After 24 rounds of action from a pair of bouts headlining Saturday’s “Premier Boxing Champions” series card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, here are five things that we learned:
1. Lamont Peterson exceeded expectations ...
Don’t let Peterson’s majority decision loss to junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia in their 143-pound catchweight bout fool you as to who was the fresher, more confident fighter when the scorecards were read. That’s because Peterson exceeded expectations with a strong performance that featured polar opposite strategies of slick boxing in the early rounds and straight-ahead pressure fighting late. It was a far cry from the result that most experts had expected despite the anticipation for the fight coming in. Peterson had typically lost when facing the very elite in his division and it was expected he would be outgunned should he decide to stand and trade. Instead he was supremely confident and simply a different fighter on this night. Despite the defeat, Peterson proved at 31 that he’s still a major player in boxing’s money divisions.
2. ... yet Peterson’s miscalculation cost him the fight
Peterson stayed on his bicycle early and frustrated Garcia with lateral movement. It was a strategy that ultimately appeared to wear Garcia out as he was forced to chase Peterson around the ring, hoping to slow him down by going to the body. Once Peterson flipped the switch and became the aggressor late, he swelled Garcia’s right eye and had him backpedaling. Yet when the judges’ scores were announced, it was clear Peterson had forgotten to do one thing: Leave no doubt in the early rounds. Although he did a great job making Garcia miss, he didn’t land enough punches in return to win the rounds. And that was the difference between winning and losing.
3. Chess can be fun when it’s violent
Middleweight titlist Andy Lee’s split draw with former beltholder Peter Quillin held a number of frustrating traits not typically synonymous with an action fight. Both fighters acted as counter punchers in this style clash between the southpaw Lee and the athletic Quillin with three-fourths of each round spent tentatively pawing and feinting. In fact, neither fighter averaged even 25 punches thrown per round as they tentatively stared down at close range. But when they let their hands go and connected, both proved to be equal shades of vulnerable and dangerous. Combining for three knockdowns and a number of moments where either was staggered by clean shots, Lee and Quillin elicited alternating emotions of booing and raucous joy from the Brooklyn crowd. It was as excitingly dull a fight as boxing fans have seen in some time.
4. Both Lee and Quillin came to win ... at times
Despite the slow pace of the fight, there was a refreshing urgency to both Lee and Quillin the moment they were stunned by a hard punch. Many of the rounds played out the same way with two-plus minutes of circling until fireworks erupted over the final 30 seconds. When faced with adversity throughout the first seven rounds, both fighters responded by biting down on their mouthpiece and swinging for the fences. Any motivations to play it safe went out the window. But the championship rounds were another story. With the fight up for grabs, neither man did enough to take it and make it their own. There was a lingering feeling at the final bell that both had been a bit too resigned to lay back in hope that the other would make a mistake. In doing so, they left an opportunity to capitalize on the table, leaving the judges to decide a winner in rounds where neither man was effective.
5. What a confusing title mess
Both of Saturday’s co-main events had asterisks as it pertained to the titles at stake. Had Lee lost to Quillin instead of settling for a draw, he would have still retained his 160-pound title because Quillin -- who was highly criticized for vacating the same title on year ago -- had come in overweight on Friday. In the main event, contested at a catchweight of 143 pounds for reasons never properly explained from those involved, both Garcia and Peterson entered the bout without their junior welterweight titles on the line. Yet the IBF previously announced a Peterson loss would result him being stripped of his title for taking an unnecessary catchweight fight. Boxing already has an issue with too many belts per division and a lack of clarity to anyone but the hardcore fans as to who the true champion is in each weight class. And it’s unclear exactly what the PBC’s stance is regarding the public recognition of alphabet belts, or whether they are setting the stage to award their own in the future. While none of the scenarios above are necessarily related to each other, they were far from ideal.