in round three, another left in round four, a couple of body shots at the end of round six…and that was about it. This lack of anything was evidenced by the 19% landed punch percentage reported at fight’s end. If any of the six shots I just mentioned contained Peter’s mythical knockout power, that would have meant something. Instead, they were meaningless.

“Fast Eddie” did an equal job of not living up to his hype. He landed some nice right hands in rounds one, three, and four, and he got in a few good lefts in the second round, but there was nothing to text home about. His best punch throughout the fight was his jab, which landed more often and had more sting on it than Peter’s slowly pawing left hand. He landed a pretty double-jab in round seven and a triple in round eight. He even switched to southpaw for a second in round six and landed some clean right jabs. However, for someone whose nickname is “Fast,” he never really displayed any quick combinations. His jab-jab-right pattern worked just fine, but he never really followed it up with, for example, a strong left hook. He may have landed 43% of his punches, but none of them meant much.

When the ten rounds were over (and both fighters would have had trouble huffing and puffing through any more), the strange majority decision for Chambers read 95-95, 96-94, and 99-91. My notes simply say, “What?” Draw, close, and near-shutout…it almost sounds like there was controversy in this snoozer. Chambers said afterward, “I felt like I could have done a lot more.” Like, maybe show us that you have something, anything that qualifies you to fight for the World Heavyweight Title? “I was thinking too much.” Maybe about pie, but definitely not about making a definitive statement in the ring.

The saddest part about all this is that, in the reports that came out after the fight, so many writers started talking about Chambers setting himself up for a title fight. If not losing a fight is the only qualification, then he’s ready. If climbing up the ladder of contenders and clearly dominating in each bout matters at all, then he’s not even a contender. What’s the solution to this mess? Maybe we finally do need to set a weight limit on heavyweights, and create a dreadnought class for the giants and fatties. Or maybe we should all just stop watching these fights, and wait for this generation to fade away.