Lamont Peterson ducked under the middle rope to enter of one of two boxing rings at his training facility in Southwest Washington on Wednesday afternoon and began unleashing a barrage of uppercuts and jabs.
Trainer Barry Hunter observed his protege intently as Peterson commenced a short sparring session. The International Boxing Federation junior welterweight champion — wearing a green knit cap, black compression top, black and grey Nike shorts over green leggings and white Everlast shoes — then took to the speed bag, pounding away until it became little more than a blur.
The gym has been Peterson’s refuge over the last year while his team was in negotiations to find a suitable opponent for the District native whose last fight was Dec. 10, 2011, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Finally, after 14 months, Peterson (30-1-1) is less than 10 days from defending his belt against former World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion Kendall Holt (28-5) on Feb. 22 at the D.C. Armory.
“My mind and body feel really good right now,” Peterson said following an open workout that included support from other local fighters such as Brandywine heavyweight contender Seth Mitchell. “People are looking at it as it’s a long layoff, and I need to shake some ring rust off. I don’t look at it that way. I was in the gym all the time working and sparring and training. I’ve been boxing for 18 years now, straight, no breaks.”
When Peterson steps into the ring, it will be following the longest layoff of his professional career. Since his upset of Amir Khan by split decision to claim the IBF and World Boxing Association titles, Peterson’s boxing career has been on hiatus largely because of a positive test for a banned substance.
A drug test revealed synthetic testosterone in Peterson’s system less than two weeks before his scheduled May 19 rematch against Khan in Las Vegas. Peterson’s team maintained the testosterone was organic and used for medicinal purposes to treat hypogonadism and not as a performance enhancer.
Khan-Peterson II subsequently was scrapped, and Peterson was left in limbo as the WBA and IBF determined whether he would be permitted to retain the belts. The WBA stripped Peterson of the title and reinstated Khan as its 140-pound champion. Khan went on to lose by knockout to Danny Garcia in a bout to unify the WBA and World Boxing Council belts on July 14.
“A lot of things Lamont has endured through life, through this last year, the average man probably would have broke down by now,” Hunter said. “But he finds a way to thrive in situations like this.”
The IBF, meantime, contracted an independent medical professional to examine Peterson’s medical records and determined the testosterone found in Peterson’s system was for therapeutic purposes.
The IBF allowed Peterson to keep the title and mandated a bout against Zab Judah. That fight never materialized, and Judah instead is scheduled to fight Garcia on April 27 for the WBA and WBC titles.
“We put all the facts out there about the drug testing, and people are going to still believe he’s a drug cheat, that he’s a cheat,” Peterson said, referring to himself. “At this point I know the only thing I can do to change people’s minds is to give out solid performances, keep winning, more world titles, keep climbing the ladder, and then slowly but surely I’ll change people’s minds.”