- Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing
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WASHINGTON -- Lamont Peterson is in no doubt.
There's no doubt, he says, that Amir Khan deserved to lose the two points that referee Joe Cooper deducted for pushing the last time he and Peterson tangled in the ring -- two points that ensured Peterson would emerge victorious and with two junior welterweight belts in front of a hometown Washington, D.C., crowd last December.
In fact, Peterson says, his opponent's actions weren't so much pushing as elbowing, and he has the evidence -- in the form of camera angles and emergency room treatments -- to prove it.
"Look at the tape," he said after Thursday's press conference in D.C. to announce a May 19 rematch with Khan at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. "I'm not just going to sit here and say something five or six times that I can't go back and prove to you. I had a fracture right [below his right eye], from elbows. From him pulling down on my head, I had a lot of swelling on my neck. Watch the fight again; I'm not going to say anything I can't prove. He's so uncomfortable with me being so close, when his arms go past my head, he would automatically pull down and push away."
Equally, Amir Khan is no doubt.
There's no doubt, he asserts, that even with those two point deductions, he really won the fight three months ago.
"At all the press conferences, I've said I won the fight," he said. "Not once has he said he won the fight, because he knows he didn't win that fight."
Still, Khan acknowledges that perhaps he did push Peterson more than he should have done, and vows that he won't do it again.
"When he does come inside, instead of pushing him away, maybe taking a side step or working him, standing there and fighting him," he said by way of explaining a strategy for the rematch. "Lamont comes in very square-on, so it's very hard to get the angles, so that's maybe why I did push. But we won't be doing any of that now. I'll be hitting him. He'll be the guy walking back. I'll be a totally different Amir Khan in this fight. You'll see new things, you'll see new styles."
The former champion is ready with praise for his successor's heart, chin and ability; he was also taken aback by Peterson's strength, a function of the American outweighing the Brit by several pounds on fight night. It was for that reason, as much as any other, that Khan retreated repeatedly to the ropes in the fight's second half, allowing Peterson to dig in with body shots and uppercuts that swung the momentum in his favor.
"There are a few things that we're going to change in making the weight," Khan said. "I'm going to speak to Alex [Ariza, Khan's strength and conditioning coach] about it. When I go into the fight, I'm going to be a bit heavier. I did feel the weight difference between me and the weight [at which] he came into the fight. He was very heavy, and I could feel the pressure he was putting on. But we're going to sort that out; we don't need to be on the ropes."
Khan will, however, if necessary, slug it out in the center of the ring: "We're going to work with him, go toe to toe if he wants to, work on the inside -- we normally don't work on the inside, but this time we're going to be working on the inside. Now I know what to do, and I'm not going to make as many mistakes."
The last time the two fighters were here, in the Altitude Room of the W Hotel, the balcony of which provides an up-close-and-personal view of the east wing of the White House, it was to promote their first fight. The atmosphere then was raucous and enthusiastic in anticipation of big-time boxing returning to the nation's capital. Britain's deputy ambassador reminded those assembled of his country's assault on the aforementioned White House, 200 years previously. Khan spoke glowingly of the town and talked up his willingness to face his challenger on his home turf. And Peterson, looking -- as he does still -- shy and almost embarrassed by the attention, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity.
Three months later, the love was a little less in evidence.
"I'd like to say it's good to be back here, but ..." Khan's manager, Asif Vali, began before stopping in midstream. "It is good to be here, but we're here for a reason." If it weren't for those two lost points, he said later, "We wouldn't be sat here."
Those point deductions, delivered by a referee from D.C., were part of a fusillade of complaints from Team Khan, culminating in a frame-by-frame dissection of the movements of a "mystery man" ringside who helped fuel, at least on the eastern side of the Atlantic, almost immediate demands for the rematch.
Peterson admits that the complaints, the insinuations that he was not the rightful champion, grated:
"I was a little bit more upset with the fans and some of the media [than with Khan], because I feel as though the media at times entertains stories like that a little bit too much, whereas you can really look at the tape from whatever angle you want and see that he was fouling, and they should have took points. Then after it was stated that the so-called mystery man clearly didn't touch any judges' scorecards, after you eliminate all these allegations, I think there should be no more controversy to the win. I think that controversy should be eliminated."
No matter what came afterward, however, Peterson will always have that moment when he was announced as champion in his hometown, just a few blocks from where he and younger brother Anthony spent part of their childhood sleeping on the streets.
"It was just a dream come true," he said, smiling. "You just go back to all those hard days at the gym. I just think about sacrificing weekends, the late nights, missing proms, things like that, for boxing. I actually got an 'F' in English one time because I was supposed to take a final exam in ninth grade and Junior Olympics was coming, and I just took off.
"I don't want this to end. I want to train hard, make sure this train keeps going. Each time I win, it's a bigger paycheck. I just want to keep training and keep going because I know that when I do lose, it's all over."
Despite the obvious respect he has for his opponent, Khan would be perfectly happy for it all to be over by the morning of May 20.
"I did not fight at my best [in December], and I still think I won the fight. On May 19, I'll be at my best, I'll make my weight professionally, I'll be very strong in the fight, so I don't think anything will go wrong. All I want is a neutral fight -- a neutral and a fair fight. We want a referee who's not from England, who's not from Washington. I can promise you, 100 percent, that I will win the fight."