By George Willis



I don’t have a whole lot of use for sanctioning bodies, those alphabet organizations that seem to do more harm than good. They hold hostage their prized belts allocating them without rhyme or reason. Often these organizations circumvent their own so-called rules and regulations to collect the highest ransom and in the process make a mockery of themselves and their sport.


Our latest example is the on-going mess surrounding the WBC heavyweight crown. Put simply, Sam Peter deserves to meet belt-holder Oleg Maskaev for that portion of the heavyweight title and it’s an atrocity the WBC is taking its sweet time to enforce the match-up.


We all know the heavyweight division has been about as interesting as flat soda since Lennox Lewis retired, leaving it to the welterweights and middleweights to entertain boxing fans and reap pay-per-view windfalls..


But now there’s a glimmer of hope the division can revise itself. It’s still a speck of light in a long dark tunnel, but the best way for the heavyweights to create a spotlight for themselves is to think long-term instead of short-term.


Peter deserves to fight Maskaev because he earned a unanimous decision over James Toney on Jan. 6 in Florida. As you’ll recall, that fight was a rematch of a September meeting between Peter and Toney in Los Angeles.  Peter won that fight, too, a so-called WBC eliminator. His next fight was supposed to be against Maskaev. But since many in the media, actually too many, embarrassed themselves in their insistence Toney won the fight, the wishy-washy WBC ordered the rematch stipulating the winner would face Maskaev.  Meanwhile, Maskaev made some quick cash last month beating up someone named Peter Okhello in Moscow.


Sam Peter won the rematch against Toney, this time easily and without controversy. But the WBC has been waffling on its own mandate that Maskaev meet the winner of Peter-Toney II.  First, it listened to Maskaev’s promoter Dennis Rappaport lobby for a fight against IBF title-holder  Wladimir Klitschko in a unification bout that was slated to take place in Moscow.  I don’t blame Rappaport for trying to get the most money for his fighter.  That’s his job. I do blame the WBC for having rabbit ears.


Klitschko has since decided to go through with his mandatory defense against Ray Austin on March 10 in Germany, but now there’s word big brother Vitali Klitschko is coming out of retirement and wants to get his WBC belt back.


Amazingly, there’s talk of Vitali jumping to the front of the line and fighting Maskaev ahead of Peter.  That would be a travesty.


For one, it’s not like Vitali held the WBC belt with any distinction. When Lewis retired after beating Vitali into a bloody mess in 2003, Klitschko won the vacant WBC crown from Corrie Sanders, who is better golfer than puncher.  Klitschko’s only defense was against an overwhelmed Danny Williams, who was hardly-deserving of his title shot. Klitschko was supposed to fight Hasim Rahman in November 2005, but retired after suffering a knee injury only weeks before the fight.


Let’s just say he wasn’t Larry Holmes when it comes to establishing some longevity as the champ.  Now Vitali wants to come out of retirement and fight for the title.  I’d say he first needs prove he can get through a training camp before getting a crack at the title.  Why waste the energy if his body is only going to break down again?


Vitali Klitschko doesn’t deserve the title shot. Peter does for two reasons. One he earned it. Not once, but twice with victories over Toney. Secondly, Maskaev should know how it feels to be an overlooked mandatory.  He was the No.1 challenger when Vitali retired and the WBC gave the title to Rahman and paired him against Toney, ranked No.2 at the time.  It was only after Rahman survived a draw against Toney that Maskaev got his chance. Now he’s trying to stonewall Peter.


Look, Peter-Maskaev isn’t Frazier-Ali and it’s not going to put the heavyweight division on the front page.  But for that to ever happen there needs to be some consistency and continuity.  Peter has shown more improvement than any boxer in any division over his last two fights with Toney and his youth and knockout power can attract viewers.  He deserves to fight Maskaev for the WBC title. More importantly, he has earned it.




Speaking of Frazier I had breakfast with the former champ last week. It’s always special to be in the presence of greatness. He turned 63 early this month and spends much of his time working in his gym in Philadelphia and doing charitable work.   He offered some kind words for his former nemesis Muhammad Ali, who recently turned 65.  “I’m just so happy he’s here and woke up on this side of the world,” Frazier said. “God has blessed all of us that way. Why not try to live and love each other. We’ve got a lot of time to be under that ground.”   Ali-Frazier I, held March 8, 1971, was voted the third greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden behind Willis Reed’s famous return for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, and the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994.




It was refreshing when WBO heavyweight champ Shannon Briggs admitted he was nervous during a recent press conference to announce his March 10 fight against Sultan Ibragimov at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.  It’s a homecoming for Briggs, a Brooklyn native, whose career was in jeopardy after a 2002 loss to Jameel McCline. “I’ve come a long way from being a homeless kid in Brooklyn, to being world champion,” Briggs said.  Isn’t that what boxing is all about?


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Send questions and comments to: gwillis@boxingtalk.com