RENO - Working his way through the heavyweight division, Samuel Peter has picked up several nicknames - "The Nigerian Nightmare," "The Knockout Sensation" and "The Locomotive."
The 24-year-old Peter lived up to all three sobriquets Saturday, scoring a devastating second-round knockout over Taurus Sykes in front of 2,800 fans at the newly christened Reno Events Center.
After a feeling-out round in the first, the 243-pound Peter caused Sykes' knees to wobble with a right hand in the second. Peter relentlessly battered Sykes from one side of the ring to the next, finally landing with three rights which spun him around and followed with a left hook and right hand as Sykes' head lay over the top rope.
Sykes went down and as referee Vic Drakulich reached the count of four Sykes tried to rise, but instead grabbed his nose and fell back over the bottom rope. Drakulich waved it off at 2 minutes, 7 seconds of the round.
The 6-foot-1 Peter, now 24-0, with 21 knockouts, picked up the North American Boxing Association (NABA) belt to go with his United States Boxing Association (USBA) and North American Boxing Federation (NABF) titles. The bout was scheduled for 12 rounds.
The 235-pound Sykes, of Brooklyn, had never been stopped before and saw his record slip to 23-2-1 (6). At the post-fight press conference he held an icebag on his left eye as he answered questions.
"He was a lot stronger than I anticipated," Sykes said. "It was all my fault. I didn't follow through with my game plan. I started to dominate with my jab in round two, but I wasn't sure. I wasn't confident. I was just putting it out there."
It is questionable whether Sykes dominated at any point, but he did stick out his tongue and started to grin as he stuck out his jab midway through the round. A big right hand from Peter changed all of that.
"I tried to stay in the pocket," Sykes said. "I didn't want to give him leverage backing me up. I came out of the pocket a little bit when I got caught."
Sykes said the only punch he remembered being hit with was an overhand right, but Peter said the coup de grace was the left hook and right hand that landed as Sykes' head was held up by the top rope when he was spun around by a series of rights.
"I thank God for this, the victory He gave me," said Peter, who is originally from Akwaibom, Nigeria, but lives and trains out of Las Vegas. "I know (Sykes) couldn't take my right. I hit him when I wanted to hit him."
Although many didn't believe Sykes when he said he'd stand in front of his hard-punching opponent, Peter said he took Sykes at his word.
"I knew he was going to stand in front of me. He told me so," Peter said with a grin.
Dino Duva, Peter's promoter, said Peter would be willing to fight WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko on Sept. 24, but doesn't expect Klitschko to take the fight.
"In one year or less, Samuel's going to be the No. 1 heavyweight in the world," Duva said. "We'd like to fight for the title in Reno. This is 'Sam's Town.'"
In a back-and-forth slugfest Oscar Diaz, 146, San Antonio, took an eight-round unanimous decision over Arturo Urena, 144, Mazatlan, Mexico. Keith Macdonald (78-75), Burt Clements (78-74) and Doug Tucker (78-74) all had it in favor of the 22-year-old Diaz, who improved to 21-1, with 11 knockouts. Urena fell to 18-11-1 (14).
Former amateur star Ray Biggs Jr., 148, Brooklyn, dropped Carson City's Simon Ruvalcaba, 148 1/2, in the first round and again in the third on the way to a TKO victory.
The end came at 1:15 of round three after Biggs followed a four-punch combination with a left hook to improve to 3-0 (3). Ruvalcaba fell to 3-7-2.
Elena "Baby Doll" Reid, 111 1/2, Las Vegas, overpowered Stephanie Dobbs, 111, Moore, Okla., notching a six-round victory. Reid knocked down Dobbs with three right hands in the first and soared to a unanimous decision by scores of 60-53, 60-51, 60-51. Reid improved to 17-2-5 (5), while Dobbs dipped to 17-18-2 (9).
In heavyweight action, 19-year-old Mike Marrone, 210, Vero Beach, Fla., escaped the repeated clinches of Forrest Neal, 235, Detroit, long enough to floor him three times in round three. Neal, now 16-7 (12), did not answer the bell for round four. Marrone ran his record to 10-0 (9).
Christian Cruz, 169, Sacramento, scored a frightening one-punch knockout of Edmund O'Neal, 168, Lawton, Okla. The end came on a single right hand at 2:35 of round three. Cruz improved to 11-2-1 (8), while O'Neal, who was down for several minutes, fell to 8-9-2 (1).
In the evening's best exhibition of boxing, Nonito Donaire, 117, San Leandro, Calif. via The Philippines, outpunched and outslicked rugged Larry Olvera, 119, San Pedro, Calif., over six rounds. The scores were 60-50 and 59-53 (twice). The talented Donaire slipped shots and landed and countered at will in moving to 11-1 (7). Olvera dipped to 5-5-1 (4).