WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the immediate wake of his split-decision victory over Amir Khan to become IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder in December of 2011, Lamont Peterson was celebrated by his native Washington, D.C.
Peterson (30-1-1, 15 knockouts) was given the keys to the city by Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
The following month, Peterson and his younger brother Anthony Peterson, a lightweight standout, served as Grand Marshalls of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Washington.
Their treatment was a contrast to the controversy which followed.
In March 2012, Peterson failed a drug test that was contractually administered at his choosing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), coming up dirty for synthetic testosterone in an infraction that forced the cancelation of Peterson-Khan II and led to Peterson’s being stripped of the WBA’s belt.
Peterson’s victory over Khan sparked what seemed to be an endless run of rancor-filled controversy between the fighters’ camps as well as Khan’s promoter, Golden Boy, and Team Peterson — including the filing of lawsuits.
But last month, Peterson buried the hatchet and signed with Golden Boy Promotions, with the blessings of his trainer/manager Barry Hunter.
Peterson is now preparing for Friday night’s first defense of his IBF belt against ex-beltholder Kendall Holt (28-5, 16 KOs) at The D.C. Armory. The fight is being promoted by Gary Shaw as the main event of ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights.
It was Hunter who rescued the Peterson brothers from a hazardous street life that was chronicled in a recent profile by The Washington Post.
The boys fended for themselves in the streets of Southeast Washington, D.C. starting at the ages of 5 and 6, after their father was jailed on drug charges, and their mother was left to care for seven children.
They went from foster care to the streets and back. For money, they washed car windows or resorted to stealing from grocery stores, becoming pickpockets, swiping tips off of the tables at outdoor restaurants, or things such as stealing bicycles and selling them. Until meeting Hunter, that is.
Hunter shared his thoughts on Peterson’s past, as well as his upcoming bout, during this Q&A with RingTV.com conducted during Lamont Peterson’s open workout at The Bald Eagle Recreation Center in Southwest, D.C., last Wednesday.
RingTV.com: Do you think the long layoff will show itself in the fight?
Barry Hunter: We’re the type of guys who like the fight. You won’t get no excuses from us. We’ve fought with injuries, we’ve fought with fractures, we’ve fought with the flu. We’ve done that in big fights, now.
We’ve done this in some of these major fights that the average person would have pulled out of. Not us. We just go into those fights and we do what we need to do.
RingTV.com: Do you think that a lot of people forget that there have been a lot of fights that Lamont was supposed to be involved in, including one with the late Edwin Valero?
BH: Man, that’s a blast from the past. Lamont was supposed to fight Edwin Valero at the MCI Center years ago. Like people have said, though, there have been a lot of “almost” situations in Lamont’s career.
But we can’t question God’s plans, for it was He who led me here. The way that I figure it, if His plan was good enough to follow then, then it’s good enough to follow now. So whatever is meant to be for us, that’s what it’s going to be.
RingTV.com: What does Holt bring to the table?
BH: Whatever Kendall brings to the table, we’ll be ready for it. I know that Kendall will be ready, and we have a lot of respect for him, because we’ve been in camp with him and he’s a good guy.
But Lamont just has to be Lamont and go and get the job done. For the most part, a lot of people didn’t think that we were going to get this far. What made them believe that, I don’t know.
This man has been a champion every since he started boxing and on every level. History proves that. Nevertheless, it’s business, and we’ll be ready come Feb. 22, so tune in.
RingTV.com: When were you in camp with Holt?
We were helping Sharmba prepare for Floyd years ago, and Kendall was in camp. Arturo Gatti was coming in also. So there were several people coming into camp at the time.
RingTV.com: What does it mean to have Lamont fight in D.C. again?
BH: Well, you all know that we’re warriors for the city. I love the city. Anything we can do, especially while we’re in this power position to get these type of fights in the city, we’re going to give it our all.
You know, after us, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but hopefully, we’ve planted enough seeds where you’ll see fights in the nation’s capital on the regular.
RingTV.com: How much of an indication do you have as to how much Lamont’s personal story has reached the city’s residents?
BH: Of course, we’ve been baptized by fire, and a lot of times, when you’re put on these missions, it’s not always easy, but, nevertheless, it’s necessary.
You still have a whole lot of little Lamonts and a whole lot of little Anthonys out there. So these kids are out here, and they don’t have a way.
When you think about it, there has been a lot of stuff happening in the past few years. All kinds of shootings, and all of the suicides. There has been a little bit of everything.
In the sports world, the [Washington] Redskins had been getting it handed to them up until this last year. The [Washington] Capitals. We’ve all been through it.
At that time, we figured that the city needed a hero, and we didn’t mind stepping up and taking that on. That’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Everything that we’ve had to endure.
Everything that came with it. Nobody told us that it was going to be easy, but it was necessary. So hopefully, throughout all of that sacrifice, something good has come out of it.
RingTV.com: Do you think that the city has stuck with Lamont given the controversy surrounding the Khan fight and beyond?
BH: Listen, I’ve seen both the good and the bad in man in the last year, and that’s okay. If you turn around and you learn and you grow from situations like that, then it’s not for naught.
The way that I figure is that I’m looking at Lamont, and I’m looking at how he was able to thrive through that situation, and I’m looking at the whole Headbangers’ Promotional Company, and how they dealt with it and were able to overcome.
We’re on the move again. I look at the fact that the ones who were considered arch foes of ours in Golden Boy, and how they reached out to us. So that let me know that we did something right along the way.
Because the way that I figure, a Goliath like Golden Boy, if they didn’t see something in us, they wouldn’t have reached out to us. So something right happened along the way.
Photos courtesy of Barry Hunter
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org