Boxing: Klitschko faces battle with body as well as Peter

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The Independent Online

When Samuel Peter and Vitali Klitschko climb through the ropes tonight for their World Boxing Council heavyweight fight at the O2 World Arena in Berlin it brings together two serious punchers in a division that is barely recognisable as the place where the greats of the ring once performed.

Peter, who was born in Nigeria, is promoted by Don King, whose experience and touch has graced dozens of the sport's finest heavyweight fights from The Rumble in the Jungle to many of Mike Tyson's brief encounters. However, King's latest champion is slow, ponderous and only dangerous against old men lacking in motivation.

In the opposite corner is perhaps the best of the eight boxers from the former Soviet republics to have won versions of the world heavyweight title in the last five years. Klitschko was once rescued from his own bravery in a bloody encounter against Lennox Lewis, who was certainly the last great champion, and later that night had nearly a hundred stitches sewn into his face to close the wounds.

Lewis refused Klitschko a rematch and in 2004 the towering fighter from Ukraine, who has a Phd and once ran for mayor of Kiev, finally won the title. But after one defence his knees collapsed and he was forced to retire.

Tonight the pair will enter the ring having left a total of 57 of their 65 victims on the floor or requiring a helping hand to stand, and there appears to be little chance the fight will last 12 rounds. There is a good chance that Klitschko, who is 6ft 8ins and weighs about 18 stone, will face defeat from his own body rather than Peter's heavy fists.

It is a difficult fight to predict – King has issued a "don't blink warning" – because of Klitschko's absence since December 2004 and the doubts about his body. However, old fighters never lose their punch even when they are sucking through straws and that gives the veteran an old-fashioned heavyweight edge.