by David P. Greisman
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lamont Peterson will be taking the junior welterweight titles back home with him — and the ride back won’t be a long one.
In his hometown of Washington, D.C., Peterson defeated Amir Khan by split decision, edging out the victory in a physical, back-and-forth battle, and winning the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association belts.
One judge, Nelson Vazquez, saw the bout for Khan, 115-110, but he was overruled by George Hill and Valerie Dorsett, both of whom saw it 113-112 for Peterson.
The margin of victory for Peterson came off two points taken away from Khan — one in the seventh round for pushing, and one in the 12th round after he pushed Peterson again.
The fight being so close wasn’t because of the referee, however, but because of the adjustments each boxer made during the bout and the tenacity each showed to come back when the action seemed to be getting away from him.
Khan’s speed troubled Peterson in the opening rounds, flurries that did not necessarily need to land to be effective. Peterson would try to evade wild shots, only to be caught with an accurate blow. He went to the canvas twice in the first round — once was ruled a slip, the other a knockdown.
In the meantime, Peterson was seeking to hit Khan, timing him with left hooks, and looping rights, then coming forward in lulls and investing in body shots. They were not making a true impact yet. They soon would.
Khan’s speed has kept past opponents on the defensive, less willing to throw shots when they cannot see what is coming and do not know when the onslaught will stop.
Peterson was largely in such a mode for the first two rounds but changed his mentality in the third. Rather than trying to sustain the barrage, he opted not to respect it, rather to make Khan respect him.
“Every time I pulled back, he was catching me,” Peterson said after the fight of those opening six minutes.
Peterson began to come forward, walking through Khan’s flurries, his pressure allowing him to get close and dig in with thudding shots to Khan’s sides. With Khan’s back to the ropes, Peterson also could dig his head to Khan’s chest, lead with left hooks upstairs and follow through with right crosses, mixing in occasional uppercuts.
Khan was visibly affected, pushing Peterson off and moving away. Undeterred, Peterson followed, taking fire but pushing his enemy into the trenches.
Khan sought to use his speed in the center of the ring in the fourth, but Peterson adjusted there, turning his upper body with Khan’s punches, blocking them with his shoulders and gloves and then returning with accurate counters.
Now it was Peterson whose offense couldn’t be stopped. Now it was Khan who had to find a way to deal with Peterson.
He did so in the fifth, sticking and moving. If he couldn’t keep Peterson off of him, he could at least keep him away.
Khan’s flurries were no longer extended barrages, but quick combinations. He threw, then he retreated and circled around, the change holding Peterson at bay — for the moment.
The strategy worked in the first half of the sixth. In the second half, however, Peterson loaded up on a left hook to the body that put Khan on the defensive again. The body attack continued, and Peterson tested Khan’s chin as well with uppercuts between gloves that had been lowered to protect the ribcage.
They were in a fight. And the tactics from each reflected that. Peterson dug his head into Khan, and some of his body shots reached around to Khan’s kidneys. Khan would hold Peterson’s head down with his gloves, or lock Peterson’s head underneath his arm.
He would push Peterson, either with his gloves or his elbow. That brought the ire of referee Joseph Cooper, who took a point from Khan toward the end of the seventh.
Peterson won that round, 10-8, and won the eighth round, 10-9, punishing Khan to the body. Khan began to mix in jabs and right uppercuts on a man who was ducking his head down and coming forward, but was left more often tying up or trying to withstand Peterson’s attack.
Khan came back in the ninth, though, showing a combination of versatility and ability, hitting Peterson with uppercuts and body shots, left hooks and right hands.
Each had found what could bring them success, and each would continue to find success in the final three rounds — rounds that would decide the fight.
Khan won the 10th and 11th rounds on Vazquez’s scorecard, the judge giving him the clear lead. Peterson won the rounds on Hill’s and Dorsett’s scorecards, those judges having him ahead by one point entering the 12th.
All three judges gave Khan the 12th — except the point taken from him made it a 9-9 round.
“It was like being against two people in there,” Khan said after the fight.
It was a tough loss for Khan to take. He had been doubted three years ago after being knocked out in one round by Breidis Prescott. He rebuilt, however, disproved those who doubted his chin, won two title belts in the 140-pound division and was seen, along with Timothy Bradley, as being at the top guy at junior welterweight.
The defeat dropped the 25-year-old from Bolton in the United Kingdom to 26-2 (18 knockouts).
It was a big win for Peterson, who’d come up short in his last shot at a top 140-pounder, losing a wide decision to Bradley two years ago. He’d had a chance to fight Khan before but turned it down because the terms were not favorable enough to him. He still sought a bout with Khan, though, and earned it in July with a knockout win over Victor Cayo.
The 27-year-old from Washington, D.C., is now 30-1-1 with 15 knockouts.
On the undercard, Seth Mitchell notched the biggest win of his career over his most experienced opponent yet, scoring a second-round technical knockout over Timur Ibragimov.
The fight was stopped two minutes and 48 seconds into the round.
The action actually began tactically, with Mitchell working behind a jab in the first round, often doubling it up to Ibragimov’s body and then following it with a right hand to the same spot. Ibragimov also sent out a jab, though his most memorable punches were a pair of right hands, one landing over a Mitchell jab, the other as a ducking Mitchell brought his head up.
The left hooks that had come up short for Mitchell in the opening stanza would hit their mark in the minutes to come.
Shortly after Ibragimov landed a right hand over Mitchell’s jab about two minutes into the round, Mitchell retaliated with a jab and right hand, followed by another right hand that hurt Ibragimov. Mitchell closed in, going to Ibragimov’s body and head, forcing Ibragimov to the ropes and landing a hard, chopping right.
With his opponent reeling, Mitchell landed a left hook, another one-two, and a few good right hands that had Ibragimov covering up and the referee watching close. The third man in the ring jumped in and halted the action after another right hand, giving Mitchell the victory in front of an approving crowd.
Ibragimov didn’t approve of the stoppage, though.
“Why did they stop the fight? I’m okay,” he said. “He didn’t even hurt me. Of course he landed some shots, but I was alright. I could’ve kept going. There was no point to stop the fight.”
Mitchell landed 44 of 130 in those two rounds, including 30 of 71 power shots — going 23 of 46 in the second round, according to CompuBox. Ibragimov, meanwhile, landed 23 of 59 punches in the fight, including 14 of 29 power shots.
Mitchell, 29, of Brandywine, Md., improves to 24-0-1 (18 knockouts). Ibragimov, 36, originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but now fighting out of Florida, falls to 30-4-1 (16 knockouts).
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]