Saturday night at the Convention Center in Washington D.C., Lamont Peterson will face Amir Khan for the IBF and WBA light welterweight titles. In a rare instance where home field advantage resides with the lesser name, Peterson, a D.C. native, will try to electrify his fans by upsetting the heavily-favored British star.
Peterson, 29-1-1, has shown himself to be a credible contender. Using crafty inside work supplemented by a sharp body attack, he fought Victor Ortiz to a draw last December. An artiste in shoulder-to-shoulder combat, he showcases uppercuts to the sternum and left hooks to the liver while remaining slippery enough to avoid the bulk of the return. It’s the type of inside proficiency that made Timothy Bradley –an accomplished body puncher himself–revert to using his feet through two-thirds of his win over Peterson two years ago.
But Bradley’s versatility exposed some of Peterson’s vulnerabilities. While Peterson applied enough pressure to make Bradley uncomfortable, he didn’t cut the ring off well enough to definitively bag rounds. He also showed a tendency to fall into lulls for minutes at a time. A pressure fighter doesn’t have to be a windmill for 180 seconds of every round, but a jab disrupts a moving target while filling in the gaps between concerted attacks, and Peterson lacks a consistent one. His July knockout victory over Victor Cayo, while emphatic, highlighted these shortcomings.
Khan, 26-1, armed with swift feet, fluid hands, and a problematic reach, has the weapons to take advantage of the 27-year-old’s weaknesses. Peterson isn’t a natural counterpuncher, often preferring to move forward behind a guard and wait for the incoming fire to subside before launching an attack. It’s easy to imagine Khan reenacting the flurry-move-flurry dance he unveiled for Andriy Kotelnik in 2009 and two-step his way to a comfortable decision.
Still, Khan doesn’t enjoy pressure, and Peterson brings it in spades when motivated to do so. Even while only dropping a combined two rounds on the judges scorecards, Khan had shaky moments against light-hitting Kotelnik. And during a gutsy victory over Marcos Maidana a year ago, he had to hold on by the skin of his teeth after an overhand right left him knock kneed for three rounds. He isn’t Nicolino Locche when his back hits the ropes either, preferring to keep a stationary guard with elbows high, leaving an enticing target for a body punching specialist like Peterson. If a thrashing to the ribs compromises the fleet-footed Brit’s legs, he might have to navigate the same deep waters he wallowed through against Maidana. Undoubtedly, he’s shown perseverance inside the ring since his 2008 knockout loss to Breidis Prescott, but durability remains something of a question mark when facing tenacious resistance.
Both men have shown enough toughness to where a stoppage either way isn’t the likeliest conclusion, but both are capable of hurting each other. Down once against Bradley and twice against Victor Ortiz, questions of durability loom over Peterson as well, and Khan has stinging power to go along with busy hands. Walking him down is an arduous process that doesn’t come without its risks.
Peterson, while missing the glorified power, holstered speed, and New York hype, should provide far stiffer opposition than milquetoast Zab Judah did in July. But he’ll need to raise his game a few notches higher than it’s ever been–by cutting off the ring better while offering a consistent jab and more sustained punch output–to upset Khan. If trainer Barry Hunter is begging his pupil to let his hands go between rounds 6 and 7, there’s likely a hole dug too deep. Enough urgency to win a few of the early rounds is crucial to supplement his draining attack to the body.
Ultimately, Khan’s hands, and especially his feet, are probably too fast. Lamont Peterson is a different test though, and for his first hometown fight in over four years, he’ll be determined to catch lightning in a bottle.