Wladimir Klitschko could face tough test from Peter

Since Lennox Lewis retired in 2003, the heavyweight championship of the world - most of the more recognized crowns anyway - seemingly have been held in the iron grip of two large, dominating Ukrainian brothers with high knockout percentages and, for whatever reason, limited appeal on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

So, what would it take to break that Eastern European stranglehold on what for so long was recognized as the most prestigious individual title in sports?

For starters, a competitive bout - there haven't been too many of those of late - against someone as capable of putting a hurtin' on a Klitschko as they are of dishing them out.

Such a matchup might be in the offing tonight, when IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko (54-3, 48 KOs) swaps bombs with a past opponent, Nigeria's Samuel Peter (34-3, 27 KOs) at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany.

In their previous, nontitle pairing, Klitschko was knocked down three times, but scored a 12-round, unanimous decision over the big-punching but technically deficient Peter on Sept. 24, 2005, in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. All three judges had Klitschko, who won every round in which he wasn't decked, winning by scores of 116-112.

Peter's formidable power and Wladimir's suspect chin are still there, which at least offers the possibility that there could be a turnover of two of the titles held by the brothers Klitschko. (Vitali Klitschko, the WBC ruler, is 40-2 with 38 victories inside the distance.)

"The biggest problem in boxing today is nobody knocks anybody out," said Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who will be in the champion's corner. "But Sam Peter is the most dangerous opponent Wladimir has faced in 5 years, because he is a real puncher.

HBO televised W. Klitschko-Peter I, but the pay-cable giant of late has "stopped playing in that sandbox," according to HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, because the Klitschkos tend to win too easily and, more significant, their enormous drawing power (an on-site crowd of 45,000 is expected in Frankfurt) in Europe has not been matched on these shores. ESPN3 is televising in America, which means fight fans will have to track it down online, with a Sunday repeat on regular ESPN.

Steward thinks the suits at HBO are missing out on something potentially special, because not only can Wlad match Peter bomb for bomb, he might even be capable of making a bigger bang.

"For one-punch power, Wladimir tops them all," Steward said. "If he ever became more aggressive and just went after people, he could be the most devastating heavyweight puncher ever."

More devastating than George Foreman? Mike Tyson? Rocky Marciano? Earnie Shavers?

"I've trained many fighters, and Wladimir is one of the few who can turn off the lights without using the dimmer switch first," Steward said.

Peter, who was trained by Andy "Pops" Anderson when he last tried to put Wlad to sleep, is 0-2 against the Klitschkos, having also been stopped in eight rounds to Vitali on Oct. 11, 2008, in Berlin. Now trained by the capable Abel Sanchez, he has put together a four-bout winning streak since losing a majority decision to Philadelphia-based Eddie Chambers on March 27, 2009, in Los Angeles.

"[Wladimir] is going down, and this time he will not get up," Peter vowed. *