Lamont Peterson was systematically broken down and stopped by Lucas Matthysse, but there was a silver lining: he remained the champ.
The May 2013 affair was a non-title bout, contested at a catchweight of 141 pounds. Peterson kept his IBF junior welterweight title despite the third-round stoppage loss, and now he gets to defend it Saturday against Dierry Jean (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at the D.C. Armory.
"It's always very exciting to be fighting in your hometown," said Peterson, who is competing in a title fight in Washington, D.C. for the third time. "You get a chance to put on a show in front of your fans and your family, friends. There's always advantages going into the ring when you're fighting in your hometown."
Peterson, 30, definitely enjoyed advantages against Khan. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was sold out that night and rocking with raucous Peterson supporters, who willed their man to a split-decision victory in a major upset. The other advantage might have been referee Joseph Cooper, who controversially penalized Khan twice for excessive pushing, points that ended up being the difference on the scorecards.
Peterson's other title win in D.C. was a stoppage of Kendall Holt in Feb. 2013. Peterson has the strap, but it's little consolation.
"It was a guarantee I was going to get another big fight, that was about it. Me holding onto the title and calling myself champion — I'm not so worried about that," Peterson told RingTV.com in a phone interview last week. " … Before the loss I was the IBF champ, I still feel the same way. The belts really don't mean much to me, all I care about is boxing. I love boxing, I love fighting, and that's all that matters to me."
Peterson (31-2-1, 16 knockouts) says there's no added distractions fighting and training at home. He works out with his brother Anthony under the guidance of Barry Hunter at Headbangers Boxing Gym in The District, and Peterson wouldn't have it any other way.
"Everyone knows I take boxing very seriously," Peterson said firmly. " … No one bothers me. It's like I'm here, but I'm not here. People might stop me and have conversations when I'm not fighting.
"When I'm fighting, they don't do that," Peterson went on. "They might give me a nod, or a 'hey,' and so on, but they keep it moving because they know I'm focused on the fight and they wanna see me win. They make sure they don't bother me."
Following his career-altering victory over Khan, he was set for a big-money immediate rematch on HBO in May 2012. However, the scheduled bout was called off after Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone. Peterson was out of the ring for 14 months following the failed drug test administered by VADA, but he says "everything happens for a reason."
"I had been fighting for a professional at that time for seven years straight, no breaks," said Peterson, THE RING's No. 5 junior welterweight. "So maybe it was time for me to take a break. And when I came back, I still felt good, I went out and gave a great performance."
Indeed it was a great performance. He steamrolled Holt after starting slow, and lined himself up for his most noteworthy bout since Khan. But Peterson wasn't competitive with Matthysse. He was dropped three times in the bout and brutally stopped in the third round.
"Of course I was disappointed I didn't get the win, I had to deal with that," Peterson said. "I thought hard and long that night, but after that, I looked at it as, 'I trained hard, I did everything I was supposed to do, I didn't B.S. in training, I didn't B.S. myself going into the ring.' I just looked at it as he was the better man that night. Things like this happen in boxing. I just pick myself up and move on."
And move on he will to another headline fight on premium television. Jean is untested and unproven, but the Canadian is highly regarded. Jean's last bout headlined a ShoBox card, but he's mostly an unknown to Americans, including Peterson. He's watched film of Jean in preparation, saying "Sometimes — a lot of times — with fighters you watch, something jumps out. With him, nothing really jumps out."
Peterson still seeks the rematch with Khan that never materialized, but admits it would likely have to take place at welterweight. But that's not his ultimate goal. The end game for Peterson is to be the best 140-pound fighter in the world, and there's only one way he can gain that recognition.
"If I had it my way I would fight (RING champion) Danny Garcia because he's considered the best junior welterweight out there," Peterson said confidently. "I definitely want to be considered the best junior welterweight out there. I definitely would love to get in the ring with him and rematch Matthysse."
Peterson has proven to be resilient if nothing else. Jean stands in the way of yet another comeback attempt.
Mike Coppinger is an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame and a contributor to USA Today's boxing coverage. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger.