Comebacking V. Klitschko confident ahead of clash with Peter

Updated: October 3, 2008

Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images

"Can I have my belt back now, please?" Vitali Klitschko, left, can go from "champion emeritus" to plain old WBC champion by defeating Samuel Peter on Oct. 11.

Four years later, Vitali Klitschko returns

On Dec. 11, 2004, Vitali Klitschko destroyed Danny Williams in eight one-sided rounds in his first heavyweight title defense. It looked like the beginning of a long, dominant reign.

After all, Klitschko had given then-champion Lennox Lewis one of his toughest fights 18 months earlier before being stopped due to a horrendous cut around his eye, and when Lewis retired, Klitschko would claim the alphabet belt he vacated.

But the Williams defense turned out to be the last time Klitschko -- the older brother of unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko -- would fight.

Hampered by knee and back injuries that forced the cancellation of multiple fights, including a defense against Hasim Rahman just a week before the bout, Klitschko finally threw in the towel and retired.

During his sabbatical, he twice unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Kiev in his native Ukraine, but never shook the boxing bug, finally announcing his intention to return in January 2007. But even his comeback fight against Jameel McCline, scheduled for September 2007, was scrubbed because of another back injury requiring surgery.

A year later, however, Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs), a mandatory challenger because of the "champion emeritus" tag he was given by the WBC when he retired, claims he is fit to challenge Samuel Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) in Berlin on Oct. 11 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT, same-day tape).

"I've recovered 100 percent and I feel great," said Klitschko, who can achieve the family goal of holding a heavyweight title at the same time as his brother with a victory. "The injuries are in the past. I feel healthy and I don't think about it. I just look forward to the fight. I'm ready to show my performance inside the ring and I'm not worried about whether you will see the old or the new Vitali Klitschko."

Vitali Klitschko

AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson

Vitali Klitschko, right, is confident he's left his injury woes behind and is completely healthy for Samuel Peter.

When Klitschko retired, he was widely considered the better of the two brothers before Wladimir put together a strong run in his absence, including a clear unanimous decision victory against Peter in a 2005 title eliminator, despite suffering three knockdowns.

One of the key reasons Vitali Klitschko retired was because the constant fight cancellations were holding the division hostage. He felt the need to walk away for the sake of boxing.

"To be honest, I didn't want to step away from the sport, but after the injury to my knee they gave me two months to make the fight," he said. "After the operation, the doctors gave me six months [to recover]. That's why I didn't have the chance. I gave my title back and I announced my retirement. [Wladimir and I] always had a dream to be world champions together and to have all the titles held by Klitschkos. I spoke with my brother, I spoke with my trainer, with my friends, and decided to make my comeback."

But what Klitschko will have left at age 37 after such a long layoff and so many injuries remains to be seen. He does, however, insist that he feels good.

"I know my body well, better than some doctor," he said. "I feel great. I spent every day in the training gym and after that I go to the doctor. The doctor gave me a test and I got the green light from him. My coach gave me a training test, and I had an excellent result. I don't think about problems. I feel great and I look forward.

"I can explain to you how good I feel, but it's much more important to show it with a good performance."

The WBC was heavily criticized by many for allowing Klitschko to have a mandatory title shot after such a long time away from the ring, but Klitschko believes he deserved it.

Samuel Peter

Tom Casino/Showtime

Samuel Peter hopes to cut cut down Vitali Klitschko -- in Klitschko's own backyard.

His argument is simple: He never lost his title in the ring.

"I don't lose my title in a fight. I gave up my title three years ago," he said. "But now, I want my title back. I'm healthy right now and I don't want to underestimate Samuel Peter because he is a very strong fighter. I have followed his career and I know the fight will not be easy. It will be a real heavyweight fight between two world champions, because I'm the world champion, the champion who doesn't lose his title, and against active world champion Samuel Peter."

Although the 6-foot Peter, 28, and his team insist they're taking the 6-foot-6 Klitschko seriously, they are also very confident that Peter will triumph in his first defense since stopping Oleg Maskaev in the sixth round of a dominant performance to win the belt in March.

"Like they say in boxing, history repeats itself. I've seen this thing play out before with [Larry] Holmes," said Stacey McKinley, Peter's trainer. "When Muhammad Ali came out of retirement to take on a young champion Larry Holmes, you saw what happened then. When Larry Holmes came out of retirement to take on a young Mike Tyson, you saw what happened. What's happening right now is Vitali Klitschko is coming out of retirement to take on a young Samuel Peter. The headline is going to read 'Murder She Wrote.' There isn't going to be any doubt about it. We'll get a knockout."

Peter, finishing his training camp in Freiburg, Germany, in the heart of the Black Forest region, concurred.

"I intend on beating Vitali in his own backyard and to show that I am the true champion I decided to train in his backyard," Peter said. "No matter where this fight is I will not be defeated. I hope his brother Wladimir is in attendance to watch him get knocked out. I've been chopping down trees in the Black Forest in preparation for Vitali Klitschko. On Oct. 11, I am going to chop down a Ukrainian tree named Vitali."

"Night of the Rising Stars II"

In May, promoter Gary Shaw and HBO teamed for a "Boxing After Dark" card with a distinct theme: a tripleheader packed with exciting up-and-coming stars in competitive fights. It was a smashing success as 2004 Cuban Olympian Yuriorkis Gamboa faced his toughest test and outpointed Darling Jimenez, Mexican Olympian Alfredo Angulo scored a thrilling fifth-round knockout of Richard Gutierrez, and James Kirkland surprisingly drilled Eromosele Albert in the first round.

Now, Gamboa and Angulo are back for the second edition of "Night of the Rising Stars," joined by junior middleweight contender Sergio Martinez, when all three face tests Saturday night (HBO, 10:05 ET/PT) at the Pechanga resort in Temecula, Calif.

Sergio Martinez

Marty Rosengarten/Ringsidephotos.com

"Slow your roll, sir!" Sergio Martinez, left, is in line for a shot at Vernon Forrest but he'll have to get by Alex Bunema on Saturday first.

Gamboa (11-0, 9 KOs), moving down to featherweight, faces Marcos Ramirez (25-0, 16 KOs) in the 10-round main event while Angulo (13-0, 10 KOs) meets Andrey Tsurkan (26-3, 17 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight fight.

But the show opener, featuring Argentina's Martinez (43-1-1, 23 KOs) against Congo's Alex Bunema (30-5-2, 16 KOs) for an interim junior middleweight belt, could steal the show. They'll be battling for the right to face titleholder Vernon Forrest. For Martinez -- whose only loss came to Antonio Margarito eight years ago -- it's also an opportunity to gain more recognition in the United States, where he has fought four of his past five fights, but not on this caliber of stage.

"Bunema is one of the top contenders in the junior middleweight division. … When Sergio Martinez beats Bunema he'll prove he's the new man at 154," promoter Lou DiBella said.

For Bunema, the fight is an opportunity to keep his strong run going. In January, he posted a 10th-round TKO of ex-titleholder Roman Karmazin in an upset and followed with a sixth-round knockout of Walter Matthysse in July.

Vazquez looking to future

After three brutal fights in a row with rival Rafael Marquez, including a split decision win in March in the probable 2008 fight of the year, junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez understandably took an extended break from boxing.

He basked in the glow of his second victory in a row against Marquez, enjoyed his summer and worked the Beijing Olympics as a boxing commentator for Telemundo.

Israel Vazquez

Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages

"Do I really want to do this again?" Israel Vazquez, right, is considering his options before leaping into the ring to fight Rafael Marquez a fourth time.

Now it's time to get going again. Vazquez returned to a light training regimen in Los Angeles and is looking forward to fighting early next year.

"It feels great to be back in the gym," Vazquez said. "Although I've been out of serious training for a while it all came back very quickly. I won't be sparring for a while, but everything else is going very well. It's nice to see my friends and other fighters here and also during my morning runs."

There has been much speculation about a fourth fight with Marquez, perhaps in February. It's a fight many fans want and one Showtime -- which televised their trilogy -- is interested in. Vazquez, however, is considering his options.

"We've fought three great bouts in succession over the last two years," he said. "While I have no problem fighting him again, my team and I are also looking at different options. Over the last few months I've heard my name mentioned many times for different fights and my manager, Frank Espinoza, is looking into each option to see what makes the most sense.

"The feedback and support I've received in this trilogy with Rafael has been overwhelming. It's important to me that no matter who I fight that I put on a great performance."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

QUICK HITS

Barrera

• Former three-division champion Marco Antonio Barrera, who recently decided to end his retirement and signed with promoter Don King, will have his first bout under the deal Nov. 7 in Chengdu, China. King is promoting the card in conjunction with the annual WBC convention. Barrera, moving up to lightweight, will fight a scheduled 12-rounder against an opponent to be determined, according to Don King Productions. Also on the card: Andrew Golota faces Ray Austin in a bout between former heavyweight title challengers, heavyweight Jameel McCline faces Mike Mollo and Juan Palacios defends his interim strawweight belt against Teruo Misawa.

Cunningham

• Cruiserweight titleholder Steve Cunningham (21-1, 11 KOs) will make his mandatory defense against ex-light heavyweight titlist Tomasz Adamek (35-1, 24 KOs) Dec. 11 (Versus) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Main Events spokesman Donald Tremblay told ESPN.com. Cunningham promoter Don King and Main Events, which signed Adamek after his deal with King ended, avoided next week's purse bid by coming to terms. Cunningham-Adamek, which will be for the vacant Ring magazine championship, is the highest-profile fight Versus has ever scheduled. For Philadelphia's Cunningham, it will mark his first title bout near home and first in the U.S. after three previous trips to Europe (two in Poland, one in Germany). Although Adamek is from Poland, he recently relocated to New Jersey and ought to receive support from the Polish community.

Wilder

• Olympic heavyweigh bronze medalist Deontay Wilder, the only American boxer in Beijing to receive a medal, will make his pro debut Nov. 15 in Nashville, co-manager Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com. Wilder's four-rounder (opponent to be determined) will be on the Jermain Taylor-Jeff Lacy undercard. Wilder's bout won't be part of HBO's broadcast, but Finkel said it would show highlights.

Berto

• Andre Berto so easily made weight for his first welterweight title defense against Steve Forbes last week, weighing in almost two pounds under the 147 limit, that promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com that they have talked about the possibility of Berto going down to junior welterweight. DiBella also promotes junior welterweight Paulie Malignaggi and said that if he defeats Ricky Hatton on Nov. 22, they'll explore the possibility of a Berto-Malignaggi fight either for the junior welterweight championship or a catchweight bout in the low 140s for Berto's belt. "Berto is not a big welterweight, and he can make the lower weight, so if the right fight presents itself, it's something we would certainly consider. We've discussed it," DiBella said.

Soto

• In June, Humberto Soto was controversially disqualified in the fourth round of an interim junior lightweight title bout he was dominating against Francisco Lorenzo before grazing him with a punch while he was down. Although Lorenzo was declared the official winner, the WBC left the title vacant due to the overwhelming controversy surrounding referee Joe Cortez's ruling. With Lorenzo out due to severe cuts suffered in the fight, Soto (44-7-2, 28 KOs) will get another shot at the vacant interim belt when he meets Mexican countryman Gamaliel Diaz (23-7-2, 10 KOs) Oct. 11 in Torreon, Mexico, according to Soto promoter Top Rank. The winner will have to face Lorenzo upon his return for the title Manny Pacquiao vacated after winning a lightweight belt.

De La Hoya

• In conjunction with this weeks' national media tour to promote the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight on Dec. 6 (HBO PPV), HBO made official its plans for a four-part "24/7" series to follow the buildup to the year's biggest fight. This will be the fourth series of the Emmy Award-winning reality show. HBO's cameras previously followed the lead-up to De La Hoya's fight with Floyd Mayweather last year, Mayweather's showdown with Ricky Hatton in December and a three-part series on the Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones fight debuts Oct. 26. "De La Hoya/Pacquiao 24/7" premieres Nov. 16 (8:30 p.m. ET/PT) with the second and third episodes following weekly in the same Sunday night slot. The finale airs at the same time Dec. 4, the Thursday before the fight. "We look forward to presenting the compelling story lines and characters that will make this edition of '24/7' provocative and engaging television," HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said. "This fight has the entire boxing community talking about what will happen, and our mission is to get the casual sports fan emotionally involved with the principals."

Ward

• Super middleweight prospect Andre Ward (16-0, 11 KOs), the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist who had knee surgery last month after injuring himself in a pickup basketball game, has received clearance from his doctor to resume training. "He determined that I could immediately begin training," Ward said. "The original target date to resume training was mid-October, but my rehabilitation and recovery went so well I was given the green light sooner. I am excited to get back on track and begin training again at my full potential." Promoter Dan Goossen, who originally thought Ward would be out until early next year, said he is working on putting together a fight for him in December.

Toney

• Goossen also told ESPN.com he's finalizing a heavyweight fight between James Toney (70-6-3, 43 KOs) and Tony Thompson (31-2, 19 KOs) for December, likely on Fox Sports Net. "Both fighters have agreed to the fight. It's probably one of the biggest fights you can make in the division with two top-10 contenders," Goossen said. "The winner puts himself in a position for a world title fight and the loser, it's not good news." Thompson was stopped in the 11th round of his last fight challenging Wladimir Klitschko in July. Although Toney's last fight in July ended in a three-round no contest because of an accidental head butt against former champ Hasim Rahman, Toney appeared on his way to a victory. Goossen had been exploring a fight for Toney in England against Audley Harrison, but that fell through.

Phillips

• While Goossen struggles to find an opponent for welterweight titlist Paul Williams to face Nov. 29 (HBO), one fighter it won't be is junior middleweight belt holder Verno Phillips, who had been the main focus. Phillips promoter Artie Pelullo and Goossen reached a deal and HBO approved the title bout, but issues with Williams having not applied to be ranked by the IBF (which recognizes Phillips' title) and Phillips about to enter a mandatory period next week without having secured an exception killed it. Now, the focus is on Williams defending his belt against Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-1, 14 KOs), who was offered the fight this week and withdrew from a Friday bout in the Dominican Republic because his team didn't want to take any chances. It would be Rodriguez's first fight July, when he scored an 11th-round knockout win against Oscar Diaz, who suffered a severe brain injury and spent two months in a coma.

Valuev

• Russian heavyweight titleholder Nikolai Valuev (49-1, 34 KOs), who regained a belt by outpointing John Ruiz on Aug. 30, is scheduled to return Dec. 13 in Germany against an opponent to be named. The fight sets up an unusual television battle in Germany, where major fights rarely compete with each other as they do in America on HBO and Showtime. Valuev fights on ARD while the same night Wladimir Klitschko defends his heavyweight belts against Alexander Povetkin on rival RTL.

Lopez

• Puerto Rican junior featherweight titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez (22-0, 20 KOs) is predicting a knockout victory in his first title defense against Mexico's Cesar Figueroa (30-6-2, 23 KOs) in the headline bout on Top Rank "Latin Fury" pay-per-view Saturday night (9 ET) in San Juan. "He's a good fighter, a puncher, but I'm very well prepared and I think that the bout won't pass the eighth round," said Lopez, who won the title via spectacular first-round knockout against Daniel Ponce De Leon in June.

Kessler

• Super middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler (40-1, 30 KOs), in his second bout since losing to Joe Calzaghe, defends his belt against mandatory challenger Danilo Haussler (29-3-1, 7 KOs) of Germany on Oct. 25 in Oldenburg, Germany. Kessler will be fighting outside of Denmark for only the fourth time, previously boxing in Las Vegas early in his career, defending a title in Australia and losing to Calzaghe in Wales. Haussler, 33, a former European champion with a thin résumé against top opposition, understands this is perhaps his one big shot. "This is the chance I have been waiting for all my life," Haussler said. "I will make the most of it."

Fragomeni

• Now that David Haye has relinquished his various cruiserweight belts, the sanctioning organizations will fill the vacancies. One will be filled by a match between Rudolf Kraj (14-0, 10 KOs) of the Czech Republic and Italy's Giacobbe Fragomeni (25-1, 10 KOs), who will meet Oct. 24 in Milan, Italy, promoter Universum announced. Fragomeni's lone loss came via ninth-round knockout challenging Haye for the European title in 2006.

QUOTABLE

Marquez

"It's like they're ignoring me. They're looking ahead. I was a 4-1 underdog my last fight and I've trained even harder for this one. Only two out of 35 writers picked me to win my last fight and it's pretty much the same thing for the Abraham fight. Abraham's people are looking beyond me. I want to spoil all that talk about him fighting [Kelly] Pavlik or [Winky] Wright in his next fight. Nobody's giving me much of a shot but I'm ready." -- Raul Marquez, undeterred despite being a decided underdog against middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham in Germany on Saturday (Integrated Sports PPV, 3 p.m. ET).

QUOTABLE

Abraham

"I am not ignoring Marquez at all. Two exhausting training sessions a day, an exhausting training camp as well as a tough eight-week preparation period tell a different story. If I was ignoring him, I would be enjoying myself on the beach in Florida." -- Abraham, responding to Marquez's claims that he is taking their fight lightly.