By Kevin Francis, courtesy of the Daily Star
LAMONT PETERSON spent last night in the luxurious surroundings of a five-star hotel suite. It is a far cry from the dark days of his childhood when he was forced to sleep rough on park benches and in bus stations in Washington with no real hope of escaping skid row.
Yet Peterson managed to turn his life around thanks to boxing.
The ring helped him find an escape route from the mean streets of the American capital and on Saturday here he will attempt to prise away Amir Khan’s WBA and IBF world light-welterweight titles. Peterson, 27, has lived a true rags to riches story.
But he has never forgotten the bad old days when his prospects looked bleak at best. “It was all pretty bad and looking very grim,” he said.
“I was one of 12 children and my father was in jail for three-and-a-half years for doing drugs.
“My mother couldn’t pay the bills and that meant we got kicked out of the house and ended up on the street for two years. It really was an ordeal.
“I was only about eight or nine at the time and first of all we lived in a station wagon, then a shelter.
“Then it was Greyhound bus stations and then a park bench. It was tough.”
It was this hand-to-mouth existence that led Peterson and his younger brother Anthony, who is also a boxer, into a life of petty crime.
But Peterson’s life was transformed just before his 11th birthday when he met trainer Barry Hunter, who encouraged the brothers to walk through his door into the world of boxing.
Peterson said: “Barry changed everything for me and my brother. I just can’t thank him enough for what he did.
“If it wasn’t for him I just don’t know what would have happened.
“We could have gone down a really steep slope but thankfully he rescued us.”
Hunter will be in his corner for the Khan fight – a place he has been for each of Peterson’s 31 professional bouts.
“They were just coming out of the foster care system and I’d heard about them sleeping in bus depots,” said Hunter.
“They had hair lice and body lice. I would take them to eat once a day at a local cafe and they would order so much food because it was the only time they would eat and they wanted to take some home to their family.
“But thankfully that has all changed since boxing entered their lives.
“Lamont has beaten the odds throughout his life.
“He has now come through it all and that is great news.
“I’m just very, very confident because I know what we’ve been through and what got us here.”
Under the tutelage of Hunter, Peterson became a very good amateur and just missed out in a box-off for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, where Bolton’s Khan won silver. Several thousand miles away, Peterson turned pro that year and has lost only once since – two years ago to possible future Khan opponent Timothy Bradley.
Since that unanimous points defeat, he has beaten Damian Fuller and Victor Manuel Cayo and drawn with Victor Ortiz.
Peterson said: “I have come a long way – and I don’t aim to let the chance of two world titles pass me by.”
Khan v Peterson will be screened live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 11pm on Saturday.