By Jake Donovan
While Lamont Peterson remains in the hunt for a lucrative possible June showdown with Manny Pacquiao, a recent sanctioning body could force him to reconsider his next move.
A decision was reached on Thursday by the World Boxing Association (WBA) to order an immediate rematch between Peterson and Amir Khan. Peterson defeated Khan by split decision in his Washington D.C. last month to become a unified super lightweight titlist.
However, the bout was marred in controversy due to the questionable officiating of referee Joe Cooper and also suspicion of intrusion with ringside officials, prompting the Venezuela-based WBA to order negotiations to begin for a rematch.
“The decision was made on the objective facts and official committee evaluation,” stated Gilberto Jesus Mendoza, WBA Vice President, following Thursday’s ruling stemming from a review of the fight itself as well as testimony taken from both fighters’ camps.
Khan’s camp notified the WBA on December 15 – five days after losing his titles to Peterson – of a forthcoming official protest, which was filed on December 20. The initial exchange between Khan and the WBA on December 15 requested that the bout’s ruling be changed to a draw and that Khan continue to retain recognition as its super lightweight champion.
In the official protest, Khan cited WBA rule C.26 (“Contested Decisions”) as the basis for his complaint, with the insistence that the WBA master scoresheet tallied up a draw verdict, while the announced decision instead had Peterson winning a narrow split decision.
A far greater argument by Team Khan was made in regards to the officiating of Cooper, who deducted two points from Khan during separate instances in the 7th and 12th rounds of their championship bout.
Also mentioned in the protest was the intrusion of a “mystery man” who has now been identified as Mustafa Ameen, spotted at ringside speaking – and allegedly interfering – with WBA Supervisor Michael Welsh at several points during the bout.
The exact reason for Ameen’s presence has yet to be determined. The International Boxing Federation (IBF) – whose belt was also at stake in the bout - mentioned in a statement that Mr. Ameen does outreach work for its organization, though was not assigned to attend the fight in any official capacity.
The WBA acknowledged that while there exists no proof or evidence of corruption or tampering, Mr. Ameen’s presence at ringside was undoubtedly intrusive and that – unfairly or otherwise – it “raises issues regarding an appearance of fairness over the bout conduct.”
A detailed response from Barry Hunter – Peterson’s trainer, manager and father figure – was filed on January 3. The veteran trainer acknowledged the close nature of the contest but that there did not exist sufficient means to challenge the referee’s authority in the bout, including the two point deductions for excessive holding, which came after repeated verbal warnings from the third man.
After reviewing testimony from both sides, the WBA felt that the performance of the referee – who is not a member of the WBA and was appointed by the local Washington D.C. commission – ultimately determined the winner and loser in the bout due to what the organization found to be “multiple arguable rulings” during the bout, including a questionable first round knockdown of Peterson called.
While the WBA agreed that the discretionary decisions of the referee will not be overturned, his performance coupled with “apparent difficulty in timely tallying the scorecards, the overall closeness of the fight and other factors” warranted the ordering of an immediate rematch.
The WBA has ordered a rematch to take place within “the next 120-180 days.”
The two sides have until February 3, 2012 to negotiate a rematch and submit signed bout contracts. Should a deal not be reached by that time, the WBA will then order a purse bid to take place.
A hearing has been scheduled for next week to determine the further involvement of the IBF, and whether or not the New Jersey-based organization will follow suit and also order an immediate rematch.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]