Samuel Peter was so close.
Five years ago, Peter had Wladimir Klitschko in big trouble, having knocked him down three times, twice in the fifth round, during their heavyweight fight in Atlantic City. But Klitschko rallied late to win a 12-round unanimous decision.
It has been a long wait, but Peter’s chance for redemption comes Sept. 11 when he meets Klitschko, the reigning IBF and WBO champion, in Frankfurt, Germany.
“This is very important to me,” Peter said Friday from Big Bear Lake, Calif., where the Las Vegas resident has been training for eight weeks. “I’ve been a pro for 10 years. I’ve fought the best. But I’ve changed, and people are going to see me in a different way.
“Before, I was in a rush. This time, no rushing. I’m taking my time. I’m serious about my training, and when I put him down this time, he’s not going to get up.”
Peter (34-3, 27 knockouts) won the WBC title in March 2008 with a sixth-round TKO of Oleg Maskaev, but held it for only seven months before losing to Klitschko’s brother Vitali, who had been out of boxing for four years. That defeat sent Peter on a downward spiral; he got out of shape and was defeated by Eddie Chambers on March 27, 2009.
“Everything was frustrating after I lost the championship,” Peter said. “Nothing was going right for me.”
He made immediate changes to rescue his career, signing with Top Rank to promote him and bringing in veteran trainer Abel Sanchez. The results were immediate. Peter won three straight fights with relatively ease, then stopped Nagy Aguilera in the second round March 12 to gain the rematch with Wladimir Klitschko (54-3, 48 KOs).
Sanchez praised Peter’s work ethic in the past 14 months.
“The dedication has been the big difference,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been able to keep him in the gym, and he’s put the work in this time. In the past, outside influences have hurt his dedication. We’ve been able to concentrate on getting him ready to fight.”
Peter, who turns 30 on Labor Day, said he thinks his best fighting is yet to come.
“I’m coming out to prove myself that I can still be world champion,” Peter said. “It was hard to leave Las Vegas to train for this fight. But now that I’ve been here (at Big Bear Lake), I know I did the right thing. I’m in great shape, and this time it will be a different outcome.”
■ PACQUIAO-MARGARITO HYPE — Now that Texas has licensed Antonio Margarito for his Nov. 13 fight against Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium, Top Rank will begin cranking up the promotional machine Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“I’m ecstatic Texas approved Antonio,” Top Rank president Todd du Boef said. “With what we’ve gone through over the last year, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
Margarito had his license revoked in California after illegal hard substances were found inside his hand wraps before his fight against Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, 2009, in Los Angeles. He also was suspended for a year.
Margarito fought in Mexico in May and tried to be licensed in Nevada on July 9, but the state athletic commission tabled his request and recommended he first try to regain his license in California. On Aug. 18, Margarito went before the California State Athletic Commission, which denied his request.
That sent Margarito to Texas, whose commission approved his request Thursday without even having him appear for questioning, paving the way for the fight against Pacquiao.
■ BANALES APPOINTMENT — Las Vegas’ Jose Banales, who has worked in local amateur boxing for 17 years, was appointed to the USA Boxing Junior Olympic Committee. Banales received a four-year appointment and will help oversee the Junior Olympic competition and deal with any rule changes.
“It’s a big honor,” Banales said. “It means the colleagues at the national level are aware of what you do.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.