The 2000s era for Heavyweights gets downplayed a lot largely because it is the era that is widely known (and unfairly panned) as the Klitschko era. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko were the 2 dominant heavyweights no question but there were plenty of other contenders that would at least make things interesting and competitive. Jameel “Big Time” McCline would burst onto the world title scene with a shocking first round knockout of former world title challenger Michael Grant. A knockout where McCline dropped Grant with the first shot he landed, and Grant broke his ankle on the way down. Subsequent wins over the likes of Shannon Briggs and Lance Whitaker would lead to his first world title shot against then reigning WBO Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko would take his zero and win in one-sided fashion by 10th round TKO. McCline would rebound with some good wins over former title challenger Charles Shufford and undefeated prospect Cedric Boswell. This would lead to his second world title shot against then reigning IBF Heavyweight Champion Chris Byrd. In a very bruising fight, McCline would drop Byrd in round 2 and give him all that he could handle but would lose a close split decision. Most observers, myself included, thought McCline did enough to win the fight. After this fight, McCline’s performances would become increasingly spotty. He would suffer losses to upcoming contender Calvin Brock and journeyman Zuri Lawrence. A rebuild stretch of lower-level wins would lead to a third title world shot against then WBA Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuev. This would end prematurely as McCline would suffer a knee injury in the 3rd round. However, it did not hurt his ranking as he was placed in this interim WBC title fight.
Samuel Peter came up the heavyweight rankings with an iron chin, brutal power, and a string of brutal knockouts. None so chilling then virtually ending the career of Jeremy Williams. Quality wins against the aforementioned Charles Shufford, Yanqui Diaz, and Taurus Sykes would lead to an IBF & WBO eliminator against Wladimir Klitschko. Peter would give Klitschko all he could handle in a 12 round war in which he scored 3 knockdowns but would lose a close decision along with his zero. This was a loss though that only enhanced his reputation as a top heavyweight. He would go on another streak culminating with what are considered his best career wins. 2 wins, back-to-back, over the legendary James “Lights Out” Toney with the second fight considered his finest performance. This would lead to a shot against then WBC Heavyweight Champion Oleg Maskaev. However, Maskaev had to bow out of their bout with an injury. So, Samuel Peter and Jameel McCline would battle for the WBC Interim Heavyweight Title.
The first round started off with Peter at once establishing a jab against McCline. A fine display of jabbing as he would double it up and triple it up. Combining that with good movement, the object was to make sure McCline would be tentative early to throw. Pushing McCline with educated pressure, he looked great after an aforementioned 9 month layoff. It was funny hearing the announcers talk about Peter’s chin not knowing what was going to happen the rest of the fight. Second round Peter picks up where he left off with the jab mixing that up with body work. Peter was also visibly stunning McCline with overhand rights. Peter was well on his way to winning the round when a short uppercut from McCline dropped Peter for the first time as an amateur or pro. Peter did not seem very hurt as the ref was issuing the count. Lucky for Peter, the round just ended. However more emboldened, McCline threw another uppercut in round three which landed and had Peter wobbling all over the place. A left hook followed by another right hand put Peter on the deck again. Peter gets up but he is very shaky. McCline moved in for the kill landing combinations on a Peter with wobbly legs. Peter, being the fighter that he was, fired back. McCline looked like he had punched himself out and was visibly gassing out. All of a sudden, a left hand followed by two right hands would drop Peter again with a minute to go. Peter at this point dug a fairly considerable size hole on the cards. McCline unfortunately would fail to finish Peter, who managed to weather the storm.
Peter’s cornermen were none too pleased with what happened and urged him to fight smarter. That is what Peter who climbed his way back into the fight reestablishing his jab and a vicious body attack. McCline surprisingly moved his hands less after nearly upsetting the apple cart. All this did was encourage Peter to move forward with more and more abandon. McCline would land the hard shot here and there but not putting anything together to dissuade Peter. Some of those hard shots would actually wobble Peter but McCline would just not follow up. Peter would simply clear his head and continue his attack. By the 7th and 8th rounds it looked to me that Peter had won enough rounds in row to erase the deficit that 3 knockdowns caused in the early rounds. Members of the press row certainly had it either for McCline or Peter but no more than 2 rounds. McCline I felt had a better round in round 9 using uppercuts to slow down Peter’s attack. McCline would also land left hooks to answer the jab that Peter was throwing on top of clinching and leaning on him. Poor ref had to keep separating until Peter got frustrated and started landing shots below the belt. McCline immediately started firing back until the bell rang. Round 10 Peter again took control of the fight and this time it was for good. That round was Peter re-establishing his jab and right hand on a McCline who again was wildly inactive. 11th round McCline, with his mouth open, tried throwing the left hook seeing if he could hurt him again. It was close until the final 10 seconds when Peter opened up and landed a wicked salvo of shots that hurt McCline. At the bell McCline’s head nearly went bobblehead and had to be led back to his corner by the ref bleeding from his mouth. The 12th round was kind of anticlimactic as it ended with McCline punching and holding trying to stifle the jab and hard right hands that were coming from Peter.
It was still a hell of a fight with both men showing serious resolve in a bout with ebb and flow. Going to the cards, the judges would score the bout 113-112, 115-110, and 115-111 for the “Nigerian Nightmare”. Jameel McCline had a look of disappointment and disbelief as he walked out of the ring to the back. Stopping along the way to tell the fans that he was the one that won the fight. Truthfully, I thought he should have got the nod and the 115-110 and 115-111 scores were too wide. However, Jameel’s slide continued as he would lose 5 of the last 8 fights in his career to the likes of John Ruiz, Chris Arreola, Harold Sconiers, Artur Szpilka, and Magomed Abdusalamov. In retirement, he moved to South Florida training fighters, being highly involved in his community, and tending to his several philanthropic endeavors. The highest profile would be with Vocadia, an automatic call center platform that helps eliminate human error, of which he is an executive.
For Sam Peter, his star would continue to rise. In his next fight, he would KO Oleg Maskaev in the sixth round to become the full WBC Heavyweight Champion. His first title defense would be his last as he was stopped in 8 rounds by a come backing Vitali Klitschko. A following loss to Eddie Chambers of which he looked incredibly sloppy and out of shape put him on the comeback trail. After regaining his fitness along with a string of KO’s against lesser competition, he would fight Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF & WBO Heavyweight Titles. This time Wlad showed a level from the first fight and brutally stopped Peter in the 10th round. Another brutal KO loss to Robert Helenius in the fight after spelled the end of what you would consider the prime part of Samuel Peter’s career. He would come back on and off after a 3-year layoff but always heavy, out of shape, with his skills notably faded. He became an opponent for up-and-coming heavyweight prospects and contenders. He has not fought since 2019 and truthfully have not seen much info on what he is doing now. Both him and McCline will always have this fight to remember that demonstrated what made both men champions and contenders in the heavyweight division.