“But people weren’t paying attention,” Peterson said.
Peterson shrugged. Public opinion is difficult to change. Hunter, though, grew livid. If people both inside and outside boxing weren’t willing to take the time to figure out what actually happened with Peterson — “Why not seek the truth?” Hunter preached — was it even worth associating with the sport to which he had turned over his life?
So in the midst of it all, Peterson became the rock. He called Hunter occasionally, just to check on how he was doing. And one afternoon, standing outside that temporary gym in Southeast, he laid out his vision about the entire affair.
“Sometimes,” Peterson told Hunter, “we’re quicker to react than let things play out.”
Hunter’s eyebrows were drawn. He was still angry, emotional, raw. But he said nothing. Peterson, normally quiet, kept talking.
“Look, man,” he said. “My whole life’s been hard. This ain’t gonna be no different. At the end of the day, if it do nothing else but take the covers off the corruption in boxing, then I’m all right with that.”
Hunter shook his head at the memory. Why hadn’t he thought of it that way? Why was he still “mad as hell,” so much so that he paced his house, that his wife of 20 years, Cologne, had to talk him down?
“Now I’m tripping off this dude,” Hunter said, his voice rising. “This is me, years ago, telling them. Now I feel like the student, and he’s the teacher.”
A failed drug test and 14 months on the shelf. Championship belts in question. Training for fights that never happened. Enough to break someone’s will.
“I started making an understanding of the situation,” Peterson said. “I started thinking about it like this,” and he paused a good . . . long . . . while. “Maybe it’s a good thing.”
Only someone who came up hard could come to that conclusion.
‘Always angry’ for a reason
The streets, more than anyone or anything, served as the Petersons’ parents. Lamont and Anthony made all their own decisions: what to do, when to do it, where to stay and for how long. What evidence was there that adults can provide support, shelter, food, advice? For the boys, there was scant evidence that they should be trusted. There was plenty of evidence that they couldn’t be trusted.
The Peterson kids, particularly the younger half-dozen in a brood 12 strong, learned such lessons from birth. Lamont, the 10th, was born at his mother’s home in Northeast. Performing the delivery: his older sister Takisha. She was in third grade.
“He was just lying there,” she said. “Didn’t cry one bit.”
For much of the Petersons’ childhoods, their father was in prison on a variety of drug charges. Their mother all but broke under the pressure of raising such a large family. She essentially allowed alcohol to control her life, several of her children said. Some of those children then roamed the streets. The older ones got to stay with their grandfather. Lamont and Anthony had to sneak into the filthy basement to try to sleep, often among rats.