If District boxer Lamont Peterson were to pack on a few pounds and move up to welterweight, he knows what awaits. Stars like Floyd Mayweather, Timothy Bradley, Manny Pacquiao — all among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world — could provide life-changing paydays.
And while Peterson might make that step someday, for now the International Boxing Federation’s junior welterweight champion hopes to unify the 140-pound titles and is taking aim at the undefeated Danny Garcia, who holds the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association belts.
“He’s considered to be the No. 1 guy and rightfully so,” Peterson said following his unanimous decision win over Dierry Jean on Saturday night at the D.C. Armory. “I do want to be considered the best 140-pounder out there before I leave the weight class. I do want to move up to welterweight soon. Sooner the better.”
A loss to Jean would have shipwrecked Peterson’s chances of stepping in the ring with the talented Philadelphia-based fighter. Coming off an embarrassing loss to Lucas Matthysse in May, Peterson needed an exceptional outing Saturday night to show he’s still a world-class boxer. While fans and media members dwelled on what effect that loss would have on Peterson, the fighter seems to have shrugged it off quickly. The D.C. native, who was homeless at times growing up, had already been through so much, both in and out of the ring.
“My whole life, you all know my story — it’s never been easy. So why would it be easy now?” Peterson said Saturday night. “Every time it seems like I’m set and I got things flowing . . . it’s always what — a setback, right? I’m built to get those setbacks and show people that you can get up and fix things. You can always come back. That’s what I represent. That’s my purpose in life.”
Said trainer Barry Hunter: “I’ve never met an individual like him before ever. The streets couldn’t destroy him. The fight game couldn’t destroy him. Nothing can destroy him. He just keeps coming back.”
If Garcia shared Peterson’s interest in unifying the junior welterweight titles, Peterson surely will have his hands full. Last spring Matthysse knocked Peterson down four times in a three-round knockout. Then in September, Garcia upset Matthysse in close but convincing fashion. So why does Peterson think he would fare better against Garcia than he did Matthysse?
“Styles make fights,” said Peterson, who celebrated his 30th birthday Friday. “I said to people that asked me about that before I ever fought Matthysse that Matthysse would be a harder fight for me than Danny. Not saying that Matthysse was better than Danny or Danny was better than Matthysse. I’ve been boxing 20 years. I know where my style fits best.”
While Hunter doesn’t rule out a possible rematch with Matthysse at some point, he explained that Garcia is more tactical and more technical, whereas Matthysse’s awkward style — not to mention his ferocious power — presented challenges for Peterson.
Garcia is scheduled to defend his 140-pound titles March 15. No opponent has been announced, though Garcia’s father recently told ESPN Deportes the opponent would be Mexican fighter Mauricio Herrera.
Peterson likely wouldn’t be ready to fight so soon. He had a 14-month layoff after defeating Amir Khan in 2011 and didn’t step back in the ring for eight months after the Matthysse loss.
Hunter said he was pleased with his fighter’s performance Saturday against Jean, a Montreal-based boxer who was fighting for just the third time outside of Quebec. Jean impressed early, but Peterson was able to tire him out, handle Jean’s right hand and efficiently land his shots most of the night.
“I wanted him to know that I was the champion and I was in charge of the fight,” Peterson said.
Peterson carries a 32-2-1 record with 16 knockouts. It’s a fight résumé he hopes lands him a shot at Garcia (27-0, 16 knockouts), which could ultimately propel him to a welterweight division packed with opportunity.