Saturday, October 11, 2008

Klitschko Makes Samuel Peter Blink

Vitali Klitschko made a triumphant return to the ring after nearly four years away and reclaimed the WBC heavyweight title he once held from Nigeria's Samuel Peter.

Spend enough time around this game they call boxing and you can sometimes figure out who is going to win a fight just by watching two fighters when they are in the same room with each other.

If you were paying attention on Friday afternoon when challenger Vitali Klitschko and WBC heavyweight belt-holder Samuel Peter faced off during the official weigh-in ceremony for their title fight there was a cue that tipped you off as to who the winner was going to be.

Klitschko, an oak tree of a man who stands a towering 6'7" tall, stared downward into Peter's eyes, who stands just a shade over six feet in height. Each man looked intently at the other in an effort to gain some sort of psychological edge. Without blinking, each of them tried to hold the gaze.

This boxing ritual has always reminded me of a game that my younger sister and I used to play when we were kids. We called the game 'make you blink' as we would stare into each other's eyes in a contest to see who could hold the stare the longest before one of us burst into laughter - or blinked.

Well, during Friday afternoon's weigh-in ceremony it was Samuel Peter that lost the game. He stared into Klitschko's eyes for only a moment before he lost the more serious version of 'make you blink' and turned away from the big Ukrainian. It proved to be a harbinger of things to come and if you're a keen watcher of such things you knew that once Peter blinked - the game was all but over.

Vitali Klitschko seemed to know as much, too. And as he confidently climbed the steps into the ring at Berlin's O2 World Arena in Germany in front of 12,000 fans on Saturday night, it was as though he hadn't been away from the game for exactly 1,400 days as he fought with extreme confidence and supreme skills.

Klitschko and Peter hit the scales and weighed-in on Friday afternoon. It was just before this picture was taken that the two engaged in a stare down.

Klitschko, a former WBC and WBO heavyweight titlist, put on a performance on Saturday night that was one for the ages as he completely dominated Peter from the sound of the first bell. The 37-year-old Ukrainian dished out a consistent patter of long range left jabs and right hands to the head that kept Peter off balance and at long distance - and occasionally 'Big Sam' teetered under the shots.

Klitschko, 247, used the same successful mix of deft movement, stinging jabs and persistent right hands that led him to a record of 35-2 (34)KO's to stop the bloated, exhausted and hapless Peter, 253 1/2, as the Nigerian decided to stay on his stool after eight rounds rather than face a certain knockout loss.

"Our fight started weeks ago, it's a psychological battle," said Klitschko earlier in the week.

"I noticed that Peter was getting more nervous everyday. At one of the press conferences, he almost completely lost his nerve. He was almost taking off and I was ready for to punch him. Then he literally ran away from me. He was really on the edge and he could barely look me in the eye. And you know what they say, the eyes are the mirror to the soul.”

During another press gathering a few days earlier, Klitschko began the mind games when he grabbed Peter's WBC title belt from him. The Nigerian quickly snatched it back from Vitali's clutches and stormed off the stage in a stern-faced huff.

After the fight on Saturday, Klitschko said, "It wasn't an easy fight, it wasn't easy preparation. I've had so many injuries, but now I am fit and healthy. I have my skills and I can't lose my skills. If I am fit and healthy I can show a good performance."

The now three-time titlist went on to add, "If you want very much, have big will and support from your team, family and my brother, I can do anything."

The Klitschkos celebrate and show off their hardware. It is the first time in boxing history that brothers have held the heavyweight titles simultaneously.

Klitschko's victory means that he and his younger brother Wladimir are now both world heavyweight titlists at the same time, thus realizing their boyhood dream.

Wladimir, the IBF/WBO titlist, watched the fight from ringside and immediately after Peter signified he had quit, an emotional Wladimir joined Vitali for the celebration in the ring. Wladimir, who became a boxer because of his older brother, has always looked up to his elder sibling. Wladimir also holds a win over Peter from 2005, although his was a much closer decision victory in which he was knocked down three times.

However, in a sad blow for boxing fans the titles the brothers currently hold will never be unified as both have publicly stated they will never fight each other because of a promise they made to their mother that they would never square off in the ring.

Vitali, who was positively beaming after the one-sided victory said, "It was a good performance and I made our dream for us to be world champions at the same time. We have one more belt in the Klitschko family."

It was the second loss suffered by Peter whose record drops to 30-2 (23)KO's with both losses coming at the hands of the Klitschko brothers.

Klitschko never seemed to have any doubts that he would be victorious and for months he has been telling anybody that would listen that he was certain of victory.

In the days before the fight, a relaxed Vitali told a pool of reporters that asked him about his mental ploys with the mercurial Peter what he was trying to accomplish.

"What happens here is just a show," answered a clearly amused Klitschko. "The real fight is in the ring."

Maybe so, but he had done a lot of work in the days leading up to his return to make the real fight a little easier.

October 2008

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