One point on two score cards separated Amir Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) from escaping Washington, D.C. with a draw against Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) Saturday night in an exciting fight marred by controversy due to Referee Joe Cooper’s questionable point deductions. Peterson took home Khan’s 140 pound titles thanks in part to what will likely be seen by most boxing experts as another unfortunate example of “hometown cooking” favoring Peterson.
Peterson and his younger brother Anthony lived in squalor on the streets of the D.C. area during a troubled youth turned around by their discovery of boxing. The brothers have since put together incredible and improbable pro careers to complete their intriguing journey from poverty to prominence.
Lamont Peterson earned his shot at Khan’s titles with a spin of the roulette wheel in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel this past July, facing Victor Cayo (27-2, 19 KOs) in a title eliminator and executing an artful counter-punching strategy to wear Cayo down and finally knock him out in the waning seconds of the final round. Though he didn’t really struggle in that contest, his performance did not seem to be dominant enough to be able to carry him to victory against a fighter of Khan’s caliber.
Press row scoring and the lone dissenting judge favored Khan in Saturday’s bout even after the referee docked the champion for repeatedly pushing Peterson and for hitting on the break. The pushing deduction was questionable because it did not come on the heels of any significant warnings. Judge Nelson Vazquez scored the fight 115-110 for Khan, which didn’t come close to the other two judges (Valerie Dorsett and George Hill) who scored the bout 113-112 for Peterson. HBO’s own Harold Lederman scored the bout the same, but he had Khan as the winner. ESPN.COM’s 114-111 score favoring Khan seemed to be more in line with Vazquez. Boxing scoring is by no means an exact science, so the judges favoring Peterson may have perfectly sound reasoning, but the two identical scores favoring Peterson and the referee’s two point deductions in the 7th and 12th rounds seem to mandate a rematch on neutral ground. Peterson said in his post fight commentary that he is perfectly willing to give Khan an opportunity to avenge the loss since Khan gave him the title shot in the first place.
Winning the bout by such a close shave did not seem possible in the early going for Peterson. He went down after a beautiful left-right combo in the first round and had to deal with a swollen eye that began to flare up in the second frame. Peterson changed things up in the third round, wading in for toe to toe combat more often. Typically a tactical counter puncher, Peterson became a brawler in the later rounds and showed unprecedented aggression to earn the appreciation of the two judges who scored the contest in his favor. Both of his eyes were swollen by the end of the fight.
Khan complained after the fight that pushing Peterson was his only defense to the challenger constantly coming in with his head down. Peterson responded by explaining that Khan was the one holding his head down to begin with. Either way, point deductions for pushing are very rare in the sport of boxing. If Khan was excessive in holding Peterson’s head down, the foul call should have been directed at that behavior rather than the pushing off. Often the only time pushing is penalized is if a boxer steps on an opponent’s foot and then pushes him to the ground. That didn’t happen in this fight, leading to a bevy of conspiracy theory discussions and an official request for an inquiry from Khan’s management.
Peterson earned a career-high $650,000 to Khan’s $1.1 million for the high-intensity bout. Peterson also claimed the WBA Super and IBF light welterweight titles, the first world titles he’s held since losing his WBO Light Welterweight Title to Timothy Bradley in December of 2009. The exigent circumstances that tainted the outcome will likely give way to an immediate rematch, but the next time the pay days are likely to be more evenly distributed between the two men.