This past Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, junior welterweight title holders Danny Garcia 30-0 (17) and Lamont Peterson 33-3-1 (17) met in a 12-round catch-weight bout fought at 143. Their respective titles weren't on the line but bragging rights for division supremacy were, which turned out to be a wash because neither fighter distinguished themself over the other. When it was over Garcia left the ring still unbeaten by virtue of a majority decision victory by the scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113.
The fight itself wasn't all that good until the last third of it, and a draw or a point win for Peterson seemed to me to be the more accurate call. That said, Peterson has no one to blame for the closeness of the decision but himself.
Lamont should've spent more time getting off more cleanly instead of posturing and showboating after his punches came up a little short during the early rounds. Had he fought more like he did during the last four rounds the fight wouldn't have been so close.
Prior to the bout Peterson said, “Skills will be the difference. I can fight many different ways. I have the skills to fight inside and I have the skills to box. It's about choosing one and showing my skill level at whichever one I do.”
And my thoughts on what he said were: “Whenever fighters say they can win by fighting inside, which is code for saying I can punch and trade with anybody, or I have the skills to box, it’s a good indicator that they have no true style identity.”
Well, that couldn't have been more evident than it was during the first six or seven rounds of the bout this past weekend.
For the first six or seven rounds Peterson tried to fight as a conventional boxer with a little too much movement and foot work, hoping to tire Garcia out for the second half of the bout. The problem for Lamont was, he wasn't that effective. Many of his jabs fell a little short and he didn't sit down on or commit to any finishing punches he threw, and because of that he wasn't discouraging Garcia from forcing the action. Sure, he made Garcia miss a lot, but in the eyes of the judges Danny was still making the fight. Boxing does not mean gliding all over the ring. To be an effective boxer you have to connect cleanly, preferably in combination, and Peterson wasn't having that kind of sustained success. He found as the fight progressed that he just wasn't good enough to execute that style against Garcia's pressure. Mainly because Peterson's boxing style often varies from fight to fight. He can't emulate Floyd Mayweather fighting upper-tier guys like Garcia. From a skill vantage- point Peterson has the physical tools needed to do it, it's just that he hasn't ingrained that into his style to where it's almost second nature to him.
During the second half of the bout Peterson started to push the fight and forced Garcia to retreat and break off the exchanges. And whaddya know, it turns out that Peterson was the bigger presence physically once he came down off of his toes and ceased unnecessarily jumping in and out. Once he began pressuring Garcia, suddenly Danny was rushing his shots, covering or holding as Peterson landed clean right hands to his eyes and cheek. It seemed when Peterson ceased worrying about his chin holding up and sat down on his punches with Garcia in retreat, Lamont won the round in a commanding fashion.
Then it happened at just the wrong time, Peterson reverted back to moving all over the place and the momentum he built in the previous two rounds, he surrendered back to Garcia; that enabled Danny to maintain the lead Lamont spotted him during the early rounds, at least in the eyes of the judges. After fighting like Mayweather-lite and tossing the tempo back to Garcia, Peterson went back to his inner Joe Frazier during the last two and a half rounds of the fight and started forcing the action and won the rounds decidedly. But due to his inconsistency and lack of style identity early, Peterson came up one round short of salvaging the bout on two scorecards.
I don't know if it's a lack of a more developed trainer, or Peterson just happens to be one of those fighters that once the fight starts, he does what he wants. His sporadic style lapses have held him back and that's why he's hit the wall and hasn't evolved into an elite fighter yet. It seems that when Lamont steps up in class, his lack of a developed go to weapon offensively or defensively has restrained him some – more so than it being a case of the other guy being a better fighter than him. Whoever's working with Lamont should emphasize that his legs and his jab are his best assets, and he should work on applying them more extensively.
The fight turned out to be more about what Lamont Peterson should've and could've done because the opening was there for him to win it conclusively. In other words, Garcia was exactly who we thought he was as a fighter, mostly aggressive with a good left hook, and Peterson was exactly who we thought he was as a fighter, a good boxer with an assortment of punches, but inconsistent. Nothing was settled between the two as to who the better fighter is. And if they fought again it would be interesting to see how both would adapt to what they now know about the other.
Physically and stylistically, Peterson has more things to work with and tweak heading into a rematch, but Danny Garcia is a very tough fighter and what may seem to be the answer for Peterson a second time is no sure thing.
The fight was another installment of the “Premier Boxing Champions” series. Both Peterson and Garcia are first class professionals and always give their best effort for the fans. I'm sure if they met again it would be a big television draw. And maybe the next time they'll fight at 147?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com