The dream sequence of his career would end, of course, with Floyd Mayweather, the sport’s biggest star, for untold millions in Las Vegas. “That would be the fight I would like to go out the door with, him or Timothy Bradley,” Peterson said of the one fighter to beat him. “Barry [Hunter, his trainer] said he got a call about it from someone inside who’s connected to those type of deals, saying that it’s a possibility next year [a Mayweather fight] could go down.”
The biggest challenge to beat Matthysse is more physical than mental. A chameleon in the ring, Peterson can change styles in a blink — from a circling, jab-and-move artist to a free-swinging mauler aimed at dropping his opponent.
But in Saturday’s fight he almost has to think of Matthysse as Marvin Hagler, one of the greatest middleweights of all time. If he trades punches wildly with Matthysse, like Thomas Hearns did with Hagler in 1985, he could end up glass-eyed and on the canvas like Hearns after three rounds. But if he’s more Sugar Ray Leonard, flurrying to win rounds late — staying at a comfortable distance while continuing to land — he frustrates the puncher and emerges with his hand held high like Leonard over Hagler in 1987.
“Sometimes, people might try to talk you into banging with them, you know: ‘Why you runnin’?’ Things like that,” he said. “You just have to understand you need to stick to your game plan. It is a mental thing. When you’re home at night, laying in bed, sittin’ on the couch, those are the things you have to have in your mind and go over and over and over. So when it happens, it’ll be like tying your shoe.”
From a psychologically standpoint, it must be unbelievably difficult for a person — a prizefighter, no less — who has had to scrap so hard for everything in his life and his career to suddenly tell himself: “Don’t slug it out with him. That’s what he wants. Fight your fight.”
But then, it takes even more discipline to show up and shadowbox in front of a Southeast Washington mirror for almost two decades — cutting the air with left jabs, right feints, combinations and grunts — “Pah. Pah. Pah-puh-pah-puh” — without anyone really knowing that kid would grow up to be a champion, pride of the District, a man most responsible for keeping a lot of kids from the Bald Eagle Recreation Center up late Saturday night, in front of their televisions.
“Good thing is it’s the weekend and they don’t have to go to school the next day,” said Lamont Peterson, smiling, as a shirtless youngster with glasses is almost knocked over by the heavy bag he strikes. “So they’ll be okay.”
For more by Mike Wise, go to www.washingtonpost.com/wise.