Samuel Peter, the Nigerian Nightmare and the WBC heavyweight

Samuel Okon Peter is a Nigerian professional boxer. He held the WBC heavyweight title in 2008, when he stopped Oleg Maskaev in six rounds. 

BACKGROUND

In his prime, he was known for his rivalry with the Klitschko brothers, having faced Wladimir twice (in 2005 and 2010) and Vitali once. He was ranked by The Ring among ten best heavyweights from 2005 to 2008, reaching his highest ranking of world No.2 in 2007, and by BoxRec as the world’s No.6 heavyweight at the conclusion of 2004 and 2005 and as No.5 heavyweight in 2006. Peter is known for his punching power and holds a 78.9% knockout-to-win ratio. 

Originally, Peter’s preferred sport was football. In 1992, some boxers came to his school to train. The curious young 11-year-old stopped by and asked if he could train along with them. He was put up against an experienced amateur and knocked him out. This marked the beginning of a successful amateur career for Peter. 

He won the Nigerian Amateur Heavyweight Championship and the Africa Zone 3 Heavyweight Championship. He faced stiff competition as an amateur (including a knockout victory over 2000 silver medalist Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov of Kazakhstan). However, he prevailed and was given the opportunity to represent Nigeria at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. 

Peter lost in the quarterfinals to Italian Paolo Vidoz by decision. However, his performance was noted for being very impressive from such a young pugilist and hence more excitement was generated for him than the eventual gold medalist, Audley Harrison, to whom Peter had lost a very close decision just a few months before the Olympics. 

Immediately after the Olympics, Ivaylo Gotzev signed on as Peter’s manager, and Andy “Pops” Anderson became his coach. They were then able to land a promotional deal with Dino Duva of Duva Boxing. 

Peter made his professional debut on February 6, 2001 against Bulgarian fighter Georgi Hristov in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Peter won the bout by first-round knockout. He had seven fights in 2001, winning all of them but one in the first-round. Peter made a step up in competition the following year, as his first fight of the year was against Marion Wilson. 

The bout was scheduled for four rounds. With 11–37–3 record, Wilson was known for his durability and toughness, having never lost inside the distance and occasionally pulling upsets, such as wins over Corey Sanders and Paea Wolfgramm or split draw against Ray Mercer. Peter won the bout by unanimous decision. 

Peter had his next fight 19 days later against Julius Joiner (2–0–1, 1 KOs). This was Peter’s first televised fight, as it was aired on ESPN2. The bout was on the undercard of the event that had James Toney facing Sione Asipeli and Lamont Pearson facing Orlando Salido. Joiner did not come out for the second round, prompting the referee to declare Peter the winner by corner retirement.[7] Peter had three more fights in 2002, winning each by second-round stoppage and having the former two televised by ESPN2. 

Afterwards Peter did not enter the ring for 8 months before facing Dale Crowe for the WBC’s Youth heavyweight title. 26-year old Crowe had a 24–6–2 (15 KOs) record coming into the fight and had only been stopped by DaVarryl Williamson. Crowe became notorious after the fight against former world heavyweight champion Greg Page, in which he pushed Page against the ropes, which resulted in Page ending up partially paralyzed. This was the first professional fight in Peter’s career scheduled for 10 rounds. 

The event was aired on ESPN2. Peter won every round on all scorecards before stopping Crowe in the fourth round. 

Peter returned to the ring three months later, facing Lyle McDowell (27–9–1, 18 KOs) on June 21, 2003 in a fight televised by HBO as part of the card that saw Lennox Lewis facing Vitali Klitschko in the main event. Peter stopped McDowell in the fourth round. 

Peter finished the year with two second-round stoppages, boosting his record to 16 wins in 16 fights, with 15 of them inside the distance. He signed to fight Lawrence Clay-Bey (18–2, 13 KOs) in December in a bout televised by ESPN, however Clay-Bey pulled out of the fight due to injury. Dino Duva accused Clay-Bey of faking an injury to avoid fighting Samuel Peter.

After scoring two back-to-back stoppage wins against Chris Isaac and Jose Arimatea da Silva, with the former being the first time Peter went past the fifth round, Peter took a big step up in competition when he faced former WBO world heavyweight title challenger Charles Shufford on May 17, 2004. This was the first time Peter was in the main event of a card.

 The event was the third installment of Heavyweight Heroes: the Search for the Next Great Heavyweight, a monthly PPV boxing series created by Cedric Kushner Promotions and broadcast on In Demand for $19.95. Shufford had a record of 20–5, 9 KOs coming into the bout and was 3–3 in his last six fights. 

Peter won the bout by unanimous decision, going ten rounds for the first time in his career. Three judges scored the bout 99–91, 98–92 and 97–93. According to CompuBox, Peter landed more total and power punches than Shufford in every round; overall, Peter threw 569 shots (32.2% accuracy), with 277 of them being power punches (46.2% accuracy). 

Three months later, Peter faced Serbian heavyweight Jovo Pudar on 5 August 2004 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. 33-year old Jovo Pudar had a record of 22–2 (12 KOs) coming into the bout and had never been stopped in his professional boxing career. 

He was 5–1 in his last six fights, with the only loss coming at the hands of Taurus Sykes. The fight was televised by Showtime as part of the ShoBox: The New Generation boxing program. In the build-up to the fight, Ivaylo Gotzev claimed that this fight would finally establish Peter as “the next true heavyweight king in the minds of boxing fans”: “enough about Dominick Guinn and Joe Mesi and all the rest of them; tune in August 5. I guarantee Samuel Peter will be explosive!” 

He also expressed his interest in Lawrence Clay-Bey, who was coming off of a fifth-round TKO win over former IBF world cruiserweight champion Imamu Mayfield, as Peter’s next opponent. 

Although Peter was unable to stop Pudar, he bloodied his nose, eventually winning a unanimous decision. Three judges scored the bout 100–90 (twice) and 98–92. According to CompuBox, there were 1,281 punches thrown between two fighters. Peter connected on 239 shots out of 690, while Pudar landed 162 punches out of 591. Peter outlanded his opponent in each round but third and ninth (even) and connected on more power shots in all of the ten rounds.

To conclude 2004, Peter agreed to face former WBO world heavyweight title challenger Jeremy Williams (41–4–1, 35 KOs) on December 4, 2004 at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. With a record of 6–0–1, 4 KOs in his last seven fights, Williams was seen to had put his losses to Henry Akinwande and Brian Nielsen behind him, scoring back-to-back upset victories against rising prospects Andre Purlette (35–1, 32 KOs) and Attila Levin (29–1, 23 KOs) and drawing against former IBF world cruiserweight champion Al Cole. The bout took place on the undercard of Jose Luis Castillo vs. Joel Casamayor and was aired on Showtime. 

Both boxers started the fight aggressively. After back-and-forth trading in the opening seconds, Williams retreated onto the outside, at first attempting to bob-and-weave but then changing his tactics to circling around Peter and working behind the jab after the bob-and-weave strategy didn’t work. 

Meanwhile, Peter was stalking his opponent across the ring, fighting his way inside and putting heavy pressure on Williams’ body whenever Williams was at mid-range. With 20 seconds into the second round, Peter threw a one-two combination; as Williams ducked under Peter’s right hand, Peter turned around and landed a left hook while Williams was square-footed and moving out of the mid-range. Williams was out cold for several minutes.

Peter was declared the winner by second-round knockout, winning the vacant WBC-NABF heavyweight title. The win was nominated for the Knockout of the Year by ESPN. By December 2004, Peter was ranked No.9 contender by the WBC. 

On January 22, 2005, Peter faced Cuban heavyweight Yanqui Díaz, who had a record 13–1, 8 KOs coming into the bout. This was the second time Peter was scheduled to fight in a twelve-round bout. Díaz was a highly regarded prospect due to his long and decorated amateur career, with boxing manager Wes Wolfe predicting he would become “a superstar among the Cubans”. 

After an unexpected loss against Tony Thompson, Díaz went on a 5-fight winning streak, which included an upset first-round TKO against undefeated former long-reigning WBC world cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez and a split-decision victory over Vaughn Bean. He was ranked No.13 contender by the WBO by January 2005. The bout took place on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Henry Bruseles and was aired on HBO. 

The fight saw Peter patiently stalking Díaz across the ring and finding his way inside while Díaz tried to stay on the outside, fight behind the jab and circle around his heavier opponent. In the first round, Peter sent Díaz down with a right hand. He did it again in the second but was deducted two points for intentionally hitting Díaz while he was down. 

In the fourth round, Peter pinned Díaz against the ropes and eventually knocked him down. Díaz got up but was sent to the canvas with a left hook to the body. Peter dropped Díaz for the fifth time in the following round, which prompted Díaz’s corner to throw in the towel. By defeating Díaz, Peter won the vacant IBF-USBA heavyweight title. By April 2005, Peter was ranked No.5 contender by the WBC, No.6 by the WBO and No.9 by the IBF. 

On April 29, 2005, he defeated a journeyman Gilbert Martinez (18–8–3, 7 KOs) by third round TKO in a stay busy fight televised by ESPN2 as part of the Friday Night Fights series. By June, Peter was ranked No.9 heavyweight contender by The Ring. 

He was also ranked No.4 by the WBC and No.5 by both the IBF and WBO. Having a record of 23–0, 20 KOs, Peter was predicted to have a bright future in the heavyweight division, with the media often comparing him to Mike Tyson due to his build and punching power. When interviewed by ESPN in 2005, Mike Tyson picked Peter and Calvin Brock as his favorite fighters from the new crop of heavyweights. 

Less than three months later, Peter went on to face WBA-NABA heavyweight champion Taurus Sykes (23–1–1, 6 KOs) in Reno, Nevada on July 2, 2005. This was the first time Peter headlined a card televised by Showtime. 

The event was part of the Showtime Championship Boxing program. Sykes was 5–0–1 in his last six fights, most notably defeating another Nigerian heavyweight Friday Ahunanya by decision in a competitive bout and scoring a draw against Imamu Mayfield. In the build-up to the fight, Sykes accused Peter of ducking the fight with him previously. 

The pre-fight conference call saw a clash of words between both fighters, with Sykes continuing to insult Peter: “I know I am being underestimated, but it is all good. It has been like this my whole career. Everybody I have fought was supposed to beat me, but I came out on top. I will outsmart him and outthink him. I am going to be a slick, crafty boxer. I know that he has never really fought anybody like that. Everybody he has fought is running from him, looking to get a check and leave. Sam is getting all hyped. That is how I am going to take him out of the fight. I am going to bust him down and then I will just walk away with a smile.” 

The bout lasted two rounds. The opening round saw Sykes attempting to stay away from Peter by circling around, working behind the jab and mostly throwing one-two combinations, while Peter was working his way inside, going back-and-forth between combinations to the head and body and trying to press Sykes against the ropes. 

The same pattern continued in the following round. In the middle of the second round, Peter hurt Sykes with a right hook as Sykes attempted to initiate a clinch. Peter immediately followed with a barrage of punches, not allowing Sykes to stay away and recover from the punch, ultimately knocking him down with one minute left. 

Sykes was not able to get up, prompting the referee to stop the fight and declare Peter the winner. With a win over Sykes, Peter became the holder of regional titles of three major sanctioning bodies – IBF, WBA and WBC. As of August 2005, Peter, already ranked by the WBC, IBF and WBO, was ranked No.9 by the WBA. 

Peter is a devout Christian who neither drinks nor smokes. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

He is managed by Ivailo Gotsev, and is a stablemate to former WBO heavyweight champion Sergei Liakhovich. Peter was formerly promoted by both Duva Boxing and Don King. Originally trained by Andy “Pops” Anderson, he has since gone on to work with former champion Cornelius Boza-Edwards. He also worked with technical specialist and strategist Manny Masson who assisted in the training for his two decisive victories against James Toney and Jameel McCline. Peter is currently trained by Ibn Cason. 

Following his split with Duva boxing, he had a court case against Don King over a dispute in the purse bid for his title loss to Vitali Klitschko. 

He challenged American Champion Chris Arreola to a bout in 2009. Claiming that Arreola had stolen his “nightmare” nickname. Peter said that if the fight went through then the loser would have to change his moniker. 

Peter is the nephew of Nigerian professional wrestler Great Power Uti 


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