About 15 minutes before HBO was to go on the air Saturday for its "Boxing After Dark" broadcast from the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, Nev., a former heavyweight champion was advising a current one on tactics.
Lennox Lewis and Sam Peter have a little more in common than the garish green WBC belt they've each held.
Lewis ended his career with a victory over Vitali Klitschko while Peter will make his with one. And so, as technicians scurried and fans, ring card girls and assorted boxing personnel pleaded with the pair for a picture, Lewis gave Peter a few first-hand tips about beating Klitschko.
Lewis had his hands up near his face, always a smart thing when facing a guy whose punches carry the impact of a small sledgehammer.
Peter clearly enjoyed the session, however brief it was, but he wasn't about to divulge any of Lewis' secrets.
"That's stuff between champions," Peter said, flashing the ear-to-ear grin that has adorned his face for most of his waking hours since he stopped Oleg Maskaev in a Cancun, Mexico, bullring in March.
Peter's handlers last week reached an accord with Klitschko's handlers for a fight between them later this year. The bout, if it comes off, will fulfill the WBC's moronic promise of nearly three years ago to Klitschko to give him a title shot if he ever opted to end an injury-induced retirement.
Since the WBC put no time conditions on it, Klitschko has been able to put a stranglehold on the division simply by making noises about coming back.
It doesn't matter that he's running for mayor of his hometown, Kiev, Ukraine, either. They'll make Peter wait until the election is done to get on with his career.
But Peter wants to fight, particularly in his home country of Nigeria, so his manager, Ivaylo Gotzev, was able to extract a promise from the WBC that Peter could take a summer fight while Klitschko finalizes his election and prepares to return to competition.
Gotzev said he's considering Brits Matt Skelton, Danny Williams and Audley Harrison for the opponent for a show he expects to hold in Nigeria.
Those three are about as deserving at a shot at the belt as Larry, Curly and Moe, but this one isn't about a competitive match. It's about getting some work in and biding time.
"The people in Nigeria want to see me fight as champion there very badly," Peter said. "They don't care who I fight. They just want a chance to see a (championship) fight."
They won't see much of a fight, particularly if the opponent is Williams or Harrison, the super heavyweight gold medalist from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, who has squandered his career so badly that's he frequently referred to derisively as "Fraudley."
But whichever of the three draws the short straw, Peter figures to need no more than six or seven rounds to be rid of them.
And then it will be on to the Klitschko Injury Watch. There ought to be a countdown clock stuck somewhere in Times Square ticking off the seconds between injuries that cause Klitschko to pull out of fights.
He hasn't fought since stopping Danny Williams in 2004. He was supposed to fight Hasim Rahman in 2005, but couldn't remain healthy enough for the bout to come off.
In November of that year, only days before the rescheduled bout was to be held, Klitschko hurt a knee and pulled out. He shortly announced his retirement.
The WBC somehow came up with the cockamamie idea that it should designate Klitschko as its champion emeritus and give him an immediate shot at the title whenever he chose to return.
Now, if Don King had been Klitschko's promoter or manager, you can imagine the howls of protest and the outcry that would have been raised.
But there has hardly been a whimper of protest, despite the fact that the WBC's open-ended dictum puts no restriction on when Klitschko can use it.
If he gets hurt and is forced to pull out of the bout – costing Peter plenty – he retains the option. He could be 50 and out of boxing for more than a decade and the option will still be good.
"It's not fair," Peter said, shrugging his shoulders. "But I just have to knock out both Klitschkos, that's all."
Klitschko's handlers defend the option by noting that Klitschko will represent the biggest payday for whoever is champion when he is able to fight.
And while that is true, at least for the time being, and boxing is a business, it takes any sense of sport out of the equation.
Peter would rather be facing Wladimir Klitschko, who holds the IBF and WBO belts, because the winner would not only hold three of the four major belts but would gain widespread acclaim as the champion.
Give him credit, though, for finding a good side in the mess.
"The sport needs the heavyweight champion to fight," Peter said. "I want to be a champion who fights. Just tell me when and I'll be there."
It's a commendable position. But when they tell him the date of the Klitschko bout, they also ought to at the same time give him the number of Klitschko's doctor.
That way, when Klitschko is forced to pull out because of an injury, Peter will be able to get the news first-hand.
- Vitali Klitschko
- Sam Peter
- Lennox Lewis