source: Bob Velin | USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Lamont Peterson has been picking himself up off the canvas and beating the odds his entire life.
So when Peterson got up Saturday night from a first-round knockdown by heavily favored Amir Khan and came back to win a hard-fought, stunning split decision against the unified light welterweight champion in his hometown, the raucous, partisan crowd of 8,647 at the Washington Convention Center roared its approval.
"I work hard," said Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs), who rose from homelessness on the streets of D.C. to the top of his profession, which is WBA and IBF world champion. "A lot of people saw me as an underdog in the fight and didn't give me a chance to win it.
"It's a 12-round fight and I followed my game plan."
Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) was done in by a perfect storm: the combination of the crowd being wildly pro-Peterson, referee Joe Cooper taking two points for pushing off and ruling a second knockdown of Peterson in the first round a slip and Peterson delivering a gritty, determined, relentless performance, perhaps the finest of his career.
Khan, who earned about $2 million, asked for a rematch, preferably in the United Kingdom, his home country, but at least at a neutral site.
Peterson, 27, who earned more than $500,000, said he'd be happy to oblige. Boxing fans would be the big winners in a rematch of what could be the leading candidate for fight of the year.
"If it was left up to me, I'd fight him tomorrow," said Peterson, sporting sunglasses during the postfight press conference to hide a right eye nearly swelled shut, the result of 193 shots to the head by Khan. "That's just me. Don't matter who I fight, I'm always ready."
Khan said afterward that he thought Peterson had a 2-1 advantage in the ring with some "home cooking" by Cooper.
"This is why there haven't been any big fights in D.C. for the last 20 years," said Khan, referring to the fact that this was the first televised title fight in the nation's capital since 1993.
"I can't take anything away from Lamont. He wasn't the referee; he did what he had to do. He put on a good fight.
"We just have to go back to the drawing board, sit down with my trainer and team and see where we go from here. But I want a rematch, I want it straight away and I want it next fight. I want my two titles back. We know who won that fight."
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, reached on Sunday, said, "It was a very compelling, close fight. Both guys came to win. It's unfortunate that the referee injected himself into the fight and kind of stole the fight.
"It's been a year of bad officiating. We've see a few questionable calls and I think something should be done."
Schaefer said Golden Boy has not decided whether it would lodge a protest of the referee's calls, but did say the organization would look into "scoring inconsistencies."
Schaefer said he would have asked the IBF and WBA, the sanctioning bodies, to order an immediate rematch, except for the fact that Peterson and his longtime trainer, Barry Hunter, who he called "first-class people," have already agreed to one. He said HBO wants a rematch, Khan wants a rematch, and he would begin working on putting it together this week.
Khan's Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach, didn't hold back in his criticism of Cooper, who declined to talk after the fight.
"(Cooper) did a terrible job. A referee shouldn't decide fights," Roach said. "He's not a judge. He made himself a judge tonight. He missed a knockdown. The first knockdown (ruled a slip) was clearer than the second one. And then he took two points away for nothing and didn't give warnings. This is like amateur refereeing. A referee at this level of competition shouldn't make those mistakes. He decided the fight, not the judges. The referee took it out of the judges' hands."
Asked if he'd ever seen points taken for pushing, Roach said, "Never in my life. I've seen guys bodyslam other people and not get points taken away. But for pushing somebody? Come on."
Peterson had little to say about the point deductions.
"I'm a fighter. Not a referee," he said. "Like I said, I wasn't really caught up into that. I was focused on Khan, to win the fight and execute my gameplan.
"Talk to me a week from now after I watch the tape, and I can probably give you a better answer."
Nonetheless, Roach had high praise for the performance by Peterson, whose only career loss came against undefeated Timothy Bradley two years ago.
"He fought a great fight. I'm happy for him," Roach said.
Peterson started with Plan A, he said, "to box Khan and give him a different look. He caught me with a few punches, and I did go down. I wasn't hurt, but I did go down."
Peterson scrapped trying to fight Khan from a distance after a couple rounds and went to Plan B: "To push him back and use my size and strength to wear him down. That's what we did."
Peterson stalked Khan the rest of the way, landing 119 mostly punishing body shots on the now former champion.
"This is the best I've ever seen (Peterson) fight," Roach said. "He brought his A game tonight.
"But I want to see him back in the ring, one more time."
Roach doesn't believe the controversial loss will adversely affect his young fighter, who turned 25 just two days earlier and had planned to move up to 147 pounds after this fight. Now he will stay at 140 to take on Peterson again.
"I see it as a learning experience. I don't see it as a real big setback," Roach said.
"This was obviously controversial with the referee, but the thing is, if (Peterson) gives us a rematch and we take care of business, it will be just like he borrowed the belts for awhile."