“We’re processing it now — he will have it soon,” Mendoza said. “Don’t worry, we recognize Lamont Peterson as our champion. Everything is now being worked out.”
Uh-huh. Sure. The new champ has heard that before.
Mendoza is the executive vice president of the WBA, a boxing sanctioning body which seems to exist for the sole purpose of further angering really strong men who have already been trained to physically incapacitate other human beings.
Mendoza’s WBA inexplicably has yet to mail one of those gaudy, gold-plated world championship belts embossed with Peterson’s name to Washington, where Peterson took both the WBA and IBF 140-pound titles from Amir Khan via a controversial split decision this past December.
You don’t need to be a fight fan or even care about sports to appreciate what happened at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center that night, when a one-time homeless kid from Southeast Washington became king of his profession.
Before an HBO audience, Peterson, once an 11-1 underdog — and an 8-1 underdog before the opening bell — walked right through Khan’s speed and flurries. He began landing hooks and uppercuts with purpose and power, stalking the champion before his enthralled hometown crowd.
It was a close fight heightened by — big surprise — bizarre officiating and scoring. But it was a great fight that had everyone talking rematch.
Now, nearly two months later, no one has signed to fight anyone.
Peterson’s camp feels as if they’ve been strong-armed into agreeing to fight Khan on his people’s terms, attorneys for Peterson and the WBA have exchanged briefs regarding the WBA demanding a rematch because of events surrounding the controversial outcome and — oh yes — the new super lightweight champion only has one of his belts because Mendoza’s belt-makers have yet to send the other.
“It’s sad that Lamont’s tremendous, heroic night is caught up in the middle of this mess,” said Andre Johnson, Peterson’s communications manager.
(Johnson later added that after The Post’s call to the WBA on Friday, Mendoza actually sent an e-mail to Peterson’s camp asking for an address where the belt could be sent.)
Why has boxing all but disappeared from the American sports consciousness? Because of unseemly stories like this, when the best little tale in Washington sports is sucked into the drainage ditch of sanctioning bodies, appeals, grandstanding promotional companies and all that the manly art of self defense is these days.
“I understand boxing has a dark side, that this is part of what it is,” says Barry Hunter, Peterson’s trainer who gave Lamont and his brother Anthony, a rising contender, shelter, food and hope in his Southeast gym when they were kids.
“But Lamont got the opportunity. He dreamed about that moment all his life; to beat the reigning champion was a total dream. Now to be disrespected on so many levels, that doesn’t feel good. I mean, we almost into February and he hasn’t received the championship belt he won.