By Jake Donovan
Perhaps the battle was lost the moment Amir Khan was unable to coax Lamont Peterson into travelling to England for their eventual title clash last year.
An April ’11 date was reserved on HBO for a Khan title defense, with their sights set on Peterson, who was coming off of a disputed draw with Victor Ortiz. Khan and Golden Boy made an offer and continued to raise the ante, but in the end Peterson’s team balked and went in a different direction.
It was viewed as the scenic route and a major risk, but when all was said and done Peterson and his handlers – namely trainer and father figure Barry Hunter – came up aces, scoring a major upset win in his Washington D.C. hometown last December.
The two will square off again, this time with Las Vegas serving as the hosting site for their May 19 rematch to air live on HBO.
Khan and his team don’t necessarily regret taking the road trip last year; after all, real champions take risks and the Brit was considered one of the very best that the sport had to offer at the time. What continues to sit uneasy with their side, however, is the events that took place from bell to bell, which they believe to be the cause of his newfound status as an ex-titlist.
“I still thought I won the fight. I still watch the fight and it hurts me to see all of the things that went on,” Khan states, referencing what many viewed as overofficiating. Local referee Joseph Cooper docked two points from Khan’s tally for excessive pushing, proving to be the margin of difference in what was ultimately ruled a split decision win for Peterson.
The deductions aside, Khan acknowledged the mistakes he made in the first fight and promises a return to the version that many viewed as the top 140 lb. fighter in the world prior to last December.
“This fight will be tougher because we both know what to expect. I’ve started training early for this fight just to get back in the gym and get back into shape. I always train like the challenger, but I want to bring those titles back to Britain.”
What the rest of his team hopes for is that Thursday’s press conference in D.C. – the second stop of a three-city press tour which concludes Monday in Los Angeles – will be the last reminder of their believing to have been terribly wronged in conceding the titles on that December evening.
“If the rematch wouldn’t have happened, we’d have taken a path and moved on. But this is the boxing game; it’s exciting because it’s filled with twists and turns,” states Asif Vali of Khan Promotions. “On May 19, Amir has a job to do and he will do his job. He will regain his belts lawfully; he will regain his belts by beating Peterson and will put D.C. behind us once and for all.”
Nothing has been left to chance for the rematch, as all parties are able to enter May 19 with peace of mind. Both camps have agreed to Olympic-style drug testing, which will include random blood and urine samples drawn throughout their respective training camps leading all the way to fight night.
More important – at least to Khan – is the neutrality provided by the chosen venue and the presiding commission. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is viewed as the standard bearer, leaving Khan with the belief that whether or not he regains his titles will be based entirely on what takes place in the ring, rather than having to stress over politics and outside infuences.
“I think they will be fair,” Khan states of the officiating for the upcoming rematch. “They’re going to have to be fair with everything that went on the first time. All we want is neutral judges and neutral referee. We just want a fair fight. In a time when you can’t get two great fighters to face each other once, we got two great fighters having a second fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]