Klitschko fails to distinguish himself in win over Peter
Posted: Sunday September 25, 2005 8:22PM; Updated: Tuesday September 27, 2005 1:47PM
Wladimir Klitschko (right) struggled in winning a decision over Samuel Peter.
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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Before leaving to attend Saturday night's heavyweight elimination bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Samuel Peter, I left my wife with a blank video cassette and strict instructions to tape the bout off of HBO's Boxing After Dark telecast so that I could study it repeatedly when I got home. By about the third round I was ready to call from ringside to tell her to rewind and save the tape for Sunday night's Curb Your Enthusiasm season premiere. I never want to see this fight again. Is it possible for an elimination bout to eliminate both fighters?
At the end of 12 amateurish, if bruising, rounds that saw Klitschko hit the canvas three times, the 29-year-old former World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight champion won a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Peter. All three judges scored the bout 114-111. (This reporter's card -- to borrow a locution from Howard Cosell -- matched theirs exactly.)
With his victory Klitschko becomes the No. 1 contender for both the WBO and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) titles and resurrects a career that had seemingly been dead-ended by a brittle chin and a tendency to go to pieces when fatigued or pressured -- even as he displayed those very traits once again. With his less-than-gleaming performance, surely Klitschko gave neither IBF champ Chris Byrd (who lost a decision to Klitschko five years ago, but has only gotten better since then) nor WBO title holder Lamon Brewster (who took the belt from Klitschko on a five-round TKO in April 2004) much to worry about.
To be fair, Klitschko had obviously trained with dedication -- under the direction of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward -- and he did exactly what he needed to do to beat a dangerous but ultimately limited opponent. Going into Saturday's bout (as I wrote last Thursday), there were many in the boxing world who were ready to anoint Peter, 25, as the next great (i.e., marketable) heavyweight, a hard-punching destroyer who could bring excitement and relevance back to boxing's marquee division. Certainly the 6-foot-½ , 243-pound Peter, who had KO'd 21 of his 24 opponents in a 4½-year pro career, has some real power, and he is a genuinely appealing fellow (who needs a better nickname than "Nigerian Nightmare"). But in his first real test, he was revealed to be woefully one-dimensional and far from ready for an opponent as experienced as Klitschko, the Ukraine-born PhD holder who was bringing, along with all his baggage, a record of 44-3 (40 KOs) into the ring.
With a boisterous crowd of 10,137 filling the high, vaulted space of Boardwalk Hall (more than half, it seemed, dressed in blue and yellow and waving Ukrainian flags), there was some big-fight excitement to the moment. But this wasn't Tyson-Spinks (either of whom, by the way, could have whipped both the principals of Saturday night's main event on the same evening). The fans were in for a far longer and less explosive production.
The muscular Peter spent most of the bout plodding after the 6-5, 244-pound Klitschko, who at first appeared tense and characteristically awkward as he continuously moved away, sticking out a long, poking left jab. Whenever Peter managed to get close, Klitschko would tie him up, pushing down on his head and shoulders, and from the outside he was stinging Peter with an occasional straight right.
But Klitschko is never far from trouble, and in the fifth round Peter gave him a healthy dose, decking Klitschko with a clubbing series of punches early and again (with more of a push than a punch) midway through. Peter, however, was unable to finish his foe and by the next round the fight was back to its less-than-thrilling pattern -- a classic example, as one ringsiders put it, of a match between a guy who can't fight and another who won't.
In the 10th, with Klitschko seemingly safely in control, Peter caught him with a thudding overhand right and once again the Ukrainian nightmare was unleashed. Klitschko in distress is an alarming sight. His legs wobble and stutter, his long muscled arms flail and reach and his face bears a sad, pleading look as he lurches about the ring. He went down under a barrage of punches that largely missed their mark. Again, though, Peter could not press his advantage and Klitschko survived the round.
And that was pretty much that. With Peter clearly exhausted, Klitschko dominated the final two rounds, and even wobbled Peter in the 12th with a solid left hook But, fittingly, he couldn't score the knockout either.
The decision was greeted with joy by the Boardwalk Hall crowd, but it leaves boxing fans with little to cheer. Klitschko will now face either Byrd or Brewster for a slice of the title, while Peter, who was gracious in defeat ("I didn't do what I should have done at the right time," he said with a small smile and a shrug of his massive shoulders), will presumably seek to rebuild himself as a contender. The only vaguely intriguing match out there now among the heavyweights would be Klitschko against the World Boxing Council champion, who happens to be his older brother, Vitali. But both brothers insist they will never meet in the ring.