It was going on an hour beyond the scheduled start time for Thursday afternoon’s weigh-in for Lamont Peterson’s title fight against Kendall Holt, and the room was growing restless.
But this being boxing, extended delays often are employed to grow the drama, so those attending the event, including District officials, reporters and curious fight fans, passed the minutes by discussing whispers that Holt was above the weight limit and needed additional time to reach 140 pounds.
Finally the interminable wait was over, and the doors to the Grand Hyatt ballroom swung open, revealing both fighters and their camps. Peterson, a District native, and Holt made their way to the stage, and the International Boxing Federation junior welterweight champion stepped onto the scale first, weighing in at a fraction above 139 pounds.
Then the crowd fell silent as the former World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion, who’s seeking a career resurgence, took his turn. After fight officials noted the result, Holt exulted, having made weight exactly on the number a little more than 24 hours before the bout at the D.C. Armory.
“The hard part is out of the way,” Peterson said following a meeting with rules officials and referees that lasted nearly an hour. “All this training, the dieting, making the weight. The fun part is here. It’s time to go out and entertain.”
Peterson (30-1-1, 15 knockouts) has not done so in 14 months, the most protracted layoff of his career. His last bout was also in the District, a stunning victory against heavily favored Amir Khan at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Dec. 10, 2011.
After surviving an early knockout bid, the long shot, who rose from homelessness to championship contender, pushed Khan through 12 rounds, and judges rewarded Peterson with the IBF and World Boxing Association belts by split decision.
Soon thereafter, a rematch was set for May 19 in Las Vegas, but less than two weeks before the bout, Peterson tested positive for a banned substance, setting into motion a sequence of events that kept his team focused primarily on clearing his name rather than actively searching for an opponent.
Although the WBA stripped Peterson of the belt, the IBF launched its investigation by retaining an independent physician who examined Peterson’s medical records. Peterson’s camp maintained all along he had been taking soy-based testosterone to treat a medical condition, and the IBF findings supported that claim, allowing him to keep the title.
“Instead of dwelling on that, he’s been vindicated by the medical community,” trainer Barry Hunter said the other day. “I’m happy. I want to talk about Lamont Peterson-Kendall Holt Feb. 22.”
Peterson had plenty of support at the weigh-in, which not surprisingly featured a distinctively partisan crowd. After Holt (28-5, 16 KOs), who’s from Paterson, N.J., made weight and proclaimed himself the next world champion, Peterson supporters responded in kind.
“You came to the wrong place,” they shouted.
Peterson smiled broadly when asked later about fighting in his home town instead of higher-profile boxing destinations such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Peterson has said fighting in the District helped carry him through those early rounds against Khan when it appeared he could go to the canvas for good, and he repeated this week he’s perfectly content to fight at the Armory.
Besides, Peterson’s previous three fights before Khan were in Las Vegas, and now that he’s calling the shots as the champion, he wants to bring back world class boxing to venues near where he grew up in Southeast.
“It means a lot to be able to entertain my family, friends, saving them a little money from going to Vegas,” Peterson said. “To me, the energy in the air, I know it’s going to help me out a lot when I’m in that ring trying to win rounds. It’s a close round, and I hear that crowd cheering for me, it’s going to give me that extra energy that I need.”