By Cliff Rold
The bout was billed “Redemption” and 29-year old IBF 140 lb. titlist Lamont Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KO) of Washington, DC, achieved just that, overcoming a slow start to score knockdowns in the fourth and sixth rounds before ultimately stopping 31-year old former WBO titlist Kendall Holt (28-6, 16 KO) of Paterson, New Jersey, in the eighth round on Friday night at the Armory in Washington, DC.
It was Peterson’s first bout since a dramatic 2011 upset of Amir Khan for the IBF and WBA belts, and the subsequent revelation of PED use that saw him on the shelf for all of 2012. Peterson scores his first successful title defense. Holt suffers his second loss in three fights and fourth career defeat by stoppage.
Both fighters came in at top fighting shape, Peterson a pound under the division limit at 139 and Holt weighing in at 140. The referee was Tony Weeks.
With the crowd firmly, loudly, on his side, Peterson started round one jabbing hard and ripped a body shot in an early clinch. A Holt body shot was blocked. A right later in the round was not. As each man worked intensely to find openings, it was Peterson’s turn next, a left hook and then another, with more force, finding the mark.
Both men were off their stool well before the bell sounded to begin round two. Peterson struck Holt with a right over the top and blocked the incoming until a Holt left to the body found flesh. Holt landed a stiff left hook as Peterson attempted a punch. Holt, quicker of hand, slipped a Peterson shot upstairs to land more to the body. In the closing seconds, Peterson landed a pair downstairs but it didn’t erase the work Holt had done to then.
With the crowd exhorting Peterson to do more, the defending titlist elected instead for a minimalist approach to offense. Holt was making the fight, and attempting the occasional hard hook. It made the round easy to score but not so easy to watch.
Holt continued in the lead with power shots as round four opened up. Peterson, seemingly having taken enough, came to life and brought the crowd with him. Finding holes for left hooks and lead rights, Peterson began to grind on Holt. A right hand sent a look of distress across Holt’s face and inspired his fighting spirit. They each dug deep, providing the crowd with prolonged two-way action. Peterson rocked Holt badly with a right and moments later sent him to the floor. Holt took the count to eight on his knee before rising. Weeks waved the fight on and Peterson landed a few more before the bell saved a weary Holt.
Peterson stayed all over Holt in the fifth, the desperate challenger increasingly turning to clinches to stem the tide. A Holt counter right rocked Peterson but before Holt could realize it Peterson was hammering him with a left hook along the ropes. A lengthy Holt clinch later in the round drew a warning from Weeks and boos from the crowd. Action resumed and Holt did his best to fire back but it was Peterson landing more. Peterson closed the round landing two right hand bolo punches as Holt was trapped along the ropes.
A relentless Peterson overwhelmed Holt in round six. Mixing up his attack to the head and body, Peterson landed an unhealthy assortment of hooks and steadily kept Holy along the ropes. In the final minute, it was again too much for Holt to keep his feet as he went down for the second time. Again Holt beat the count at the toll of eight but his right eye was swelling and his chances were narrowing.
With both men working from the outside, Holt landed a stiff left to prove he remained a dangerous foe in the seventh. Using his legs and clinching when Peterson got near, Holt looked to slow the stream of Peterson’s offense. A counter left hook put Peterson back on his heels even as Holt ate right hands. With the round winding down, it was one of those Peterson rights that left Holt wobbling again. He quickly wrapped Peterson around the waist and the bell sent him to the corner.
Peterson wouldn’t let Holt run out another frame.
A right hand near the ropes forced Holt all the way to the strands. Another echoing right kept him there. As Holt held his hands high to cover, Peterson unleashed a flurry of leveraged power shots to the head, pummeling Holt and rendering him in need of saving. Weeks filled that need, stepping in to rescue Holt at 1:42 of round eight.
A victorious Peterson noted an early realization that he could take the power of Holt. “I felt one of his shots. It hit me on the button and it didn’t do anything so I knew I could get him out of there.” Concerning the stoppage, Peterson said, “The last time I caught him on the ropes, I just let my hands go and I didn’t stop.”
Peterson’s victory further invigorates the already red hot Jr. Welterweight division. Lightweight titlist Adrien Broner, watching from ringside, could be an opponent down the line if and when he moves up in weight. A rematch with Khan, scuttled by the PED revelations last year, also remains a possibility.
Of perhaps the most intrigue could be a showdown with the man who defeated Khan in place of the Peterson rematch last year, Danny Garcia. Garcia currently holds the WBC and WBA titles in the division, the latter title won as a result of the WBA vacating the title when Peterson’s positive test was revealed.
The IBF retained Peterson as champion.
Both Peterson and Garcia are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Peterson knows it. “Danny Garcia holds that (WBA) belt. I still think I’m the champ. I’d love to see my promoter make it happen. I want the fight and I got the right promoter now.”
Garcia is currently slated for a bout with former Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight champion Zab Judah on April 27th. Any thoughts of a showdown with Peterson will be on hold until those results are in, but early speculation in inevitable.
The televised portion of the broadcast began with a battle of unbeaten Jr. Featherweights. When it was done, 21-year old Roman Morales (15-0, 8 KO), 122, of San Ardo, California, remained unblemished, scoring a knockdown in the fourth before scoring a body shot stoppage in round five over 24-year old Jesus Hernandez (10-1-3, 2 KO), 121, of Huntington Park, California. The referee was Malik Wali.
Hernandez fired first with two touching jabs, Morales returning fire with the same. As the action slowly heated up, it was Morales playing the more active man. Hernandez struck with a stunning left hook near the middle of the round but, late, it was Morales striking with a powerful combination.
Matters remained much the same in the second. Morales threw more, and was superior on the counter, but Hernandez gamely pressed the fight and occasionally landed a solid blow. A nice exchange highlighted the early going of the third round, Hernandez initiating and Morales firing back. A Morales switch to southpaw didn’t do anything to deter Hernandez’s aggression and each landed stiff power shots in the late going.
Despite a developing swelling under the right eye, Hernandez was shaving his first winning round of the fight until the closing seconds of round four. A flush left early since the sweat flying from Morales’ head to begin a solid contact round. Morales moved his hands, but with little substance until a hard combination sat Hernandez down near the ropes. Hernandez beat the count and headed back to the corner well behind.
Morales was warned for low blows early in the fifth and responded with a nasty right upstairs. A solid exchange ensued, Hernandez battling hard to get off the ropes. As the round moved on, Hernandez struggled to find an answer for the speedier hands of Morales. Keeping his guard too high, Hernandez left himself vulnerable. Morales dug a left to the ribs ended matters to crushing effect. Hernandez went to a knee in pain, unable to beat the count as Wali waved matters closed at 2:59 of round five.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Gary Shaw Promotions and Headbangers Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]