ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In his career as a Hall of Fame trainer, Lou Duva never lost a fight. He just ran out of time.
Time is not on his side now. Duva Boxing, the family-owned-and-operated promotional company, is in need of a financial infusion that only undefeated heavyweight Samuel Peter can provide.
Peter is the best fighter the Duvas have in their small stable, and if he can beat favored Wladimir Klitschko tonight at Boardwalk Hall, the Duvas can regain some of the attention they commanded before Kathy Duva, the widow of Lou’s son, Dan, wrestled control of Main Events away from Lou and his son Dino six years ago.
“Tell everybody we’re not dead yet,” said Lou, the 83-year-old patriarch of the family.
“Don’t say that,” Dino said. “We’ll be okay.”
Provided Peter, who is 24-0 with 21 knockouts, beats Klitschko, the younger brother of WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.
The Duvas have been down this hard road before. They gave Kirk Johnson a $1.2 million signing bonus 3 1/2 years ago, only to see Johnson disqualified for repeated low blows in his title fight against WBA champion John Ruiz. Johnson followed that up by showing up out of shape for his challenge against Vitali Klitschko, lasting only two rounds.
The fallout almost put the Duvas out of business.
Peter is their potential savior. He’s the “X” factor in the heavyweight division – a big puncher who has digested a bunch of cream puff opponents. This is his step up in class, or as Emanuel Steward, the Klitschkos’ trainer, mocks, “When Peter enters the ring, we’re going to say, ‘Welcome to big-time boxing.’
“One fight against a guy whom (the media) has made into this little monster, once he’s knocked out, they’re going to say. ‘Wow! He (Klitschko) is the best,’ ” Steward said. “That’s why we took the fight. This one fight and he can jump over everything.”
The debate within boxing is about how good Peter is and whether Wladimir can come back from losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster that exposed his glass jaw.
Steward calls Peter a 10-month sensation. Peter never has fought 12 rounds and he’s gone 10 rounds only twice. The Nigerian has 68 rounds of pro experience, with his average fight lasting three rounds.
“Nobody knows me yet, but they’ll find out (with this fight) if I’m real or not,” Peter said. “I’m ready to move forward.”
So are the Duvas. They have a couple of prospects in Oscar Diaz, a junior welterweight with a 22-1 record, and junior welterweight Kendall Holt of Paterson, who’s 19-1 and fighting on tonight’s undercard, but they need Peter to move up the heavyweight ladder to provide them with a dividend.
A win over Klitschko would be a big step in the right direction. The winner becomes the mandatory challenger for the IBF and WBO titles held by Chris Byrd and Brewster, respectively.
“There’s no question that the winner of the fight establishes himself as the hottest and most important heavyweight in the world,” said Dino Duva. “It’s by far the most meaningful and intriguing heavyweight matchup of the year to date. It’s going to have huge implications on the heavyweight division and boxing in general.”
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