No titles will be on the line when Washington boxer Lamont Peterson faces hard-hitting Argentine Lucas Matthysse on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, but that hardly diminishes the importance of the fight for either of the principals.
Both hold titles in the junior welterweight division, though Matthysse’s is an interim belt with the World Boxing Council, and by all accounts the victor will be first in line to fight world No. 1 Danny Garcia in a unification bout later this year.
Following that, a lucrative payday awaits in a potential matchup against Floyd Mayweather, who this year signed a blockbuster deal with Showtime/CBS for six fights over 30 months. Mayweather, 36, is the highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes magazine, but has spoken openly about retirement once his contract expires.
That leaves precious little time for Peterson or Matthysse to get a shot at the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“Right now I believe I’m at the top level, but I’ve still got that question mark beside me,” Peterson said. “At this point, a solid win over Lucas solidifies that I’m a top guy not only in the weight class but a top pound-for-pound guy in the game. It would lead me to bigger fights, and eventually that’s where I want to land: at the top.”
Saturday’s scheduled 12-rounder at a catch weight of 141 pounds will be only the second bout for Peterson since he beat Amir Khan on Dec. 10, 2011, by split decision at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Peterson captured the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association belts that night but subsequently vacated the WBA title after a failed drug test.
Following a 14-month layoff without a fight, Peterson (31-1-1, 16 knockouts) was back in the ring Feb. 22 to face former World Boxing Organization light welterweight champion Kendall Holt at the D.C. Armory. Peterson absorbed punishment in the early rounds before unleashing one barrage after another en route to a technical knockout in the eighth round.
“If you see a lot of my fights, that’s kind of how I work and go about things,” Peterson said during one of his final days of training at his Bald Eagle gym in Southwest Washington. “You may call me a slow starter, but I guess that’s the case. I take my time. I figure things out. After a few rounds I start taking over.”
Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs), meantime, has a track record of finishing opponents quickly. Eleven of his knockouts have come in the first round, including his most recent fight against Mike Dallas Jr., whom he dispatched with a devastating straight right hand to the jaw Jan. 26 in Las Vegas.
In his two losses, Matthysse also scored knockdowns. First he sent down Zab Judah in 2010, but the judges awarded the former undisputed welterweight champion a split decision. Seven months later, Matthysse lost again by split decision despite knocking down Devon Alexander in the fourth round.
Only one of Matthysse’s last five fights, all victories by knockout or referee technical decision, has lasted beyond the fifth round.
“We’ve faced all fighters,” said Barry Hunter, Peterson’s trainer. “Bangers, boxers, lefties, righties, tall ones, short ones, slow ones, fast ones, and we approach this fight no different from fights in the past.”
Hunter referenced Peterson’s fight against Antonio Mesquita in 2008 as an indication of how his star pupil handles an opponent with one-punch knockout power. Mesquita entered that bout 34-0 with 26 knockouts, but Peterson avoided clean shots, didn’t go down and won in a 10-round unanimous decision.
Even when Peterson has gone to the mat, he has been able to rally. Khan knocked down Peterson in the first round, and Peterson went down twice in Round 3 in a 2010 majority draw against Victor Ortiz.
“All the other fights leading up to this points were very, very good fights. Some of them were even great fights,” Hunter said. “But I believe this is the fight that can totally take him over the top and put him in that lotto” to fight Mayweather.
Boxing note: Two other local fighters, including Peterson’s younger brother, Anthony, are on Saturday’s undercard.
Anthony Peterson (31-1, 20 KOs) fights Dominic Salcido (18-4, nine KOs) in a 10-round lightweight bout. Anthony Peterson hasn’t fought since he beat Daniel Attah as part of the undercard of his brother’s victory over Khan 17 months ago.
District light heavyweight Thomas Williams (13-0, 10 KOs) also fights Otis Griffin (24-12-2, 10 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder. Williams has won twice this year and faces an opponent who was a winner on the Fox reality program “The Next Great Champ.”