Major championship boxing’s return to the District began on Thursday afternoon at a packed news conference on the rooftop of the W Hotel downtown. World super lightweight champion Amir Khan was there, as was his opponent, District native Lamont Peterson. A few seats to Peterson’s left on the podium was Brandywine’s Seth Mitchell, an undefeated heavyweight with aspirations of bringing the world title back to the United States.
The three boxers will take part in a card set for Dec. 10 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The bout between Khan and Peterson — for Khan’s IBF light welterweight belt — will be the first title fight in the nation’s capital in more than a decade.
It will be shown live on HBO, which is televising its first boxing card in the District since 1993, when Fort Washington’s Riddick Bowe successfully defended his WBA heavyweight belt against Jesse Ferguson at RFK Stadium.
“Obviously it’s a natural with Peterson being from here,” said Richard Schaefer, whose Golden Boy Promotions is helping to promote the fight. “And Amir having recently been invited by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here to a state dinner as an ambassador of the sport. He immediately fell in love with the city, with Washington.”
Prominent Muslim athletes were invited to the dinner, which took place on eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Khan, from England, is a practicing Muslim of Pakistani decent whose accommodating demeanor makes him somewhat of a natural for a career in politics when he’s through fighting.
Peterson (29-1-1, 15 knockouts), meantime, earned the title shot with a victory over Victor Cayo when the IBF eliminator bout was halted in the 12th round. The triumph elevated Peterson, 27, to No. 1 contender in the 140-pound division and set up the clash with Khan.
Peterson is getting a second chance for his first world title. His initial opportunity came in December 2009, when he lost to Tim Bradley in their WBO junior welterweight title fight. The fight went 12 rounds and resulted in a unanimous decision.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Peterson said. “I’ve dreamt about this day many, many times, just attending the big fights here at the Verizon Center.”
Mitchell’s opponent has yet to be announced.
It’s been decades since a championship fight of this magnitude came to the District. In April 1999, the District’s Mark Johnson won the vacant IBF super flyweight title in a bout at what was then called MCI Center, scoring a unanimous 12-round decision over Ratanachai Singwancha.
That same year, District-born William Joppy retained his WBA middleweight title when his fight against Julio Cesar Green at the same venue was stopped in the seventh round. On the same card, Keith Holmes, also from D.C., retained his WBC middleweight championship via unanimous decision over Andrew Council.
The promoters of the Khan-Peterson fight card are aiming high for this event, in which ticket prices are being kept affordable to attract as many spectators as possible. Tickets start at $25, and although the convention center is being set up for approximately 12,000, there is room enough to expand to 30,000 if interest is there, according to Scottie Irving, president of the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission.