Maskaev and Peter ready for a Garden Party

By George Kimball


Maskaev and Peter ready for a Garden Party

NEW YORK – When you walk into the Madison Square lobby Garden and spot Al Sharpton standing a few feet away from Andrew Golota, it’s probably a safe bet that Don King is lurking somewhere nearby. “Andrew Baby!” King gleefully cackled when he spotted the Foul Pole at Thursday’s press conference. The World’s Greatest Promoter also uncharacteristically relinquished the microphone to make way for an address by Sharpton. (“You tell ‘em, Rev!”) King speaks in many tongues (most of them forked) but he may have been outdone by one of his own fighters at Thursday’s gathering when Samuel Peter, a Nigerian, told Oleg Maskaev, a Kazhak-born Russian, “It’s Hasta La Vista for you!”

The formalities were preceded by the usual heavy-handed 9/11 pandering, as well as by a King-heavy video invoking the 1974 Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle, and just when you were wondering why, came the tenuous raison d’etre: Peter, claimed the voice-over, would be seeking to become first boxer from the continent of Africa to win a heavyweight championship.

We were tempted to ask King exactly which continent he thought Gerrie Coetzee came from, but decided to let matters take their course. Peter has had Maskaev in his sights since the Russian won the WBC heavyweight title a year ago, but the converse is hardly the case.

First Maskaev thought he was going to fight Wladimir Klitschko in a unification bout. Along about the time that fell apart, he thought he was going to fight Wladimir’s older brother Vitaly when the WBC’s “Champion Emeritus” decided to end his retirement. Jose Sulaiman appeared prepared to order that fight until enough people reminded him that ignoring the challenge of Peter would effectively flout his organization’s own rules.

Then when Maskaev-Peter went to a purse bid, Maskaev promoter Dennis Rappaport balked at the terms, and for a time it appeared that instead of fighting either Klitschko brother or Peter, Maskaev might wind up fighting nobody and be stripped.

Maskaev and Peter shared the dais with King at the Garden mall Thursday afternoon to confirm that they will be fighting at the Mecca of Boxing on October 6, but to describe the participants as one big happy family would stretch the truth.

Rappaport, on Maskaev’s behalf, says he is still suing the WBC (in a case “that will look like the Rocchigiani suit seem like a nonentity,” according to the Whacko half of the erstwhile Whacko Twins), charging collusion in the purse bid, as well as an unfavorable 55-45 split the champion was offered under the terms of that arrangement.
“When Jose Sulaiman’s lips move, Don King’s voice comes out,” said Rappaport in distilling Maskaev vs. the World Boxing Council down to its most basic conceit.
Maskaev and Peter were each presented by Joe Dwyer with commemorative medallions, a gift from Sulaiman. Maskaev wore his around his neck throughout the press conference.
If he is even aware that he is suing the WBC, he didn’t let on.
Maskaev says he has been in the gym more or less constantly since April. Switching Klitschkos in midstream required only minor adjustments, but Peter is another matter entirely.

“I adjust according to the opponent, and he is totally different,” said Maskaev.
When a “reporter” behind me asked what was the difference between preparing for a Klitschko and the Nigerian Nightmare, Oleg looked at him like he had two heads.
“Uh, the reach, for one thing,” he finally replied.

“We have a couple of different plans going into this fight,” Oleg said later. “My trainer (Victor Valle Jr.) knows everything. He will be guiding me throughout the fight and as he sees it, he will adjust which pace I should go. Other than that, I am not about to give away our strategies.” (If he’s looking for one basic strategy, he might call his buddy Wladimir, who would probably tell him “Try not to get hit on the top of the head by any overhand rights.” W. Klitschko got up from three of those and won the fight. We can’t help wondering whether Oleg would have gotten up from the first one. This is a guy, after all, we once saw cold-cocked by Kirk Johnson.)

“I’m in the home of history, and I’m going to make history,” vowed Peter. We’re inclined to believe him, but Maskaev may have one great equalizer working for him: Stacey McKinley has been added to the Nightmare’s corner.

The bout between Maskaev (34-5) and Peter (28-1) will be telecast by Showtime. It will be the only fight the network shows that night, unless King is successful in promulgating a letter-writing campaign from the public demanding that one or both of the principal supporting bouts (Jose Rivera-Daniel Santos and Golota-Kevin McBride) be added to the telecast.

“Is great to be back in Garden,” said Golota (39-6), in what for him amounted to a long and thoughtful speech. The Foul Pole’s win over Jeremy Bates in Warsaw two months ago was his first win in his last four fights.

McBride (34-5), the Irish heavyweight champion, failed to cash in financially after briefly gaining fame when he ended the career of Mike Tyson in Washington two years ago. Ignominiously knocked out by Mike Mollo in Chicago a year ago, he hasn’t fought since. He pronounced himself “a new Kevin McBride” Thursday, having ditched trainer Goody Petronelli (Buddy McGirt will train the Clones Colossus for the Golata fight) and taken on a new manager – Boston pub owner Gerry Quinn.

A pair of former junior middle-and-welterweight champions, Rivera (38-5) and Santos (30-03) will be fighting for the WBA’s No. 1 ranking, though it’s hard to see why. Rivera hasn’t fought since stinking out the joint in losing his WBA title to Travis Simms in Florida back in January, Santos just once (knocking out an 8-9 journeyman) since losing his WBO championship to Sergiy Dzinziruk in 2005.

The Garden has been modestly scaled from $50 to a $400 top ticket for the Maskaev-Peter show. Although King won the purse bid, the promotion is being staged in association with Duva Boxing, in which King has half-interest. Lou Duva-managed heavyweight Mike Marrone, whose younger brother Christopher died tragically in Florida last week, will also box on the card.


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