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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
People's champion
By Leslie Goffe

PETER FACT FILE
Samuel Peter
Born: 09/06/1980
Turned pro: 2001
Division: Heavyweight
Record: 24-0
Alias: The Nigerian Nightmare
Height: 6ft 1in
Reach: 77in
Trainer: Pops Anderson

They call Samuel Peter "The Nigerian Nightmare" because the 6ft 1in, 250-pound boxer - possibly the most powerful puncher in boxing - gives his opponents bad dreams.

And if the 25-year old, who has knocked out 21 of 24 opponents, beats former WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in an IBF elimination bout in Atlantic City on Saturday, he will hit the big time.

"My life's mission is to get a belt and be recognized as world champion," says Peter, a big bear of a man who possesses a soft voice like his hero, Mike Tyson.

"I was meant to be heavyweight world champion and I will not stop until I am."

Many people in boxing believe Peter, a devout Christian who loves reggae music, the actor Brad Pitt and Fufu (an African dish made of yams), is destined to become the next African heavyweight champion.

"Peter has the punch of Tyson but not his pomp," says Lou Duva, a well-known boxing trainer and promoter. "If fists could speak, this guy would win spelling contests."

Saturday's fight is big news for many Africans in the USA.

Peter's a no-nonsense fighter, who I am confident will finally unite the buckshot-titled heavyweight division
Bob Cashell
Reno mayor

"Truly, it is a big deal," says Kunle Ade, owner of a fashion store in New York.

"Peter is a clean cut guy that shows Nigerians in a positive light. Everyone loves him, whether Christian or Muslim. In this, all Nigerians are one."

It is not only Nigerians that will be glued to their TV sets, says Omar Niang, a Senegalese businessman.

"His country doesn't matter as long as it is for Africa," he says. "It would be a big deal to have an African as champion."

Americans appear to love Peter, too. A resident of Reno, Nevada, he had the honour of having his birthday - 6 September - made "Sam Peter Day" by the city's mayor, Bob Cashell.

"Sam Peter made a lot of friends in this town," said Cashell.

"He's a no-nonsense fighter who I am confident will finally unite the buckshot-titled heavyweight division. Reno is proud and honoured that he has decided to make our town his home away from home."

Nigeria and the region of his birth, Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, is just as proud of Samuel Okon Peter.

And he is proud of his origins, too.

Though ferocious inside the ring, Peter is a gentle giant outside and never trash talks.

A win by "The Nigerian Nightmare" on Saturday could help, says boxing writer Stuart Cornwell, revive boxing's heavyweight ranks, which have been without a blockbuster champion like Muhammad Ali or Tyson for years.

"The fight itself might just signal a turn in the tide," says Cornwell. "Sam Peter may well be the future. I am hoping he is."




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