Peter Challenges For Maskaev’s Heavyweight Championship

By Francis Walker
Updated: August 16, 2007

Samuel Peter

Samuel Peter

NEW YORK — The circumstances surrounding Samuel Peter’s challenge of WBC heavyweight titlist Oleg Maskaev is certainly unbelievable according to Maskaev’s promoter Dennis Rappaport.

After months of questionable negotiating tactics, Peter (28-1, 22 KOs) of Nigeria, will finally meet Maskaev (34-5, 26 KOs) of Kazakhstan, on October 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The bout, promoted by Don King Productions, will be televised on SHOWTIME beginning at 9 pm ET. More than 14,000 tickets will be available at $150 or less.

The Garden figures to be a packed house. Especially since Sam Peter, who twice defeated James Toney to become a No. 1-ranked challenger and Maskaev, who wanted to fight either of the Klitschko Brothers, potentially missed out on big money fights.

Putting Maskaev-Peter together was no easy task. “In some ways it’s unimaginable,” said Maskaev’s manager Dennis Rappaport. “It went through a process.”

Masakev won the WBC heavyweight championship with a repeat knockout of Hasim Rahman in August 2006. A championship title holder has to fight a mandatory within the one year they won their title.

Maskaev’s first world title defense, an optional fight, occurred in December 2006 in Russia. Maskaev’s 12-round decision win against Peter Okhello drew a live gate of $4.5 million. Rapport said that when Maskaev fought Peter Okhello in Russia, Team Maskaev believed that they were well within the one-year due date of having to fight the next No. 1-ranked challenger.

“We then had a conversation with Shelly Finkel and IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko about what would be beneficial for boxing,” Rappaport said. “That was to unify the world heavyweight title.”

However, the WBC would not approve a heavyweight championship unification fight with the IBF’s heavyweight champion Klitschko.

The WBC then pushed for Wladimir’s older brother Vitali, who retired in 2005 after a series of injuries to fight Maskaev next. Since Vitali never lost the WBC title in the ring and retired from the sport, he was awarded the WBC’s prestigious “Champion Emeritus” status. Meaning, when Vitali decided to resume his boxing career he would be awarded an immediate world title fight.

The WBC Board of Governors voted 24-8 in favor of Maskaev’s second title defense to be against Vitali Klitschko, not Peter.

“Not only did the WBC hide the vote, but they never took a position,” Rappaport stated. “Peter threatened to sue. The WBC became paralyzed. Peter was offered $2.5 million in step-aside money which usually isn’t paid until after the proposed fight takes place (Maskaev-Klitschko). Peter wanted a lot of the money up front and the WBC couldn’t take a position.”

Once Maskaev-Klitschko fell apart, Team Maskaev was ready to negotiate with Peter, promoted by both Don King Productions and Duva Boxing. King has a 50% share in Duva Boxing.

More controversy followed. “ In April, we were ready to fight Peter,” Rappaport said. “Peter isn’t the coming of the next Tyson, maybe Cecily Tyson, not Mike Tyson. They did something that has never been done before.”

Usually when a world champion fights his mandatory challenger, there is a 70% to 30% split. Don King’s attorney’s asked for a 50-50 split of the purse bid. The WBC ended up mandating a 55-45 split in favor of Rappaort.

This enraged Rappaport who is aware of the difficulties involved with winning a purse offer with a 70-30 split in favor of the champion.

Duva won the purse bid by putting up $3.2 million. The WBC wanted a 10% down payment, equivalent to $320,000.

According to Rappaport, Duva’s check bounced. “It took 27 days to find out Duva’s check bounced. King, who owns 50% of Duva Boxing, won the purse bid with a bid that was $100,000 less.”

Rappaport said: “We have a paper trail so long, it’s unbelievable. When we went to the purse offer we knew we had 90 days from the purse bid for the fight to take place at a secured venue. SHOWTIME had July 7 reserved. The WBC wouldn’t give us a date past August 7, the 90 days.”

“Duva and King got the fight on October 6 and were granted an extension after winning the purse offer with a bad check,” Rappaport said.

Overall, Rappaport said that he’s “happy” that Peter is receiving his first world title shot. He believes that Maskaev is the “underdog” and will prove that he is better than Peter.