Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
Sports

A title-bout upset even Hollywood couldn't script

HBO (tv network)The Washington PostSylvester StalloneFedEx FieldTom Brady

N

o matter how much Sylvester Stallone has tried, some things in boxing you just can't make up.

It was enough late Saturday night that a 27-year-old man from Southeast Washington, homeless before a boxing trainer took in him and his little brother when the boy was 10, rocked the fight world by winning his first major world title over the prohibitive favorite.

But when the HBO ring announcer, Michael Buffer, hollered the words, "And … NEW SUPER LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD … " and Lamont Peterson smudged his joyful tears against the arms of Barry Hunter and his handlers — and Amir Khan shook his head in disgust after the sport's umpteenth controversial decision — the night was just beginning for the combatants.

After the post-fight news conference, they would bizarrely meet again — in the waiting area of an emergency room.

It was 2 a.m. Sunday outside the George Washington Hospital ER when Peterson's publicist saw a black Escalade pull up behind his vehicle.

This being the District's first major championship fight in nearly 20 years, not many medical professionals beyond the ring doctor were present at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center afterward. So Peterson's people picked the closest facility to their hotel for a genuine post-fight examination.

Unknown to the new champ, so did the man he took two belts from with a split-decision victory over 12 grueling rounds before a national HBO cable audience.

"I just looked outside and saw all the gold and red from his team and said, 'Ain't that some [expletive]," said Andre Johnson, the publicist for Peterson's camp. "Everybody else in the emergency room just looked at 'em at first, like, 'What happened to you two?'"

Nurses and security officers who had heard about or watched the fight scurried up to the cut and bruised men for autographs. They snapped photographs. Eventually, the two fighters, mutually respectful for almost the entire week leading up to the fight, took pictures with each other before they were treated and released about 5 a.m.

Yes, Peterson — the former homeless child who dethroned the champion — told Khan he would give him a rematch afterward.

Again, we're not making this up.

It is going on 5 p.m. Sunday. And as I sit here typing this in the press box of FedEx Field, where the most offensively exciting Redskins game of the year has ended with Tom Brady winning a shootout with Rex Grossman, I can't get that fight out of my head.

No one can change my mind on this one: The single greatest sports story in Washington this year unfolded past 11 p.m. Saturday in downtown.

An 8-1 underdog, regarded as a very good move-and-stick fighter who competed well but never dazzled on the big stage, knew in the opening rounds he could not outbox a man whose hands moved at warp speed. So he morphed into a free-swinging brawler. His right eye nearly shut, trailing early on the scorecards, Peterson stalked Khan, punishing the champion against the ropes.

Joe Cooper, the Virginia-based ring referee, took two points away from Khan, including one in the 12th round that essentially gave Peterson the decision. Not once did he ever give Khan a bona fide warning as most ring referees do — something along the lines of, "If you push his head down one more time, I will take a point away."

The irony was rich because Khan had deigned to come to the contender's hometown for the fight. Now his worst nightmare had emerged: inside job. Perhaps he should have known something was up when Cooper came out in purple surgical gloves, almost perfectly matching the colors of Peterson's camp.

The deductions took a little away from Peterson's accomplishment. But the truth: The contender took the fight to the champion, landing devastating shots that went right through Khan's gloves in many rounds, slamming into his head.

Irascible HBO analyst Larry Merchant had it right when he evocatively declared, "Amir Khan is fighting as if his job depends on it; Lamont Peterson is fighting as if his life depends on it."

Peterson takes home his greatest payday, $650,000. He will command much more than $1 million for a rematch against Khan. And whatever happens from here on out, he will always have that moment.

Whoever imagined Peterson leaving the George Washington Hospital emergency room with a clean bill of health, a smiling 27-year-old at 5 a.m. after having taken pictures with the champion he dethroned, must have had a film script rejected at least once.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading