Amir Khan (left) lost his WBA and IBF title belts to District native Lamont Peterson (right) on Saturday night at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Photograph by Tom Hogan of Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Amir Khan’s promoters thought the idea of their super lightweight world champion defending his titles against Lamont Peterson in Washington would be gangster. Now he’s heading back to England without his belts, and Team Khan is crying foul over the local commission.
But honestly, what did they expect?
What is boxing without controversy?
Moreover, what is DC without questionable actions by appointees?
Regardless of whether you agree with Saturday night’s decision, one fact is undeniable: In addition to being a wildly entertaining main event, that was a really close fight.
Peterson took the WBA and IBF titles on a narrow split decision, thanks to two point deductions assessed against Khan, including one in the fight’s final round. But focusing on the controversies alone does not do justice to the event itself. Up until the scorecards were delivered, the story of the night was Lamont.
The homeless boy who dreamed of the night he’d claim a world title gave more than Khan appeared ready to handle. After withstanding a knockdown during a shaky first round, Peterson took the fight to the champion. More specifically, he took the fight the champ’s body. Khan seemed unwilling or unable to deal with Peterson’s pressure, which often led to clutching and pushing. Regardless of the ineffectual refereeing, Peterson put on a valiant display in a fight that goes down as one of the year’s finest.
This is what we’ve been missing in the 20 years without world championship boxing in DC. Lamont Peterson has established himself as legitimate star on the local sports landscape, in part because more than 8,600 people were there to experience the most exciting sporting event to hit DC since the Wizards beat the Cavs in the “Soulja Boy” game during the ’08 playoffs.
Big-time boxing came back to DC, and the city responded. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center might look more like a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base than the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but it was filled with the kind of energy you’d expect at a title fight.
Khan and Peterson are surely headed for a rematch—one that HBO’s Larry Merchant predicted as early as the fourth round. The only question is where. If it were up to the boisterous members of Khan’s Army who attended the post-fight press conference, they’d be squaring off a few months from now at the Manchester Arena.
However, it’s Peterson who now holds the belts—and with them, the power to negotiate. Las Vegas is probably the most likely landing point, but why not come back to Washington? Hold the fight at a major arena like Verizon Center, agree in advance on an out-of-town referee, and watch the District take another step towards becoming a legitimate fight town. The fans want it; now we just need the local commission to stay out of their own way.