The 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist, and former WBA Lightweight World Champion, Amir Khan (26-2, 18 KOs), from Bolton, Lancashire, U.K.,had been silencing critics with his most recent HBO outings where he showcased his tremendous hand speed and talent. After a breakout 2010 for Khan, in which he easily defeated former Junior Welterweight World Champion, Paul Malignaggi, and then gained an incredible, action-packed and very close victory over Argentinian brawler and WBA Junior Welterweight Champion, Marcos Maidana. In his last fight which was this year, Khan easily thwarted former Undisputed Welterweight World Champion, and at the time the reigning IBF Junior Welterweight World Champion, Zab Judah in five rounds via an uppercut to the body. That win gave Amir Khan two World Championships at Junior Welterweight, making him the IBF and WBA Junior Welterweight Champion of the World. For Khan, beating another tough opponent, and on that opponent’s home turf, would be another testament to his ongoing development into a top professional fighter.
Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs), from Washington D.C., is headed into this bout with an unusual advantage; despite being the challenger, he has Khan coming into Peterson’s hometown to defend his World Championships. Considering Khan’s popularity overseas in his native U.K., as well as the buzz he’s generated in the United States, one would think Khan wouldn’t give a challenger like Peterson such an advantage. But indeed, when the bout was signed, Peterson and Khan were to meet in Washington D.C. Peterson did not have had the biggest buzz coming into the professionals with his amateur background, despite having a stellar amateur career in which he defeated eventual notable pros such as Andre Dirrel and Rock Allen, and capturing the National Lightweight Amateur Championship in 2001. His background, however, is pretty remarkable. Peterson and his brother, also a professional fighter, had gotten coverage due to the fact that they were homeless at age 10. At that time, trainer Barry Hunter, took them into the boxing gym and eventually honed them into the fighters they are now. Peterson’s most notable bouts were against former Welterweight World Champion, Victor Ortiz, and current WBO Light Welterweight World Champion, Timothy Bradley. Peterson had a draw with Ortiz, and decisively lost to Bradley. So, as Max Kellerman stated before the bout began, Peterson needed to ascend his game to the next level to have an opportunity to upend Khan. Lamont Peterson has been a respected contender for the past few years, but in Amir Khan, this posed a make or break opportunity for Peterson to break the mold from contender to Champion.
After a very startling and over zealous announcement of “Let’s shake hands!” by the referee, the crowd in Washington D.C. was on its way to getting more than their money’s worth from Khan and Peterson. Peterson got off to a slightly cold start in the first, fighting from a distance and allowing Khan’s superior hand speed to be showcased in letting Khan outwork him. Though Khan wasn’t landing too many blows on Peterson in the first, he won the round big because the referee ruled what appeared to be a slip as a knockdown and gave Khan a two point advantage to begin the bout. In the second and third rounds, Peterson got cooking, and his body attack combined with stinging shots, uppercuts and hooks on the inside to the head of Khan gave him a much better showing than the first stanza. After the third, it seemed as though Amir Khan was in for a long night, similar to his struggle with Maidana rather than his easy victories over the Brooklyn products, Zab Judah and Paul Malignaggi. Peterson didn’t back off, which gave him success. In the first round, Peterson stared at Khan too much. Peterson is a good technical fighter and has good hand speed, but Khan is superior on the outside, and Peterson wasn’t going to win the biggest fight of his career sitting on the outside.
When Peterson mounted aggression and began hunting Khan down in the second and third, it paid big dividends and made it obvious Peterson was going to have to fight like a bull through much of the night to come up big. Khan and Peterson then exchanged two close rounds in the fourth and fifth, with more of the same advantages for each fighter. Khan won his rounds by throwing flurry after flurry on the outside, using his great hand speed, and even when not landing, out working Peterson. Peterson, when not throwing enough punches, would be outworked, but when he stepped up the work rate and aggression, his body attack was brutal, particularly on the ropes for Khan. The body attack would eventually set up some big shots for Peterson upstairs.
After five action packed and very close rounds, the crowd not only had a competitive bout on hand, but their hometown fighter had a chance to have the biggest night of his career, and they were being treated to one of the best fights in boxing of 2011. After a close sixth round, in which Khan probably edged Peterson due to Peterson not being as active as he should have been and Khan trading body blows on even footing in the round, Peterson won the seventh big, forcing Khan to retreat at parts during the stanza as Peterson hunted him down and attacked the body again ruthlessly on the ropes. The referee made the round a two point swing for Peterson, when towards the end of the round, he deducted a point from Khan for excessive use of his elbow, using it to shove off Peterson. It also appeared Peterson may have even hurt Khan a few times, but Khan to his credit showed he is quite scrappy and tried to fire back in combinations several times after being hit: the mark of a fighter with heart. Peterson repeated much of the seventh in the eighth, and won the round in one sided fashion, punishing the abdomen of Khan some more, and causing Khan to retreat at times, backpedaling hastily away from Peterson after receiving some rib crunching blows.
The pattern of the bout had formed: Khan won the rounds in which he was able to have distance and fire off combinations, and blunt Peterson’s work rate. Peterson, when able to get on the inside and make it a dog fight, was able to punish Khan to the body and head on the inside. The Championship rounds, nine through twelve, were all competitive rounds. Khan appeared to slightly have the upper hand in three of the four rounds, due to Peterson not cranking it up quite as often as he did in the middle rounds. However, in the twelfth round, Khan was again deducted a point, this time for shoving off, although not with the elbow this time. Despite Khan’s protest after the bout, and several viewers agreeing with him, he did fight a dirty fight. He continuously held Peterson’s head down, and did indeed shove off with the elbow. Keeping in mind Peterson had a knockdown unfairly called against him in the first, it seemed fair that Khan got a point deducted. Khan already had a one point advantage he didn’t earn, so the referee shouldn’t have been too lenient on Khan with him doing some illegal maneuvers.
The end result of this bout was a great one; whether you felt the correct fighter was chosen by the judges, a fight fan has to love that each man put on a great show and a great fight. Each faction on Peterson’s or Khan’s sides have a very legitimate case for their fighter. The final verdict in the razor close bout was Lamont Peterson scoring the upset and winning the IBF and WBA Junior Welterweight Championships of the World via Split Decision by the scores of 113-112, 113-112 for Peterson, and a score of 115-110 for Khan. This marked the first World Championships of Lamont Peterson’s career.
Rematch of the action between Khan and Peterson is already being beckoned for by the boxing public. Peterson, like a class act, announced in the post fight interview he would gladly give Khan an opportunity to avenge his defeat. A heated Amir Khan, and trainer Freddie Roach disagreed with the decision and the way referee Joseph Cooper handled the bout. Khan believed he not only won the fight, but was also the cleaner fighter, which was a bit off base seeing as how Peterson virtually did nothing illegal all night. However, Khan certainly has a right to feel the way he does; in such a close bout, each man is sure to believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Khan did significantly out work Peterson, but Peterson’s lethal body attack, and the rounds he was able to mount his effective aggression gave him a score card of 113-112 by BRB. Khan may feel as though venturing to Peterson’s hometown was not a wise move in retrospect, and may want the bout to be fought either on his turf, or a neutral site in the grudge match. If and when that bout takes place, let’s just hope it’s three-fourths as good as this one was. If it is, we’re in for another treat whenever these two should clash again.
Peterson should not sell himself short in letting this be the defining moment of his career. While there would surely be no shame in that, as it was a great performance for Peterson, he should take this stage of his career in being a Champion to boost his confidence to fight at the highest level he can possibly produce from here on out to reach his peak. As for Khan, he still exudes plenty of talent and dazzling hand speed; perhaps he under estimated Peterson mentally or physically, or just lost to the better man on this night. Either way, it’s far from out of the question for Khan to win a rematch against Peterson, and he’s got one of the best trainers on the planet to help him make adjustments. Hats off to both pugilists for closing out HBO’s calendar year of boxing in scintillating fashion.