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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Showtime rejects Golota; McCline may be next for Peter

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Samuel Peter, named the WBC interim heavyweight champ on Monday, is still looking for an opponent for his Oct. 6 bout at Madison Square Garden.

One distinct possibility? Jameel McCline, who is currently scheduled to face DaVarryl Williamson on the undercard.

To backtrack: Peter, who hasn't landed a punch in a fight since dominating James Toney in a January elimination bout, was named the interim titleholder days after Oleg Maskaev withdrew from a mandatory defense against Peter (28-1, 22 KOs) because of a back injury.

Maskaev hasn't fought since making his only title defense in December 2006, and probably will be sidelined for a few months because of the injury. The WBC didn't want its title to be inactive for such a long stretch, so it handed Peter an interim title.

When Maskaev is able to fight, he is required to face Peter (28-1, 22 KOs) or he would be stripped. If Maskaev is stripped, Peter's interim tag would be dropped.

"To avoid the fact that the WBC heavyweight division remains frozen, the WBC board of governors has conclusively voted to name Samuel Peter as the WBC heavyweight interim world champion," WBC president Jose Sulaiman said in a statement.

While that piece of business was being taken care of, promoter Don King continues to try to salvage the Oct. 6 card.

He had hoped to match Peter with the infamous Andrew Golota, who was scheduled to fight Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride on the undercard. However, Showtime, which was scheduled to televise Maskaev-Peter, rejected Golota -- 0-3-1 in title fights, including two first-round knockout losses -- as a replacement opponent.

King's intention now is to match McCline (38-7-3, 23 KOs) against Peter. Although Showtime rejected Golota, it has approved McCline, a source involved in the talks said. However, King still needs to come to financial terms with Peter and McCline, and also needs Madison Square Garden to agree to the fight.

If Peter-McCline comes off, it would be pairing of fighters who were both training for Showtime fights when their opponents were injured. McCline signed with King a couple of weeks ago after his Sept. 22 fight with Vitali Klitschko was canceled when Klitschko also suffered a back injury.

"We are in discussions and we are very close I believe to finalizing something," Scott Hirsch, McCline's manager, said. "I have confidence that with Don King, the show will go on. I've had good experiences with him and I think we're going to get the opportunity. I have a good feeling it will be against Sam Peter on Oct. 6. When Jameel and I went there [to sign a promotional agreement with King], that's why we went to Don, to get a title shot, and sooner rather than later."

The Peter camp hopes the card is saved but money is a factor. Showtime, which was going to pay about $2 million for Maskaev-Peter, wants to significantly slash the license fee for a replacement, which leaves King to negotiate a new deal with Peter, who isn't interested in taking a pay cut.

"We're in the process of negotiating our deal," Ivaylo Gotzev, Peter's manager, said. "If the price is right, we'll fight Jameel McCline. He's a worthy challenger, so why not? The clock is ticking. We'll know in the next 24 hours."

Gotzev was pleased that the WBC gave Peter the interim belt. Peter had twice beaten Toney in elimination fights and making the Maskaev fight was a grueling process every step of the way until it wound up being called off.

"The bottom line is inactivity should not be allowed in boxing," he said. "That's what the interim championship was created for, so the injured champion can recuperate and the No. 1 contender can step in. It was the right thing to do.

"Samuel is happy. He felt like a champion all along, especially after he beat James Toney two times in a row. We always considered James Toney the toughest fight of his career. We considered it a harder fight than we thought the Maskaev fight would have been. But Maskaev tried to get out of this fight so many times. Then the injury, if you believe it. We're in this to make fights happen, not to make excuses and not to avoid fights."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.