Peter eyes Klitschko upset to reshuffle deck

BERLIN (Reuters) - A victory over heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko on Saturday would make challenger Samuel Peter from Nigeria a household name overnight and open up the division after years of Ukrainian domination.

Vladimir and his brother Vitali have had a stranglehold on the division and while the two technically outstanding Ukrainians are undisputed world champions, their reign has done little to boost the sport's popularity.

The fight in Eintracht Frankfurt's soccer arena will be unleashing two big punchers against each other but it is not the fight fans or broadcasters necessarily would want to see. Unless Peter wins.

Proof of that is the bout is not televised live in the United States, not even on pay-per-view.

But with the brothers not fighting each other and Haye repeatedly refusing a much awaited unification clash with them, any other bout looks like an inexpensive substitute.

Peter, dubbed the Nigerian nightmare, fought Vladimir five years ago and despite knocking the Ukrainian down three times, ended up losing.

He then proceeded to lose his WBC crown to Vitali when the older Klitschko stepped out of a four-year retirement and beat Peter with a technical knockout in 2008.

The 1.88 meter tall 30-year-old has pledged a knockout victory this time round, a result that would certainly reshuffle the heavyweight division.

BIG PUNCHER

A devout Christian, Peter has shown in his most recent bouts he is not the same fighter as the one who faced the Klitschkos.

He has gained in speed and punching power and shed weight.

"There is too much chatter about Klitschko getting a knockout victory," said Peter's coach Abel Sanchez.

"I think this is bullshit. It is going to be short fight and it is going to be Sam who'll get it by the sixth round," said Sanchez.

Peter, who has won 34 of his 37 bouts, 27 of them with a knockout, has been stopped but never counted out.

Vladimir, with a 54-3-0 record, holds the WBO, IBF and IBO belts.

Peter was not first choice. He was brought in to replace Russia's Alexander Povetkin, who failed to show up for a pre-fight news conference because of a sinus problem, prompting the IBF to order Klitschko's management to find a new opponent.

Klitschko, who has repeatedly called on Haye to commit to a fight to please the fans and broadcasters, knows big-punching Peter will be no pushover.

"I am expecting him to be at least as determined as five years ago," Klitschko said. "He is probably technically better because now he is trying to box and do different things.

"I am expecting Sam to be a more experienced fighter and experience you cannot buy in a shop. Sam Peter is a puncher. The rest of the guys we fought, we never really had to worry about punching power," said Klitschko.

(Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Alison Wildey)