Amir Khan (left) and Lamont Peterson were to have fought on May 19. (Nick Wass/AP)
What is your takeaway from the aborted fight between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan, and where should both fighters go from here?
CHRIS MANNIX: Hyperbole aside — and boy, has the rhetoric been ratcheted up over the last few days, hasn’t it? — I’m inclined to let this thing play out before I judge Lamont Peterson as a cheater. On one hand, I’m inclined to believe this was a mistake; it was Peterson, after all, who requested VADA testing in the first place. On the other hand, Peterson was given every opportunity to disclose his testosterone injection, and didn’t. His trainer, Barry Hunter, who is closely involved with USA Boxing, should know that any type of synthetic testosterone treatment should have been disclosed. That they didn’t and claimed to have “forgot” is a little fishy.
Let’s see what the Nevada commission has to say about it. If they don’t buy Peterson’s story in a hearing next month, Peterson will be effectively suspended, his reputation stained, his career as a HBO headliner likely gone. In that case, I’d like to see Khan stay at 140 pounds for one more fight: a showdown with Tim Bradley. Khan has chased Bradley for more than a year, and assuming Bradley doesn’t shock the world and beat Manny Pacquiao next month, that’s a fight that still generates a lot of interest.
Admittedly, there is a part of me that hopes Peterson comes back clean. Or at least cleanish. His backstory is incredible, the true definition of the American dream. If the Nevada commission decides that Peterson did have a legit reason for taking testosterone, then I’d like to see Peterson-Khan II as soon as possible.
RICHARD O’BRIEN: The first takeaway is that, once again, professional athletes need to be aware of what’s going into their bodies. Yes, testing is imperfect and (to be cynical) beatable, but chances are, if you’ve taken a supplement of whatever kind, it’s going to show up in the results at some point. Had Peterson revealed back in December, before the first Khan bout, that he had received a medically recommended injection of soy pellets (for his evidently astonishingly low testosterone levels), he might well have been granted a waiver. Now he faces the almost certain prospect of not having his Nevada (and, essentially, universal) license renewed until sometime next year — thus missing out on the lucrative rematch with Khan and on any momentum he had going after his upset win in December.
I was looking forward to the rematch — expecting it to be just as tough and, with luck, less squirrely than the first one. Both fighters are gifted and well-schooled and for both it was going to be a make-or-break fight. Now, it seems, we’re going to see Khan in action in July. Steve Kim of Max Boxing reports the likely venue is Anaheim’s Honda Center and the date July 7. The expected opponent is WBC 140-pound champion Danny Garcia, who should be a competitive match for Khan. A safer opponent could be the ageless Erik Morales, who lost to Garcia on March 24, but showed himself to be a still credible contender. Another Khan-Paulie Malignaggi bout would draw as well, if Khan wanted to move up to welterweight, but I don’t see Paulie eager to risk his new title so soon, especially not 3,000 miles from Brooklyn.
Khan has said he wants one more fight at 140 before making the leap to 147, where, presumably, the eventual target would be Floyd Mayweather Jr. Khan’s not ready for that yet; a Peterson rematch would have given him some more valuable seasoning, but an impressive win over Garcia (or even Morales) would keep things going in the right direction.
Peterson, meanwhile, has famously overcome so much in his career — and built up a lot of goodwill along the way. However long he’s out, I think he’ll be welcomed back by his fans. By then, though, Khan may have moved on — making it a rare case in which the winner of the first bout will suffer for not having had the rematch.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Peterson, who’d lived parentless with his brother on the streets of Washington D.C. from age 9 to 14, was a 7-to-1 underdog when he fought with a rare tenacity and nicked a split decision over Khan for the light welterweight title. From homeless to world champion: it was one of the best sports stores of 2011.
Which is what makes the events of the past seven days such a bummer. Multiple organizations had named Peterson-Khan I the Fight of the Year — an honor the IBF ominously rescinded last week — and the rematch was one of the year’s most anticipated fights among hardcore boxing fans. As Chris suggests above, the accusations don’t seem to fit Peterson’s character; but his excuse isn’t exactly ironclad either. He used testosterone, didn’t disclose it, and tested positive. It’s pretty much as open as shut as it gets.
Yes, Peterson was visibly shaken in his first TV interview since the news broke – apologizing to Khan and the fans for failing to disclose the treatment – and his trainer continues to plead ignorance. But if the commission doesn’t clear his name, Peterson’s reputation will be permanently tainted.
For Khan, it means his long-speculated rise to 147 pounds must wait at least a little while longer. He will fight once more at junior welter according to trainer Freddie Roach, but it’s no secret a showdown with Floyd Mayweather is in the plans, an international bonanza that could draw thousands of British fans to Las Vegas — or lure as many as 80,000 fans to Wembley Stadium.