“This guy can punch. He’s very strong, he’s very physical. He’s a good fighter,” said Roach, a five-time Trainer of the Year who has worked Khan’s past eight fights, all victories. “This guy is dangerous. He’s very dangerous.”
Roach knows the 27-year-old Peterson (29-1-1, 15 KOs) well from having worked with him recently at the U.S. Olympic training center, along with talented young fighters such as 22-year-old junior lightweight contender Adrien Broner (21-0, 17 KOs), 26-year-old former WBC featherweight and WBA junior lightweight beltholder Jorge Linares (31-1, 20 KOs) and 28-year-old cruiserweight prospect Lateef Kayode (18-0, 14 knockouts).
“Let me tell you that I have a secret. I’m training with the U.S. Olympic team. I brought some professional boxers up there to spar with the amateurs to give them a challenge,” said Roach, who acts as a consultant on a staff led by U.S. amateur coach Joe Zanders.
“I got some of those guys out there at the Olympic training center … We were doing a rotation where I did some mitt work with 17 guys in a row.”
Roach took particular note of Peterson’s skills.
“In the rotation, I got a chance to do some mitt work with Lamont Peterson. His coach looked over and saw me working the mitts with him,” said Roach.
“I don’t think that they meant for that to happen, but it did. I enjoyed working with Peterson, but I also got to see how strong he was and how good a puncher he is with both hands.”
Peterson is getting his second title shot since December of 2009, when he lost by unanimous decision to current WBO beltholder Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs).
Since falling to Bradley, Peterson is 2-0-1, the draw being a salvage effort against southpaw Victor Ortiz (28-3-2, 22 KOs) after getting knocked down twice in the third round.
But his last two wins have both been knockouts, the first of which was a seventh-round stoppage of Damian Fuller. The second, a 12th-round win over Victor Cayo (26-2, 18 KOs) in July, earned him the IBF’s No.1 contender status and a shot at Khan.
“Trust me, I have a lot of respect for Lamont Peterson,” said Roach. “I’ve warned Amir. I’ve told him, ‘Don’t take this guy lightly.’”
Chances are, Khan will listen.
With Roach in his corner, the 24-year-old Khan (26-1, 18 KOs) has won eight consecutive bouts, four of them by knockout, since being stopped himself by Breidis Prescott (24-3, 19 KOs) in 54 seconds in September of 2008.
Two fights after the loss to Prescott, Khan earned a fifth-round technical decision over three-division titlewinner Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico in March of 2009.
In his next bout four months later, Khan made his 140-pound debut by dethroning Andriy Kotelnik as WBA beltholder by unanimous decision.
Following a 76-second knockout of previously unbeaten Dimitry Salita in his first defense of the belt in December of 2009, Khan made his American debut with an 11th-round knockout of former IBF junior welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Khan then made his second appearance on American soil in December of last year, scoring a unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
Against Maidana, Khan scored a first-round knockdown but had to survive nearly being knocked out in the 10th round of a clash that was voted Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers’ Association of America.
After Peterson turned down a shot at Khan over money issues, Khan moved on and defended his crown by technical decision over Paul McCloskey. Then, in his most recent fight, Khan dethroned ex-IBF titleholder Zab Judah by fifth-round knockout.
But Roach believes that the most difficult task is yet to come for Khan.
“Lamont Peterson is a very good fighter,” said Roach. “I think that this is going to be Amir’s toughest fight so far.”
On Monday at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., Khan will begin training alongside southpaw eight-division titleholder Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs), who is preparing for the HBO Pay Per View-televised defense of his WBO welterweight belt opposite WBO and WBA lightweight titleholder Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs).
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org