By Chris Robinson
The hottest story in boxing right now is the recent failed drug test from junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson and its many subplots. Last December, in his native Washington, D.C., Peterson upset then IBF/WBA champion Amir Khan in a rousing affair and was eyeing a May 19th rematch with the British star.
On Monday it was reported that Peterson had tested positive for synthetic testosterone ahead of the fight, according to a report from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency. Two days later the rematch with Khan would officially be cancelled as both fighters are left dumfounded while Peterson has seen his image take a huge blow.
In the wake of everything, Peterson has professed his innocence, claiming that the testosterone found in his system was from testosterone pellets that were prescribed to him by a physician because of an ongoing condition he has that results in a low level of testosterone in his body. Those doubting the fighter point to the fact that Peterson never came forward and told VADA about his condition in the first place, an act that would have likely changed the landscape of this whole ordeal completely.
The opinions from insiders in the sport have been coming in droves and I recently reached out to HBO color commentator Larry Merchant to get his thoughts on the issue.
“Look, there’s usually more than one side to a story,” Merchant would state on Thursday evening. “But given the atmosphere of sports and drugs, that’s something that they obviously should have come forward with at the time. They should have notified the proper authorities at the time.
“It’s not like this is something out of the dark ages,” Merchant would continue. “They surely should have understood, if their side is correct, that is could be misinterpreted, put it that way. It was on them to give some advanced notice if this indeed is or was the truth of the situation.”
It’s uncertain how Peterson will bounce back from this and there are some who are even comparing his situation to that of Antonio Margarito, the former welterweight champion who was found to have plaster-coated hand inserts in his dressing room prior to his January 2009 bout with Shane Mosley at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Not only was Margarito beaten pillar to post against Mosley, he was later suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission and was chastised by the boxing community.
Merchant admits to seeing a bit of similarities between both controversies.
“It’s a Margarito-like situation,” Merchant said. “It puts into question the first fight. The difference here is that Margarito was a top fighter with a big following at the time and his promoter had a real interest in reviving him. Peterson is now without a promoter as far as I know, he’s independent, and I do think he’s going to have to, in a sense, revive himself.”
With the Peterson rematch an afterthought, Khan is now slated for a return sometime in July against an opponent to be determined. One of the names in forefront is newly-minted WBC champion Danny Garcia, who won his belt on March 24th in a fairly-entertaining scrap with living legend Erik Morales.
The 24-year old Garcia still looks to be a work in progress on some fronts but there is a lot to like about him, from his poise, boxing ability, and his overall toughness.
It seems to be a fight that Merchant would favor at this point.
"Regarding who the next opponent could be, I think that could be a very good, appealing matchup,” Merchant stated. “I want to see [Garcia] against a live, young opponent and certainly Khan would be a very good test whether he has a chance to be a serious fighter.”
Just as quickly, Merchant pointed out that he didn’t expect Garcia to have as tough of a go against Morales as he did, as the Philadelphian fought at a measured pace early before taking command of the fight late while dropping Morales in the eleventh on his way to a unanimous decision verdict.
“Somewhere between underwhelmed and whelmed,” Merchant said when asked of Garcia’s performance. “I thought Morales, and I love Morales, at this stage of his career, was a more difficult opponent that I thought he would be. But it was the kid’s first real appearance on the big stage and we’ll see whether he’s the kind of crowd-pleasing fighter who can attract a following and who can give us good fights.”
I got the sense that Merchant is unsure of Garcia’s chances in a possible clash with Khan and the veteran analyst was asked to be as upfront as possible as to whether or not he feels Amir is too much of a difficult task for him at this point.
“I don’t know whether Khan is too much,” said Merchant. “I do think it would be a very good test to see what true level he’s capable of. It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense under these circumstances. I think it would rescue a bad situation to come up with this as a replacement fight.”