By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Maybe Lamont Peterson really believes it.
To be sure, his pointed answers to the obvious questions would have one think he’s put what happened the last time he got into a professional boxing ring – a devastating three-round loss to Lucas Matthysse in which he was bounced off the canvas three times – in the rear-view mirror.
“Getting over the loss? That happened in one day,” he said. “Who cares about the knockout? It's part of boxing. That's what happens. You pick yourself up and you move on. At this point, it's in the past. Who cares? As a fighter, you have to block that out and you keep moving. As far as me moving on, I'm a fighter. I train hard, give it my all and we go out there and we fight. It's always going to be the same with me. Who cares about what happened in last fight?”
Or maybe it’s a case, to paraphrase Shakespeare, where the IBF’s still-reigning champion at 140 pounds is protesting just a tad too much when it comes to forgetting last May’s blitzkrieg in Atlantic City.
If it’s the latter, not many would blame him for responding to questions with questions of his own.
The springtime match with the then-streaking “Machine” – Matthysse had won five in a row since 2011, four in six rounds or less – went well for about three minutes, before a series of concussive shots left Peterson downright loopy in the ring, and Danny Garcia supposedly terrified outside it.
The District of Columbia native held on to his IBF jewelry only because the bout was fought a pound above the division’s weight limit, and he’ll return with it slung over his shoulder to meet unbeaten Haitian contender Dierry Jean this Saturday night in the friendly surroundings of the DC Armory.
It’s just another fight, Peterson insists to anyone who asks. It’s just another day with the lunch pail.
And perhaps if he says it enough – that the loss meant nothing and the lingering claim to the title means nothing as well – maybe we’ll all believe it.
And if he’s direct enough when the questions are posed, just maybe he will, too.
“At the end of the day the belts mean nothing. It means a lot to ya'll, but it means nothing to me. I just love to fight,” Peterson said. “I go. I bust my ass in the gym. I go and I fight. I give it my all in the ring. Who cares about who's No. 1, who's No. 2, who's pound for pound, who has this belt, who has that belt? I care less about that.
“So whether you look at me as a champion or not, it doesn't make a difference. The only thing is we fought at a catch weight, and me having a belt allows me to have this opportunity to fight Dierry Jean. That's it. That's all that belt means.”
The fight with Jean – who’s 25-0, but has precisely zero wins over anyone in the IBF’s top 10 – will be Peterson’s first outing after a loss since April 2010, when he stopped Damian Fuller in seven rounds four months after being floored once en route to dropping a unanimous decision to Timothy Bradley.
His only other non-victory, a majority 10-round draw with Victor Ortiz in which he was dropped twice in December 2010, was followed seven months later by a 12th-round stoppage of Victor Cayo.
“It's not my first loss,” he said. “It has happened before, but at the end of the day, as a fighter, my mentality has to be who cares? Who's going to sit around thinking about their last fight if it didn't go the way they wanted it to go? The best thing to do is to pick you up, forget about it, move on. I know I can still fight. I'm still a good fighter. I have to forget about it.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF flyweight title – Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Rocky Fuentes (No. 5 contender) vs. Amnat Ruenroeng (No. 7 contender)
Fuentes (35-6-2, 20 KO): First title fight; Undefeated since 2007 (15-0)
Ruenroeng (11-0, 5 KO): First title fight; Sixth fight against above-.500 opponent (5-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Veteran Fuentes has better resume, but risks too much in taking fight on short notice in his opponent’s backyard. The ex-Olympian joins the belted class at home.” Ruenroeng by decision
IBF junior welterweight title – Washington, D.C.
Lamont Peterson (champion) vs. Dierry Jean (No. 1 contender)
Peterson (31-2-1, 16 KO): Second title defense; Fifth fight in District of Columbia (4-0)
Jean (25-0, 17 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Canada (2-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Peterson is an iffy commodity coming off a frightful beating from Matthysse eight months ago, but he should – repeat: should – rebound in front of a friendly crowd.” Peterson by decision
WBO junior heavyweight title – Stuttgart, Germany
Marco Huck (champion) vs. Firat Arslan (No. 1 contender)
Huck (36-2-1, 25 KO): Twelfth title defense; Defeated Arslan (UD 12) in November 2012
Arslan (33-6-2, 21 KO): Fifth title fight; Held WBA title at 200 pounds (2007-08, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: “Like Klitschko in the division above him, Huck is embarking on a second lap of defenses against challengers he’s already bettered. Alas, nothing much to see here.” Huck by decision
WBO junior lightweight title – New York, N.Y.
Mikey Garcia (champion) vs. Juan Carlos Burgos (No. 1 contender)
Garcia (33-0, 28 KO): First title defense; Third fight in New York City (2-0)
Burgos (30-1-2, 20 KO): Third title fight; Sixteenth fight in United States (13-0-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Burgos has a nice record and he’s fought under bright lights in the past, but he’s meeting the sport’s best young fighter here and won’t be the one to spoil the master plan.” Garcia in 10
Last week’s picks: None
2014 picks record: 1-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 549-194 (73.9 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.