The deductions took a little away from Peterson’s accomplishment. But the truth: The contender took the fight to the champion, landing devastating shots that went right through Khan’s gloves in many rounds, slamming into his head.
The irascible Larry Merchant had it right when the HBO analyst evocatively declared, “Amir Khan is fighting as if his job depends on it; Lamont Peterson is fighting as if his life depends on it.”
That sentiment was palpable all evening. You could sense it by hearing the corners between rounds. In Khan’s corner, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach dispensed sound strategy, calmly telling Khan: “That’s it, son. Keep ducking under after you throw. Take it to him.”
And in Peterson’s corner, the histrionics of Hunter, the man who saw a child taking care of his brother in the streets almost 20 years ago, was bellowing, “This is it, Lamont! This is all you said you wanted when I met you on the street 17 years ago! This is your moment! Take it from him!”
Lowering his head, throwing right crosses and left hooks with more malice than he ever had before, the child who once didn’t even have a bed to lay his head suddenly was taken in and given refuge — by a city, by a sport, by everyone who knew what a good kid he had always been.
Peterson takes home his greatest payday, $650,000. He will command much more than $1 million for a rematch against Khan. And whatever happens from here on out, he will always have that moment, when Buffer yelled, “And NEW . . .” and everything he dreamed possible happened, right down to Merchant interviewing him in the ring afterward, just like all those great fighters he watched as a kid.
Late Saturday night, when most of Washington was in bed, at a holiday party or up to no good, the local sports story of the year happened.
“It’s about a boxer, that’s not possible,” many will argue.
And as usual, they will miss the point.
It’s not about a boxer. Or this sport, sadly dying every day to find the relevance it once had in an American sports landscape that long ago moved on.
It’s about Lamont Peterson, who happens to box for a living, who fought his way out of abject poverty all the way to the top of his profession.
It’s all unfathomable now, a bit surreal.
Whoever imagined that kid leaving the George Washington Hospital emergency room with a clean bill of health, a smiling 27-year-old at 5 a.m. after having taken pictures with the champion he dethroned, must have had a film script rejected at least once.