Peter eyes title bout

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) – Even after Samuel Peter beat James Toney with ease, his manager wasn’t that impressed.

“I would call it a B-minus performance,” said Peter’s manager, Ivaylo Gotzev.

B-minus was good enough – for now, anyway.

Peter beat Toney by unanimous decision Saturday in their 12-round rematch, which served as an elimination bout for the WBC heavyweight championship. The win, in theory, assures Peter a shot against Oleg Maskaev for that belt, and that’s the first of many ambitious goals his camp plans to chase this year.

“This is the first real step because now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” promoter Dino Duva said. “By the end of 2007, as long as all these champions have the nerve to get in the ring with him, Samuel Peter will be undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”

First, though, comes the task of scheduling the matchup with Maskaev, an obviously important detail. Promoter Don King said he’s sure it will happen, Gotzev said he’d like to see a Peter-Maskaev fight take place by March and Duva said April may represent a more reasonable goal.

For his part, Peter didn’t fixate on his upcoming schedule. He just seemed relieved to get past Toney for a second time.

“I told you guys I would put a good fight out for everyone to see the best heavyweight coming up,” Peter said. “I’m so happy. It’s a miracle, to beat Toney again.”

It didn’t look like Peter needed any miracles.

Peter (28-1, 22 knockouts) outpointed Toney (69-6-3, 43 KOs) by significant margins, 118-110 on two scorecards, 119-108 on the other. And unlike their split decision in Los Angeles last Sept. 2, most ringside observers agreed that Peter won this fight handily.

“No doubts,” Duva said.

When Peter and Toney first fought last year, Peter prevailed by 116-111 margins on two judges’ cards that night, but Toney was ahead 115-112 on the third card. So the WBC intervened and, by a vote of its board of governors, ordered a rematch.

Peter wasn’t thrilled. But he went back into training camp, dropped eight pounds and still had enough power to become the first person to knock Toney down since Roy Jones Jr. did it as a super middleweight in 1994.

“When the WBC ordered this rematch, initially, obviously we were upset about it because we knew Sam won fair and square last fight,” Duva said. “But when they ordered the rematch, it did something to Sam Peter. It turns out to be a blessing. He won it more convincingly. It makes the title fight bigger.”

Meanwhile, Peter’s camp wants to see their guy get smaller.

He weighed 249 for the fight with Toney, yet still clearly tired by the midpoint of Saturday’s fight, breathing hard through his mouth and often going lengthy stretches without forcing much action.

To win any title fight, be it against Maskaev or IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko – the only fighter to put a loss on Peter’s professional record – or anyone else, Peter acknowledges he needs to keep getting sharper.

And his team vowed that will happen.

“Us and the team know what this man is capable of really doing,” Gotzev said. “If he gets in shape, he can be unstoppable. He’s the total package. Power, boxing skills, it’s all going to come out now, and hopefully the world’s watching.”

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