By Jake Donovan
The May 19 rematch between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan is officially underway, as both fighters and members of their camp assembled in London on Tuesday to kick off their three-city press tour.
Both fighters agreed to terms last month to settle the score from their 12-round thriller last December, in which Peterson rose from an opening round knockdown to score a split decision over Khan in his Washington D.C. hometown.
For his efforts, Peterson scored the biggest win of his career along with a career-high $650,000 payday. He stands to make ‘substantially more’ for the rematch, which airs live on HBO as was the case with the first fight. In agreeing to terms for a second dance with the former pound-for-pound entrant, Peterson gets the chance to prove that last year’s win was no fluke, nor did it require the assistance of outside influences.
“I don’t feel disrespected, but… well, I honestly don’t know how I feel about all of it,” Peterson (30-1-1, 15KO) said of the protests filed and remarks made by Khan in the fight’s aftermath. “Regardless of what he say(s), I’m still the champ and got plans on remaining champ come May 19.”
It has been steadfastly insisted by Khan and Golden Boy Promotions – the lead promoter for their first fight as well as the May 19 rematch at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas – that shoddy officiating is what ultimately led to the major upset. Khan was deducted two points for excessive pushing, a foul that rarely if ever comes with enforcement beyond an occasional warning.
Also of concern to the Khan side was the insistence that the ringside officials were repeatedly distracted by the overbearing presence of a ‘mystery man.’ The man was later identified as Mustafa Ameen who has done past goodwill work for the IBF but whose presence at the fight was not in any official capacity.
In agreeing to terms with Peterson, Khan’s side sought assurances of a level playing field, something they to this day believe did not take place on the road in Washington D.C.
“I think they will be fair,” Khan (26-2, 18KO) stated of the belief that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will do a better job of maintaining order in and out of the ring. “They’re going to have to be fair with everything that went on the first time. All we want is neutral judges and neutral referee.
“We just want a fair fight. In a time when you can’t get two great fighters to face each other once, we got two great fighters having a second fight.”
Peterson always remained calm and collected in the midst of the mudslinging and accusations coming from the other direction. While Khan and his handlers refuse to believe they lost fair and square, Peterson is fine with proving for a second time that come fight night, he will be the better fighter.
“Team Khan still has problems with what took place (in the first fight). I want to say that nothing shady happened in D.C., but I doubt they take my word for it.”
That the fight – aptly named ‘No Doubt’ - lands in Las Vegas is reassuring to Khan and his handlers, as the gambling town is widely viewed as the fight capital of the world.
“The Nevada State Athletic Commission is the best in the world,” stated Asif Vali of Khan Promotions. “The D.C. commission wasn’t experienced enough. With the Nevada commission we don’t have to worry about anything else. The two fighters will be doing their job inside the ring. We’re going to be doing our best outside the ring and make sure it’s a fair platform for both fighters.”
Also offered to those on hand at Tuesday’s presser was the assurance that ringside presence will be limited to invitation only.
“People not authorized to be at ringside, will not be at ringside,” quipped David Itskowitch, COO of Golden Boy Promotions.
What is hoped to be offered more so than more drama and controversy is yet another great fight. Both fighters agreed that their first fight was an instant classic and believe the rematch will be even better. Naturally, where their respective opinions differ is on the eventual outcome.
“It’s a make or break fight. It’s a tough fight,” believes Khan, a 2004 Olympic Silver medalist and former two-belted fighter who was regarded as among the very best fighters in the world prior to last December’s setback. “I’ve started training early for this fight just to get back in the gym and get back into shape. I’m glad Lamont Peterson took this fight. I have so much to lose and of course Lamont has a lot to lose as well.
“This is the time that we’re going to put things straight. I thought I won but this time we’re going to win this fight clearly. We’re going to prove to people who the champion is on May 19. We’re going to put on a great performance again.”
Peterson expects nothing short of a great performance from his familiar foe, but that Khan’s fans shouldn’t hold their breath on waiting for their fighter to regain his belts.
“I don’t believe (that it’s a make or break fight), but I definitely want to win the fight. I’m enjoying being the champ right now and am not going to let it go so easily. You say you started training two weeks early? Well, I’ve been training since that day we stepped out of the ring. I’ll be prepared and ready, willing to die in the ring in order to keep the titles.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]