Peter, Campbell Score Wins On Spring Break



Last weekend, boxing presented its version of Spring Break as fight fans in Cancún, Mexico witnessed a pair of mouth-watering slugfests that delivered in terms of action. Hard-hitting heavyweight Sam Peter bombed Oleg Maskaev into oblivion to win the WBC Championship while veteran lightweight contender Nate Campbell surprised everyone but himself in taking the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles off the shoulders of the formerly undefeated Juan Diaz.


Due to contractual difficulties, problematic negotiations, and a shoulder injury suffered by the champion, it took more than a year for Oleg Maskaev to face number one ranked challenger Sam Peter in defense of the WBC Championship, but when the pair of heavyweight bombers finally turned their keys, the show proved to be worth the wait.

Between Maskaev’s less than spectacular chin and Peter’s predisposition to throw more fight-ending haymakers than jabs, few experts gave the champion much chance to retain his title. Add to that the fact that the seething Peter had been forced to wait an exceptionally long time and win not one but two elimination bouts to reach his title opportunity, and few gave Maskaev a chance of seeing the final bell.

The experts turned out to be right, but the result was anything but easy for Peter, who tasted more than he would have liked of Maskaev’s equally impressive power before disposing of the champion in six thrilling rounds.

The fight began with both champion and challenger showing such an inordinate amount of caution that one could not help but feel what Maskaev and Peter really wanted to, and would soon do. Neither was fooling the other by pecking with the jab, and once Peter caught Maskaev with a stuffing overhand right, the fighters dispensed with the boxing and the fists started flying at the end of round one. Peter did his damage with the right hand while Maskaev’s success came with his winging, cleanup left hook. In the second round, Maskaev tried to establish a degree of control by sticking a constant jab in Peter’s wide-open face. Peter responded with his own jab, but Maskaev showed his experience by clinching whenever the Nigerian attempted a follow up right hand. A good one-two concluded a disciplined round in favor of the well-schooled champion, but the real fight had yet to break out.

By round three, Maskaev had complained just enough to earn Peter a warning for rabbit punching from Referee Guadalupe Garcia. Peter’s infraction and subsequent warning seemed to stir something inside both fighters, and they proceeded to engage in some nasty exchanges immediately thereafter. An overanxious Maskaev missed with a big right hand and took a counter uppercut from Peter square on the chin. Peter followed up with a right as Maskaev landed a left hook, but the champion clearly took the worst of it and went into defense mode as Peter rushed in for the kill. Maskaev feebly made an effort to hold on as Peter landed some sweeping shots to back him off on unsteady legs. A pair of sticking jabs through the guard knocked Maskaev’s head back and drove him into a corner where Peter continued to pound punches into his gloves along the ropes and into the adjacent corner until Maskaev finally clinched long enough to earn a breather.

Then, strangely enough, Peter stopped throwing, perhaps having punched himself out. Maskaev capitalized on Peter’s inactivity by landing a right-left combination that briefly wobbled Peter sideways. Both men missed big follow up shots as it looked like each was spent, Peter from hurling shots and Maskaev from taking them. It was Maskaev who showed the first signs of life, blitzing Peter with another right-left and forcing the challenger to hold. The round ended with both fighters clinching, the fight on the table for whoever had more left after the odd yet exhilarating round.

Whether disoriented or apprehensive, Maskaev left his corner without his mouthpiece to begin round four. It looked to be a little of both as he missed with a lead left hook and ate a stiff jab to the mouth, one of the few highlights of a round that served to prepare the combatants for the next inescapable hell storm. Maskaev did land the better blows down the stretch to take the round, but, as announced by struggling ring announcer Victor Perez during, not before the fifth round by rule of open scoring, he remained two points down to Peter on all three judges’ cards rather than even with his challenger.

After hearing that he was, in fact, losing, Maskaev grew a bit desperate, swinging wildly at Peter, who ducked out of harm’s way and answered by snapping the champion’s head up with a solid straight right to the chin. Maskaev retaliated with a jarring right-left, followed by another right, but Peter’s lone punch in the exchange did the most damage as he hammered home a big right of his own. The best punch of the round was yet to come, however, as Maskaev finished strong with a hard right that the hard-nosed Peter took extremely well given its magnitude. Peter returned the favor, smashing a scrambling right across Maskaev’s face that rattled the champion’s head.

Peter caught Maskaev pulling back with a right that knocked the champion back several paces early in round six, but Maskaev came back with one of his own on the challenger. Still, Maskaev’s shots, while better in form, were not creating the desired effect, leaving Peter free to go for the kill, which he did, catching Maskaev with a big right that put the champion on wobbly legs. Peter pounced with a hard right-left and a straight right through the gloves that knocked Maskaev back into the ropes. Maskaev turned sideways and tried to hold on, but Peter was placing his shots well and stuffed a pair of rights into the side of his head. After being knocked back by another right to the face, a groggy Maskaev foolishly stopped to complain about the rabbit punch, forgetting, for all his experience, the most important rule in the sport about protecting himself at all times. Peter promptly knocked Maskaev into the ropes and landed almost a dozen unanswered bombs on the vulnerable champion, finishing the series with a sickening left-hook along the ropes, followed by another left hook and straight right that rattled Maskaev’s head and sent him into the corner where Garcia stepped in to halt the contest with five seconds remaining in the sixth round and end what was fast becoming a massacre.

When it was over, Peter had taken care of business, but Maskaev could be proud of the fact that he refused to go gently into the night, hurting Peter on more than one occasion before being stopped himself. Peter, though, administered just the right combination of power and pace in his final rally to effectively take Maskaev out and earn himself a long awaited victory that should help not only himself but also the division in the long run.

That is, of course, if Peter takes his championship status in the right direction, which includes not wasting time with pointless mandatory opponents. The fight to make, though it already took place in 2005, is a bout with the IBF and WBO Champion Wladimir Klitschko, who climbed off the deck three times to defeat Peter on points in their first meeting. Both Peter and Klitschko seem greatly improved since their encounter from two and a half years ago, which could make for an exciting, meaningful heavyweight unification contest that would establish a legitimate champion.

Unfortunately, Peter is mandated by the WBC to face Wladimir’s brother, Vitali Klitschko, in his first defense, scheduled for the fall, meaning the bout with Wladimir would have to wait until 2009 realistically. Vitali, who retired as WBC Champion in 2005, has not been in a ring since 2004 and appears unable to train without injuring himself. Between Vitali’s countless injuries and the demands in terms of opponents from the various sanctioning bodies, unification may not be a possibility, but a champion can be made if Peter seeks to avenge his only loss and face Wladimir in the near future.


36-year-old lightweight contender Nate Campbell finally won the big one when he did the unthinkable and actually outfought the undefeated 24-year-old WBA, IBF, and WBO Champion Juan Diaz over twelve rounds.

Prior to the fight, Campbell asserted that Diaz had yet to defeat a serious threat despite Juan making both WBO Champion Acelino Freitas and IBF Champion Julio Diaz quit in back to back fights the previous year. Campbell promised to make Diaz, who boasts one of the most impressive work rates in all of boxing, fight like the young champion never had before. One would be forgiven for thinking Campbell’s strategy would play directly into the unrelenting Diaz’ hands.

On the contrary, Campbell immediately opted to stand toe to toe with the lightweight titlist, banging Diaz almost exclusively to the body. The “Baby Bull” was more than willing to meet Campbell halfway in that endeavor, and the two of them slugged non-stop for the first thirty seconds of the bout. The only lull in the action came after another thirty seconds when the challenger inadvertently head butted Diaz, producing a cut over Juan’s left eye that would bother the champion throughout the evening. After a failed attempt to protest to Referee Jesus Lopez about the cut, Diaz responded by taking matters into his own hands, picking up the already astonishing pace and catching Campbell with flush shots to the face, but the champion’s frustration was evident.

A hotly contested round two picked up where its predecessor left off until Diaz complained once more about Campbell’s head being in his face. Again, the champion’s response was to step up the attack, hammering a momentarily listless Campbell into the ropes. Just as fast, though, Campbell came off the ropes to go on the attack, driving Diaz back with hard combinations to the head. Campbell snuck in one more shot to the face at the bell and celebrated by jawing in Diaz’ face.

Both men came out for the third round looking to box for a change, but after only a minute of jabbing on even terms, they gave into their propensity to brawl and abandoned any attempt to “stick and move” for the rest of the night. Diaz pounded on Campbell’s body and landed a big right hand across the face, yet the challenger more or less shrugged off the blows. Continuing to impose himself, Diaz finished the round with his best rally yet, turning Campbell’s head with a sweeping right-left combination, but there was no indication of surrender from the challenger until halfway through round four when the champion started landing on Campbell, whose hands were down, against the ropes. The crowd got loud in anticipation of a stoppage, only to be denied by the brash Campbell shaking his head and mouthing the word, “No,” before returning fire, and it was Diaz, instead, who was first to hold his opponent seconds later.

Round five was a particularly vicious affair, which ended with Diaz swarming Campbell against the ropes and Campbell answering with quality counter punches. The fighters understood the significance of the show they had put on through the first five rounds as evidenced by the way they nodded to one another following the bell, a far cry from the taunting that ended several of the earlier rounds. Both men had shown an ability to take the punishment being thrown their way, but logic dictated that eventually, one of them had to wilt under the pressure.

In the sixth, Diaz and Campbell threw caution to the wind, if they had not done so already, and tore into one another until Diaz again initiated a clinch. Campbell reacted, well within the rules, by clocking the champion square in the face. Diaz then turned away and searched for a complaint as blood dripped from his puffy left eye. His protest was heard by Lopez, who inexplicably docked Campbell a point. With the crowd booing, Diaz was taken to visit, quite illegally, with his cutman, but no ruling was declared to clear up the questions coming from all sides of the arena. From there, the show went on like never before as Diaz and Campbell swung for the fences for the last thirty seconds of the round, each man fighting as though he needed a knockout to secure a win lest the referee find an odd ruling to cost him the bout.

Campbell fought a picture perfect seventh round, attacking Diaz with slicing combinations at the top of the round and stuffing the champion with shots on the inside whenever Diaz held him. As fervently as the Mexican crowd tried to will Diaz back on offense with chants of “Torrito,” Campbell was surpassing the champion’s output and landing the better punches while doing so. Diaz made an early last stand throughout round eight, but Campbell stood his ground, proving he could take the champion’s best shot and thereby spelling Diaz’ demise. By the end of the round, Campbell was ripping Diaz regularly with hard uppercuts as the champion’s activity level receded. With a minute remaining in the ninth, Diaz was reduced to only throwing one punch at a time while Campbell knocked his head about with hard, effective shots. With a minute remaining in the tenth, Diaz was relegated to holding his gloves up to protect himself.

Diaz’ most outstanding asset, his non-stop punching output, was suddenly nowhere to be found going into the championship rounds. With his eye practically closed and lacking the one-punch knockout power to turn the fight around, a loss looked inevitable for Diaz.
To his credit, Diaz did not go out with a whimper. He again began winging punches at Campbell in round eleven, though he failed to land often enough to gain any momentum or win the round. The twelfth round provided an honest summary of the second half of the fight and glimpses of the first as both men were willing to throw, Campbell getting the best of the exchanges. When the final bell rang, Campbell, having swept the last six rounds on any reasonable scorecard, had undoubtedly won the fight, but the official verdict remained in the hands of an unbelievably green judging crew.

The inexperienced judging team saved itself any ridicule by turning in two appropriate cards of 116-111 and 115-112 for Campbell and one arguable but unlikely card of 114-113 in favor of Diaz. With the win, Campbell becomes the holder of three of the four lightweight titles, though the beltless Joel Casamayor remains the linear champion. The obvious fights to make for Campbell would be to either challenge WBC Champion David Diaz and unify all four belts or go directly to Casamayor to compete for the Lightweight Championship. The latter would be not only more significant but also more likely as the WBC Champion appears to be chasing a bout with Manny Pacquiao sometime in 2008. Casamayor, who handed Campbell his first loss with a competitive but unanimous decision in 2003, must first get past exciting challenger Michael Katsidis next week.

What becomes of the dethroned champion is more difficult to say. A political science student who has expressed an interest in law, many boxing pundits have questioned the length of Juan Diaz’ stay in the sport at which he excels. Diaz understands that his all-action style does not historically translate into an extensive career. From the fight fan’s perspective, it would be a shame to see him step away from boxing, though Diaz himself has given no indication of such plans. Diaz brings the perfect attitude to boxing and the most enjoyable of styles. Prior to the loss, he was the odds on favorite to unify the lightweight division and on the verge of pound-for-pound status, accolades he may yet reach should he continue. His conquests of Freitas and Julio Diaz demonstrated his desire to be the recognized best fighter in his division. With any luck, Campbell will bring an equally ambitious attitude to his championship reign and fight the best opponents available, beginning with the winner of the upcoming bout between Casamayor and Katsidis.