Preview & Predicition: Sam Peter – Vitali Klitschko

I’m going to have to agree with Thomas Gerbasi over at Maxboxing, WBC heavyweight title holder Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter must be seething heading into his title defense against former owner of the green belt, Vitali Klitschko Saturday night in Germany.  PhotobucketThe usually stoic Peter was visibly agitated at Klitschko, and the promoters of the event, for continually referring to Klitschko as “champion”.  During a press conference this week Peter channeled his inner child and ripped the WBC belt out of the hands of Klitschko during the routine stare-down photo-op.  “Vitali Klitschko is trying to take my title belt from me,” Peter cried to the gathered press.  “He tried to take it out of my hands at the press conference, but I snatched it from him. It is mine!”
In many ways, Peter’s tantrum is justified.  After all, here is fighter who has been jerked around by the very sanctioning body whose title he vehemently protects like a lion does her cub.  Peter has always had aspirations of being a heavyweight champion and his one-sided beat down of Oleg Maskaev this past March seemed to bring to fruition his long running dream. 

But Peter’s moment in the sun was not achieved without overcoming many an obstacle thrown his way.  Perhaps no entity stood in the way of Peter landing a title shot more than the WBC.  Jose Suliaman and his deplorable cronies’ mandated Peter fight in two title eliminators against favored son James Toney after Peter emerged victorious in their first fight.  Sure it was a close fight, I personally had Toney winning the fight by the slimmest of margins, but the split decision rendered in favor of Peter was fair and just.  At least it was fair and just to all except James Toney and the WBC.  Citing a “controversial decision”, the WBC ordered a rematch.  So here you have a fighter, who now has to pay two separate sanctioning fees because his justifiable victory was called into question.  Peter easily won the rematch, but just when you thought Peter would get his crack at the title, “reigning title holder” Oleg Maskaev and his team pulled out every stop to avoid having to face the powerful Nigerian.  
Showing little faith in their fighter’s ability to beat Peter, Maskaev’s team sought to cash out their chips in a more lucrative fight than one with Peter would provide.  Enter Vitali Klitschko.  Forced to retire in 2005 after suffering a slew of injuries, Klitschko has mad no secret his desire to return to the ring with the goal of holding a title along side his brother Wladimir.  In yet another head-scratching move, the WBC bestowed the title of “Champion Emeritus” upon Vitali.  It’s a laughable move considering that Klitschko defended the title all of one time, against unheralded Danny Williams no less.  Yet again, the WBC saw a way to get their dirty hands on more money as there is little doubt that Klitschko is a much larger star than Peter.   And as we all know, the bigger the star, the bigger the purse, the bigger percentage the WBC gets.  It’s simple mathematics. 
Finally, the time has arrived for Peter to rid himself of the looming shadow cast by Vitali Klitschko.  It has been a fight a long time in the making and one that poses some very intriguing questions going in. 
The Questions:  Chief among the questions being asked, will Klitschko’s body hold up.  In recent years Vitali’s has enjoyed the durability of a Faberge Egg. The running joke surrounding the buildup of the fight was if Klitschko was wrapping himself in bubble wrap.  As we near the fight all signs point to a fully healthy Klitschko.  Perhaps time spent away from the ring did his body good.  What remains to be seen is how Vitali will hold up under the pressure Peter is sure to bring.   Additionally, one has to wonder what the effects of ring rust will be on Vitali.  After all, he hasn’t fought in three years.
As for Peter, one has to question the effects of being complacent now that he has a title around his waist.  The old adage says that a fighter gets at least 25% better once he becomes a champion.  But there is always the flip side to that equation.  History has shown us example after example of fighters who become lazy and lose their focus once they have achieved their goal of winning a title.  It has yet to be seen how Peter will look now that he has a belt around his waist but it remains an interesting talking point. 
Another question I ask myself is how Peter will react fighting in Vitali’s adopted home of Germany.  Both Wladimir and Vitali enjoy a huge, fanatical fan base in the land of Hasselhoff.  For most of his career, Peter has been a fan favorite so it will be interesting to see how he acclimates to an arena filled with people wanting him knocked out.  Then there is the fear that Peter will not get a fair shake when it comes to the scoring of the fight.  Will Peter be able to win a victory over a Klitschko in Germany if the fight goes to the scorecards? 
The Oddmakers: Last I heard Klitschko was a slight favorite heading into the fight.  If memory serves me right it was like -150/+130 for Klitschko. 
My Prediction:  I’m thinking that Peter will come out firing and score a middle to late round TKO victory.  Vitali has all the heart in the world, but I cannot help but think that at his age (37), his history of injuries, and the fact that he has not fought in over three years will conspire against him.  Plus, I think there is a chip on Peter’s shoulder the size of Volkswagan that will fuel his desire to end this fight by knockout.
My Confidence:  About 86%.  Vitali could surprise us all, and there is something to be said about his considerable athletic gifts and concussive power.  Peter displayed an iron jaw against Wladimir but was knocked silly by unheralded Jameel McCline so you never know.  However, I do believe that Peter’s trouble with McCline had more to do with a mental letdown than anything else.  When Peter fights in a focused, smart manner, he is hard to stop and I think that is the Peter we will see Saturday. 
My Allegiance:  This is hard.  I like me some Sam Peter.  After all, who doesn’t enjoy a free-swinging power puncher?  But if push came to shove, I would have to roll with Vitali.  I like Klitschko brothers, I think they make great ambassadors for the sport of boxing and go along way in dispelling the myth of fighters being brainless tough guys.  Besides, how can you not root for a fighter with the nickname “Dr. Ironfist”? 

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.