In a highly anticipated battle between two of the heavyweight divisions hardest punchers, Wladimir Klitschko silenced many of his critics by outgunning young Samuel Peter over twelve rounds and winning a unanimous decision. There were shaky moments from the giant Ukrainian as he had to endure three knockdowns and some monstrous left hooks from Peter but he seems to have sorted out the stamina problem that reared its head in his most recent, devastating loss to current WBO champion, Lamon Brewster.
Over the years there have been many heavyweights who were destined for greatness but were stopped cold in their tracks when it was revealed that their ability to take a punch was not equal to their ability to throw one. Names like Michael Grant, Andrew Golota and Frank Bruno come to mind. After years of being touted as the heir apparent in the heavyweight division, Klitschko seemed to be headed down the same path as the rest of the glass-jawed giants. After two crushing defeats at the hands of Corrie Sanders in 2003 and Brewster in 2004, Wladimir was pegged as the “heir apparently not” and it became evident that even his fantastic technical capabilities in the ring could not conceal his weak whiskers.
Once upon a time, former heavyweight kingpin Lennox Lewis was seen in the same light. After his 1994 knockout loss to Oliver McCall, Lewis was seen as another in a long line of china-chinned pugilists from the UK. I think we all know how that story ends though as Lewis will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest heavyweights the sport has ever witnessed. It remained to be seen which side of the fence Wladimir Klitschko would fall on and there was only one way to find out. Enter Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter.
Through 24 professional fights, Peter has chomped through B and C level fighters like Pac-Man. Armed with a devastating left hook and an equally explosive straight right, Peter has provided the highlight reels with an abundance of footage over the last couple of years. His last four fights combined have lasted less than ten rounds and he was being hailed as a breath of fresh air in a division slightly devoid of action. On Saturday night, Klitschko was to be his first big test but given Wladimir’s recent penchant for fading early and dropping like a sack of hammers when his chin is even slightly tapped, it was a test most thought he would pass would flying colors.
For the first two rounds Klitschko appeared to be back to his old self as he popped his jab in Peter’s face and occasionally dropping a right behind it. Wladimir was controlling the pace of the fight but Peter was swinging for the fences and danger looked to be lurking behind every wide, looping left hook he threw.
For Klitschko, the first moment of truth came at the end of the third round when Peter caught him with a jaw-breaking hook that sent him reeling backwards. Wlad’s legs buckled and his eyes rolled back but he remained vertical and strategically clinched, a theme that would reoccur throughout the fight.
Klitschko stayed out of harms way and controlled the fourth with his jab and his movement. Peter assumed the role of the bull while Wladimir played the part of the matador and continued to punish Peter and steer clear of the bombs the Nigerian was throwing as he stalked his Ukrainian foe.
In the fifth, and right on schedule as per his last few fights, Wlad began to tire and the proverbial poo hit the fan as he was dropped midway through the round. The punch appeared to land on the back of Wlad’s though and he was up at the count of seven. Another knockdown was ruled later in the round as Klitschko went down from what appeared to be fatigue as no punches were officially landed. The collapse eerily mirrored Klitschko’s unraveling against Brewster.
Miraculously though, the knockdowns seemed to give Wladimir confidence in knowing that he could recover both mentally and physically from hitting the canvas twice against a puncher like Peter. He got his bearings back between rounds and took over again in round six. His jab and grab style was frustrating Peter and soon The Nigerian Nightmare began to tire as a result of the six foot six, 244 pound Klitschko leaning on him.
Rounds seven through nine were more of the same as Peter continued to eat jab after jab and Klitschko began to land his thudding right almost at will. It was a beautiful exhibition of boxing by a written-off fighter who seemed to finally regain the confidence that was drained from him by Corrie Sanders in that ring Germany two and a half years ago. But Klitschko’s post Sanders fights have resembled M. Night Shyamalan’s movies and an unexpected twist is waiting around every corner.
In the tenth, Peter finally landed the machine gun right hand he was looking for all night and Wlad went down for the third time. Again he rose on shaky legs but made it out of the round upright albeit dazed and winded. A lot must be said about Klitschko’s corner and namely Manny Steward who seems to have figured out the code for keeping Wlad’s confidence level up while letting him know what he must do differently to be successful. Being Tommy Hearns’ and Lennox Lewis’ trainer and chief strategist, Steward seems to have the recipe for a tall boxer/puncher to defeat a short, dangerous brawler as Lewis displayed against Mike Tyson in 2002 and Hearns did against Pipino Cuevas in 1980.
The eleventh saw Klitschko once again miraculously regain his focus and pepper a frustrated Peter with Jabs and straight rights. Peter resorted to headhunting and began missing wildly. Klitschko appeared to have the lead going into the twelfth but with the 10-7 fifth round and the 10-8 tenth round, the scoring was anybody’s guess. Wlad continued his safety first, punch and clinch strategy in the twelfth but Peter rocked him about a minute into the round and it appeared that the scorecards may not even be necessary. Again though, Klitschko held on and came back to stun Peter twice in the same round. Against a less dangerous puncher, he may have gone in for the kill but Wlad wisely chose to keep Peter at bay and wait until the end where a victory was surely waiting for him.
When the scorecards were read, all 114-111 in Klitschko’s favor, it was a vindication of sorts in Wladimir’s eyes. He had been written off by most of the boxing world and more or less forgotten about in today’s who’s who of heavyweight contenders. Now though, he had given a boxing lesson and put quite a beating on the man HBO was building up as the future of the division, a position that Klitschko is all to familiar with.
After the fight, Klitschko told HBO’s Larry Merchant that he has found his passion for boxing again. If it was passion he showed against Peter, then the rest of the heavyweight division better be on alert. There were some shaky moments and scary ones as well but Wladimir showed that his abilities and dare I say his heart have the ability to pull him through and make up for what is obviously not the division’s sturdiest chin. When Klitschko is at his best and his confidence is up, it is hard to think of anyone of the big boys who can beat him. And that includes his brother.
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