Sometimes boxers fight outside the ring.
Just ask Jameel McCline, who will find himself fighting for a World Boxing Council heavyweight title that nobody truly owns when he takes on Samuel Peter on Saturday night at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
McCline thought he was headed for a bout with Vitali Klitschko on Sept. 22. But Klitschko, whose brother Wladimir is the IBF champ, withdrew because of a back injury.
It then looked as if the 37-year-old McCline would take on DaVarryl Williamson on the undercard of the WBC title bout between champion Oleg Maskaev and Peter. But Maskaev then dropped out, also with a back injury, and rather than scrap the entire program, promoters went looking for an opponent to fight Peter.
They also asked the WBC to strip Maskaev of the crown and give it to Peter. Because waiting for Maskaev to regain his health could last well into 2008, the WBC made Peter the interim champ and sanctioned the fight with McCline.
"It's crazy, but that's why you've got to be ready for anything in boxing," McCline said. "I was in against Vitali, then Vitali was out. I was in against Williamson, and now I'm fighting for the world heavyweight championship against Samuel Peter.
"I'm a big, strong and talented heavyweight that can stand up and punch with Peter. This isn't the first time I've been in the ring with a world champion. I'm coming to win."
Nearly five years ago, McCline fought titleholder Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO crown and was stopped in the 10th round. McCline fought Chris Byrd for the IBF title in 2004, knocking down the champion in the second round. But Byrd got up and won a split decision, which seemed to put McCline on the fast track to another title shot.
But it took another six wins before he got a chance, this time against Nikolai Valuev for the WBA belt. McCline hurt his knee and fight was stopped in the third round.
McCline underwent surgery for a ruptured knee tendon and has made a quick recovery.
"I think it is a divine determination that he and I are getting together in the ring," said McCline, 38-7 with three draws and 23 knockouts. "This is another chance in my life to win the title."
The 27-year-old Peter has never been in a championship bout. The native of Nigeria twice beat James Toney to earn the top ranking of the WBC, which made him the mandatory challenger to Maskaev. When Maskaev dropped out, Peter got his chance to fight for the crown - against McCline. And as the interim champion.
"The switch of opponents doesn't bother me," he said. "I'm a fighter and I will go in and do what I have to do."
The undercard features two more heavyweight bouts. Williamson will fight Australia's Kali Meehan, and Andrew Golota takes on Kevin McBride.
Also on the card is a WBA super welterweight elimination bout between two former world champions. Daniel Santos of Puerto Rico, the WBO champion for more than four years, takes on American Jose Rivera, who was a WBA champ.