WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lamont Peterson authored another chapter in his underdog story with his upset decision over Amir Khan for the 10-to-1 favorite’s WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles in a surefire fight-of-the-year candidate on Saturday.
Peterson got up off the canvas in the opening stanza and used effective body punching and constant pressure to outlast Khan over 12 heated rounds before a crowd of 8,647 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The 27-year-old Washington, D.C. native won a split decision. Judges George Hill and Valerie Dorsett scored it 113-112 for Peterson, while Nelson Vazquez saw it for Khan, 115-110.
The bout was fought at a feverish pace with the frantic crowd cheering on each fighter – Khan the matador and Peterson the bull. When Khan moved laterally and boxed from the outside, he was very effective. Peterson had his best success when he stood in the pocket and traded power shots with the Bolton, England native, and when he cut the ring off and bullied the dual titleholder on the ropes.
In the first round, Khan (26-2, 18 knockouts) overwhelmed Peterson, who seemed to have jitters with his first big fight in his hometown. He dropped Peterson early in the round, but it was ruled a slip. He dropped him a second time moments later – the result of a right hand to the neck – and this time it was deemed a knockdown. Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) survived the round and began to come on in the waning moments.
Chants of “USA, USA” broke out to beging the second round as Khan jumped on his previously-wobbled foe. Peterson showed his mettle by standing ground and landing solidly to Khan’s midsection. Khan jumped in with flurries of combinations, landing often to take round two.
Round three was a big bounce-back round for Peterson as he began to walk down THE RING’S No.-1 rated 140 pounder, cutting off the ring with great angles and forcing Khan to the ropes where he landed powerful body shots. He wobbled Khan a few times, but the Brit held on.
The crowd reached a fevered-pitch in round seven when Peterson had Khan reeling from a series of power shots, his commitment to the body unwavering. The audience rose to its feet with chants of “D.C.”, as Peterson applied pressure while Khan looked to box going backwards, something he didn’t do very well. It was a 10-8 round on all three cards as Washington D.C.-based referee Joseph Cooper dubiously deducted a point from Khan for pushing, even though no stern warning was given.
Peterson, rated No. 6 by THE RING, had a big round eight by continuing to land his money punch – the left hook to the body. He mixed in right uppercuts along the ropes with much success, hurting the 25-year-old UK star time and again.
The momentum flows continued in round nine, with Khan boxing beautifully and taking the stanza on each card.
Down the stretch, both fighters seemed exhausted, willing themselves to the finish line through the championship rounds. In the penultimate round, Khan was once again penalized for pushing, a precious point to lose in such a close fight.
With the win, Peterson’s stock in boxing raised considerably. The perenial contender who was once homeless as a youth finally came up big in a high-profile fight. He lost his first title shot against Tim Bradley two years ago and had to settle for a draw against Victor Ortiz in the other high-profile bout of his career.
“A lot of people look to me as the underdog, they didn’t give me a chance to win,” said Peterson, who raked in $650,000 for the bout. “It’s a 12-round fight, not a three-round fight. I didn’t get worried when I was knocked down in the first. He was holding my head down and pushing a lot. I didn’t mind it, I was coming forward. My body shots were working.
“I would definitely give him a rematch. He gave me a shot at the title, so I will give him a rematch no problem.”
Khan was bitter about what he perceived to be home cooking for Peterson.
“I was up against two people in there. He was coming in with his head lower and lower,” said Khan, whose purse was $1.1 million. “I had to push him away, trying to stay away from his head. He was being effective at pressuring, but I was the cleaner fighter all night. I’m ready for a rematch. I’m here, I’ll take it.
“I knew it would be tough in his hometown, but this is why boxing hasn’t been in D.C. for 20 years, because you get a decision like this.”
HBO Sports V.P. of Programming Kery Davis also wants to see a rematch next.
“It was a terrific fight with great drama, a fight of the year candidate,” Davis told RingTV.com. “It was great to do a fight like this in a sports town like Washington. I’ll talk to both guys, but if they want to do it, we want to do it.”
In a year devoid of scintillating bouts – especially high-profile matches – Peterson and Khan turned in a thriller on the last HBO-televised event of the year. If fans are lucky, there will be a rematch.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger