Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Samuel Peter Principle

'Big Sam' is the WBC titlist and usually tips the scales at around 250 pounds.

The 'Peter Principle' is the workplace belief that says, "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

For Samuel Peter, the employees that surround him are all beginning to look just that - incompetent.

Oh sure, Peter is now the holder of the WBC's heavyweight belt, he has a record of 30-1(23)KO's and he's seemingly on the verge of really big things.

But every step of his career progression over the past couple of years has been been bogged down by his many representatives who bicker over the choice of opponent, snipe over every word in the fine print of fight contracts and pinch every penny of purse money.

As a result, 'Big Sam' has suffered from long delays in between fights and his people routinely threaten more lawsuits than F. Lee Bailey, Gloria Allred and Judge Judy combined.

And sadly, it looks like nothing has changed since Peter won the WBC title from Oleg Maskaev earlier this year.

Late last week, British promoter Frank Warren wrote in his column in The Sun newspaper that he had agreed to terms with Don King for Peter to come to London's O2 Arena on July 12th and defend his newly won title for the first time against limited, second-tier British heavyweights Matt Skelton or Audley Harrison. Warren said that a final deal was imminent and that he would be announcing the selected opponent on Monday.

Well, Monday came and went with no announcement.

British promoter Frank Warren thought he had a deal for Peter to fight in England for later this year.

In fact, the only newsworthy item as it pertained to Samuel Peter fighting in London was a stern proclamation from Dino Duva of Duva Boxing, who co-promotes Peter with Don King, that no deal had been struck at all with Frank Warren and that if any announcement was going to be made as to who Samuel Peter would be fighting next - it would be made by him.

And since then? Nothing.

"That's boxing," says Dino's father, hall of fame trainer Lou Duva, who will turn 86 years-young on Wednesday and who has seen it all in the lifetime he has spent wading around in this dank sewer they call the fight game.

And just for good measure, Lou chimed in this gem: "I think they should go to jail, the WBC."

Whatever the case with the WBC, Lou, who counted Rocky Marciano as one of his best friends and knows a thing or two about heavyweights, says he'd like everyone to just forget about Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton and maybe 'Big Sam' could just go straight for the Ukrainians and Russians.

Duva says line up Vitali Klitschko first. "I think it's a good, tough fight," is his belief of a potential fight with Vitali who is the Champion Emeritus of the WBC which is sort of like being 'champ for life' as it gives the retired Vitali the opportunity to come back whenever he likes and receive an immediate title shot. And it does look like the oft-injured Vitali will fight Peter for the title in October - but first Klitschko wants to become the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine.

Lou, were he calling the shots for Peter, has another opponent in mind.

"I'd like to see Peter fight the 7-foot heavyweight that they got over there, you know? That would be the fight. It would be 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and he'd chop him right down," says the Italian patriarch. Duva is of course speaking of former WBA belt-holder and Russian born Nikolay Valuev, who besides being nearly as tall as Shaquille O'Neal, weighs 320-pounds and has only lost once.

So what does 'The Nigerian Nightmare' think of the swirling cesspool of controversy that threatens to drown his gasps for supremacy?

Well, Peter never seems to let too much of what goes on get to him. As he chawed away on a piece of chewing gum he simply said, in his usual laid back style, "Well, I just thank God for everything, for making it possible for me, you know? All my career, all my life, I've been around champions, you know? I knew I was gonna' be a champion one day because if you wanna' be a champion, you gotta' be around champions. Now I'm heavyweight champion of the world - I'm happy."

But keeping active and in the public consciousness is a big challenge for any fighter in this day and age. It seems as though Peter has called out every heavyweight in the top-10, but in the past couple of years he has only managed to fight James Toney, Jameel McCline and Oleg Maskaev. He lost his fight against current IBF and WBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko back in 2005. And since he stormed onto the scene back in 2004, he really hasn't been the same fighter that captured the imagination of boxing fans.

The heavyweight division has been crying out for someone to save it and a few years ago most figured that Peter could be the 'one' - but not anymore.

Even though the heavyweight division is filled with inconsistent performers who have done nothing since Lennox Lewis retired except pass the titles back and forth among one another, only Wladimir Klitschko has made a real case for himself. But most observers only see Wladimir as a flawed performer in a division chock full of one-trick ponies.

With this punch, Peter nearly decapitated Jeremy Williams.

Strangely, however, Peter defends the division and the competition.

"It seems like it's weak, but it's not weak, you know?" he explains. "Strong men. I see they are alive, they are waiting. So the important thing for me is to grab the few belts that are left. I want to do that for Africa."

But it's hard to understand how facing either 41 year-old Matt Skelton who lost his last fight, or 36 year-old Audley Harrison who has never lived up to his awesome potential, is going to help Peter advance his case. Should he beat either Skelton or Harrison, it does nothing for him because it's expected that he'll beat them. Should he face Vitali after that, it still does nothing for him because Klitschko will not have fought in nearly four years and is seen as a brittle underachiever. So the best that can be hoped for Peter is that by 2009 he gets in the ring with another top-tier fighter or pursues a rematch with Wladimir.

Of Audley Harrison, who many call 'Fraudley' Peter says, "Oh, he's a good fighter, he's won the Olympic Gold Medal. I was there and I fought him one time in Belgium. I knew him before the Olympics. He's a great guy."

Indeed, Harrison holds a victory over Peter from his amateur days, winning a close 3-2 decision two months before he won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney, Australia in 2000. But since his first pro loss to Danny Williams in 2005, Harrison's career has sputtered.

When Frank Warren announced that Peter would be fighting in England, many boxing fans wondered aloud, 'Why doesn't he just fight David Haye instead of never weres like Harrison or Skelton?'

Many would like to see Peter defend against David Haye (left) seen here taking apart Enzo Maccarinelli to unify the Cruiserweight titles.

Haye of course is an electric puncher with an exciting style and he recently turned in a spectacular performance with a second round knockout win over Enzo Maccarinelli to become the king of the Cruiserweights. Haye is British and is moving up to the heavyweight division and has stated publicly that he'd have no trouble in gunning for a heavyweight title shot right away. What's more, Haye recently filled the very arena where Warren is proposing Peter's July 12th match.

So what does 'Big Sam' think of David Haye?

"I don't like watching him fight, but I hear he's talking a lot. People that are talking a lot, they are always scared, you know? I don't watch him fight. I mean I've seen him, but I just hate him. I just know his name."

And with that, Big Sam continued chewing on his gum as the time tick-tocked away on a career that has seen more stops and starts than a New York City subway.

An attempt was made to talk to promoter Dino Duva this past Wednesday morning to set the record straight as it pertains to Sam's next fight, but the person who answered the telephone at his headquarters in New Jersey claimed that nobody was in the office to comment and that they wouldn't be returning until next week.

No doubt, they're all barricaded in the corner of conference room with a fine-toothed comb, a fight contract and a lawyer.

May 2008

No comments: