The return of Dr. Ironfist

The biggest news to hit the boxing world lately was the announcement last week by former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko that he's returning to the ring.

After Lennox Lewis retired, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Klitschko was the only heavyweight to be considered the division's undisputed champion, even though he didn't own all four belts. He limped away from the sport in November 2005 after four times postponing a title defense with Hasim Rahman because of a bad knee.

With surgery out of the way along with several months of painstaking rehab, a replenished "Dr. Ironfist," 35-2 with 34 knockouts, is looking to rejoin his little brother, IBF titlist Wladimir, all 6-foot-6 of him, as a heavyweight beltholder.

And with the amazing cooperation of the Mexico-based WBC, which declared him as its "champion emeritus," Vitali will likely face WBC heavyweight titlist Oleg Maskaev sometime in April, possibly in Russia.

If you actually keep up with the sport, this may rub you the wrong way, hence the question, What about Samuel Peter?

Peter, you may recall, received a gift decision over James Toney in their first fight - a WBC heavyweight title-eliminator - last year, only to whip himself into shape and then whip on Toney in a battle to see who would fight Maskaev next.

With Klitschko back in the picture again, this gives new meaning to Peter's nickname of the "Nigerian Nightmare." Since Peter, who is promoted by Dino and Lou Duva (and let's not leave puppet master Don King out of the equation), paid the WBC its sanctioning fees twice and now finds himself out of the picture for a while because of an arcane WBC rule.

Being a "champion emeritus" apparently has benefits that an "ordinary" world champion, "super" champion and interim champion do not. If the WBC wakes up one morning, flips a coin and decides in favor of said champion emeritus, he passes Go and collects several million dollars by getting an automatic and immediate match with the - let's face it - corrupt sanctioning body's world champion, in this case, Maskaev, 34-5 (26).

That's true even if the WBC has twice promised (and charged sanctioning fees) to its supposed No. 1 contender - unless, that is, it decides to wake up on the other side of the bed, flip a two-headed coin and decide in favor of the challenger.

Which, in this case, it has not.

Since Peter is a de facto King fighter - Lou Duva said after Peter-Toney II that he still owned Peter but that he needed King in the picture to get his fighter a title shot - it's amazing that the WBC hasn't wet itself by now and given into the demands of the electric-haired promoter.

But the only promoter heard to be raising Cain is Dino Duva, not King.

What gives?

Who knows, maybe the Teflon Don knows that a Vitali Klitschko-Samuel Peter fight would sell more tickets and do better on pay per view than Maskaev-Peter. And if there's ever been a guy that knows time is on his side because he holds all of the cards in the deck - even the ace of spades underneath the table - it's King.

So regardless of the behind-the-scenes machinations, it looks like a good thing - in the long run - that Vitali Klitschko is returning.

The big man, once maligned for quitting on his stool against Chris Byrd (he had a torn rotator cuff), showed he was neither the Tin Man nor the Cowardly Lion when he showed heart and gave Lewis all he could handle in their fight in 2003.

The fight was stopped after six rounds because Klitschko's left eye looked like shark chum, but Lewis' subsequent retirement (sans rematch) and Klitschko's follow-up stoppages of Kirk Thomas, Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams validated Klitschko as the division's premier heavyweight.

King does not own an interest in either Wladimir ("Dr. Steelhammer") or Vitali - yet. Nor does he own Maskaev - yet. He does own WBO titlist Shannon Briggs and co-owns the WBA strapholder - the 7-foot, 330-pound Nicolay Valuev. King also owns Wladimir's next opponent, Ray Austin.

Over the years boxing has been compared to a morality play between the ropes. The heavyweight division is now a microcosm of that metaphor. It's good vs. evil. It's now the Klitschkos-plural-versus the puppet-master promoter King for control of the heavyweight division.

Here's to the good guys.


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