VITALI KLITSCHKO had not fought since December 2004 – dominating Danny Williams in a WBC heavyweight title defence – before he stepped into the ring to challenge new champion Samuel Peter on October 11, 2008. Injuries were the reason for the layoff, and after he pulled out of a proposed defence against Hasim Rahman in 2005, and relinquished his title, it was presumed he would never fight again.
TIME away from the rigors of training had allowed Vitali to heal. At 37, and after time spent in the Austrian Alps preparing and testing his body, under the watchful eye of coach Fritz Sdunek, Klitschko was ready to go into combat again.
AT the time, Peter was deemed a huge risk to Klitschko. He had given Vitali’s brother, Wladimir, a torrid time in 2005, knocking him down three times before falling short on the scorecards. Since then he had impressed while recording wins over James Toney, Jameel McCline and taking the title from Oleg Maskaev.
THERE were some harsh prophecies coming from the Peter camp beforehand. “It’s a dangerous fight,” said the Nigerian’s trainer, Stacy McKinley. “But this is going to be like when Muhammad Ali came back to challenge Larry Holmes and when Holmes came back to challenge Tyson.” He added that Peter – much like Earnie Shavers many years before – had bulked up his power by chopping wood. “You’ll see the difference,” McKinley continued. “Peter’s too young and hungry. We’re not fooling around.”
WLADIMIR’S trainer, Emanuel Steward, was involved as Vitali’s advisor. The American wizard was in the corner when Wladimir overcame Peter and his inclusion in this project was considered a masterstroke.
BY the time the fight began in Berlin’s O2 World Arena, Klitschko was the favourite. And when battle commenced, it became clear the bookmakers would be proved right. Peter, nine years younger at 28, approached with a tight defence, occasionally lashing out at his challenger’s body, but he could not avoid Klitschko’s jab.
AFTER eight one-sided rounds, a beaten and swollen Peter retired on his stool. Klitschko had regained his title.
“IF Samuel Peter didn’t stop the fight, I have the feeling in the next two rounds, I would have knocked him out,” Klitschko said. “He got [was taking] more and more punches, and his chin [was] not so strong as the first rounds.”
MADCAP promoter Don King talked up the possibility of a return with Lennox Lewis in the aftermath, but Klitschko was non-commital about fighting again. “I need to think about it,” he said. “I need to take care of my hand, because it is swollen.”
KLITSCHKO would return to the ring nine times, winning each of them with the minimum of fuss. He eventually retired in 2013, relinquishing his title again, so he could focus on a career in politics. Peter, meanwhile, struggled for form, losing three of his next seven fights and disappearing from the world rankings.