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TSS Prospect Watch: The Petersons

BY John Nguyen ON July 10, 2008
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From the outset of their professional careers in 2004, Anthony and Lamont Peterson were considered by most boxing insiders as destined for the highest echelon of the sport.  Both brothers demonstrated skill, maturity, and discipline to a degree rarely seen, even among boxing's top prospects.

To match their exceptional talent, the Petersons also brought with them one of the most affecting human interest stories in the sport.  Abandoned by their parents early in their childhood, Lamont and Anthony were forced to learn harsh lessons of survival on the unforgiving streets of Washington D.C.  Circumstances were bleak for the brothers, until they met trainer and surrogate father-figure Barry Hunter, who introduced the young boys to the life-changing power of the sweet science.  The rest was to be a foregone chapter in boxing history, as the coronation of the Peterson brothers was supposed to be a mere formality.

Fast-forward to the present, four years after the two brothers began their professional careers.  What has changed?  Honestly, not a whole lot.  Nearly thirty fights into each of their careers, Lamont and Anthony Peterson are still immaculately skilled, still undefeated, and still have the look of potential world champions.  The only glitch:  they have yet to truly progress from prospects to serious contenders.

It's an interesting situation in which the Peterson brothers find themselves.  Upon entering the pro ranks, their careers were handled to perfection.  They were matched against reasonably challenging opposition and fought frequently.  It came as no surprise, then, that both Anthony and Lamont showed steep improvement with each outing, adding even more buzz to the lofty expectations attached to them.

Lately, however, the talk surrounding the Peterson brothers has included more criticism than they might be accustomed to hearing.  While the brothers have managed to stay busy, their level of opposition has leveled out to mere journeymen and trialhorses.  What's more, their performances, though solid, have lacked the fiery ambition one hopes to see in top prospects.  The brothers look like they are simply going through the motions, dominating opponents who pose very little competitive threat to their careers.  As a result, their development looks, for the moment anyway, stagnant.

The Peterson Express has lost a little steam, and the passengers are getting restless.

To an extent, it's understandable that the Peterson brain trust is protective of their investments.  Blue-chip prospects like Lamont and Anthony Peterson are rare to find, so it would be foolhardy to risk them when the pay off is not as great as it could be in the future.

On top of that, it comes as a surprise to many how young the Petersons are, especially considering how long they've been talked about by boxing insiders.  Older brother Lamont is a youthful 24, while younger brother Anthony is 22.

Some readers are probably thinking, What's wrong with you?  They're just kids.  Let them take their time to develop the right way. There's a lot of logic in that reasoning.

However, what isn't logical is this:  the word for quite some time is that the Peterson camp has set their sights on a title shot sooner rather than later.  Considering that neither Anthony nor Lamont has faced anyone who could even be considered a contender, a title shot for either of them at this point in their careers could prove disastrous.

For Lamont, (25-0, 12 KO), the idea of a title shot would certainly be ill-advised at present time.  What might make it attractive for him and his handlers is the fact that the 140-pound weight class is pretty wide open, and cunning matchmaking could make Lamont a champion in the relatively shallow division.  That an uncelebrated prospect like Timothy Bradley could capture a title belt might encourage Lamont and his handlers to attempt the same feat.  Though it's not an entirely far-fetched idea, it just doesn't make sense to risk what could be a superstar career without adequately preparing him for the chance of a lifetime.  A proposed matchup with newly crowned WBO champion Kendall Holt would be tough, as Lamont would undoubtedly be at a disadvantage due to his recent level of opposition.  It would be nice to see him test the waters with some of the divisions fringe contenders first.  If he can continue his dominant ways against the likes of Lovemore N'dou, Juan Lazcano, or Randall Bailey, maybe a title could be within his reach.
The task facing Anthony (27-0, 19 KO), though, is much more daunting.  The younger Peterson  happens to compete at lightweight, one of the most talent-rich divisions in the sport.  With names like Casamayor, Campbell, and Pacquiao vying for supremacy, winning a title at 135 is a tall order for young Anthony.  Like Lamont, Anthony would benefit greatly from taking on some of the tougher names in his division, while still avoiding the world-beaters for the time being.  If he can beat fighters the caliber of a Jesus Chavez or Edner Cherry, the experience gained would be invaluable when it finally comes time for Anthony to step up to the big show.
In the end, the solution is quite simple when it comes to reinvigorating the careers of the Peterson brothers.  They need to be matched appropriately according to their abilities.  Fighting the likes of Fernando Trejo and Rogelio Castaneda does absolutely nothing for them; these are fighters they could have defeated two years ago.  It's time to step things up.
But the other extreme would be even more detrimental to their careers.  Throwing them in against the best in the world while essentially gambling on their natural ability is foolish.
Maybe the recent promotional changes for the Petersons reflects a new beginning for their careers.  After a less-than-amicable split with former advisor Shelly Finkel, Lamont and Anthony Peterson signed a promotional deal with Bob Arum's Top Rank.  Perhaps this will lead to bigger fights and greater exposure, though the first fight for each under the Top Rank banner yielded only the usual suspects.
As naturally talented as they are, the gifts of the Anthony and Lamont Peterson are not unlike those of a virtuoso pianist.  It would be difficult for someone of prodigious musical talent to flourish by playing scales over and over.  Continual, stimulating challenges are required to unlock the innermost potential of any musician, even a prodigy.  Hopefully, the Peterson brothers will have the opportunity to fine-tune their abilities, ultimately taking center stage when the time is right to demonstrate their exceptional gifts in full bloom.

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