CANCUN, Mexico - The first world heavyweight championship ever staged in Mexico will take place in Cancun’s Plaza de Torros on Saturday, March 8 when World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev makes the second defense of his title against WBC interim heavyweight champion Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter to determine the sole WBC heavyweight champion.
The two had been scheduled to meet in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Oct. 6, but a back injury forced Maskaev to pull out of the fight on Sept. 21.
The WBC Board of Governors convened on Sept. 24 and voted Peter its interim heavyweight champion. Peter chose to make a title defense on Oct. 6, winning a unanimous decision over Jameel “Big Time” McCline.
A tremendous co-featured main event will showcase a second world championship when undefeated World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz (33-0, 17 KOs), from Houston, Tex., takes on IBF No. 1-ranked mandatory challenger Nate “Galaxxy Warrior” Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KOs), from Jacksonville, Fla.
Both fights will be televised live in America on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT. “History in Cancun” is being promoted by Don King Productions in association with Duva Boxing and Pepe Gomez Promotions.
Two domestically non-televised matches have been added to the card including former two-time WBA heavyweight champion John “The Quietman” Ruiz (42-7-1, 29 KOs), from Chelsea, Mass., squaring off against New York native Jameel “Big Time” McCline (38-8-3, 23 KOs), and former two-time WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo (56-8-1, 48 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico will meet undefeated Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley (21-0, 11 KOs), from Palm Springs, Calif.
Maskaev (34-5, 26 KOs), from Kazakhstan and a U.S. citizen since 2004 with homes in Staten Island, N.Y., and West Sacramento, Calif., is riding a 12-fight winning streak that includes a 12th-round technical knockout over Hasim “The Rock” Rahman to win the WBC heavyweight crown in Las Vegas on Aug. 12, 2006.
The Russian-American won many fans that night with a dramatic and gritty final-round stoppage in a fight that was up for grabs. It has been said it takes heart to win the big ones, and Maskaev proved he had the heart of a champion. He landed a devastating left hook that sent Rahman down midway through the final stanza and shortly thereafter finished him off with an unanswered barrage that caused the referee to step in and halt the action during the last minute of the contest.
Perseverance has been a model for Maskaev in his career. A Russian amateur star who stopped Vitali Klitschko in the first round, Maskaev turned pro in 1993 but was matched too soon with the likes of Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall and David Tua.
He ran his record to a respectable 20-2 before stumbling against Kirk Johnson in 2000, Lance “Mount” Whitaker in 2001 and Corey Sanders in 2002. Many thought it was time for Maskaev to throw in the towel, but he took a year off and came back with a new team and vision, and he hasn’t lost a match in over five years.
Maskaev will again face the type of young lion in Peter (29-1, 22 KOs) that has caused him so much trouble in the past. The 26-year-old from Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, now living in Las Vegas, is on the precipice of achieving the success many boxing experts and fans have predicted would come for this heavy-handed knockout artist.
Promoter Don King has been telling everyone within earshot that Peter could be the next Tyson (King co-promotes Peter with Duva Boxing), and the Nigerian’s 75-percent knockout percentage backs the claim. His lone loss came by decision in 2005 against Wladimir Klitschko after Peter had knocked him down three times.
Peter has now honed his boxing skills to the extent he beat Old School boxing master James “Lights Out” Toney in back-to-back appearances on Sept. 2, 2006, and Jan. 6, 2007—both on 12-round decisions. Those victories made Peter the WBC No. 1-ranked heavyweight and the mandatory challenger to Maskaev.
Peter survived a scare from McCline, who agreed to face the Nigerian just two weeks prior to their Oct. 6 meeting. McCline has a history of being dangerous early, having knocked out heavyweight contender Michael Grant in just 43 seconds and dropped then International Boxing Federation champion Chris Byrd early in the second round when they met in 2004.
Juan Diaz became the second-youngest fighter to win a world title in the history of the sport in 2004 when, at just age 20, he won the WBA lightweight championship. In the last year, he stopped both Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz to gain the WBO and IBF belts.
A relentless, punishing boxer that burrows forward throwing punches in bunches at all times, Diaz has become one of the most exciting boxers in the sport. When not in the ring, Diaz is a senior at the University of Houston-Downtown who would like to go on to law school someday.
In contrast, Nate Campbell didn’t participate in his first professional fight until he was almost 28 years old. A gifted athlete, Campbell learned the tricks of the trade inside the ring. His efforts have resulted in him being named IBF mandatory challenger to Diaz.
Campbell has unusually long arms, and it will be interesting to see if his reach advantage can help him find a way to do what nobody has been able to do before him: slow down and defeat the ever-charging Baby Bull. A true working man-boxer, this high-profile fight has afforded Campbell the opportunity to have a sequestered training camp in Miami. At age 35, he wants to make the most of his second world-title appearance.