This last weekend in boxing was notable not only for the fact that there were actual fights on multiple nationwide broadcasts, but also for Lamont Peterson showing he still belongs on the elite stage and is ready again to face elite fighters. The weekend also included a seemingly endless Showtime broadcast whose only notable moments in the ring were emotions shown after the action stopped. In England, David Price proved he was an English heavyweight. In New York, Malik Scott showed once again that judges hate boxing.
The marquee match up of the weekend featured Lamont Peterson, coming off an extended hiatus from the ring resulting from testing positive for drug test, dismantling Kendall Holt and defending his 140 pound belt. Lamont Peterson demonstrated the gulf in class that exists when a world class boxer meets a world class puncher. Peterson, the boxer, flawlessly executed a smartly laid out game plan, stopping Holt, a hellacious puncher who freely admitted to never having a fight plan in the past, in the 8th.
Peterson and Holt both rose from the horrific childhood conditions that exist often unseen, unheard and ignored in all American cities to become world champions. Kendall Holt reportedly bounced around the foster care system from the age of 6 after his mom was imprisoned and his father’s abuse was discovered. Holt’s spotty career in recent years has included him bouncing around from trainer to trainer and manager to manager all the while Holt tried to raise his own son as a single father. Lamont’s and his brother Anthony’s story has been well chronicled. Homeless and raising themselves at the age of 10, the Peterson brothers entered Barry Hunter’s gym in Washington, D.C. and have remained with Hunter since. Barry Hunter, a modern American super hero, has been Peterson’s trainer and manager his entire amateur and pro career.
Fighting in front of a large crowd in his hometown, Washington, D.C., Lamont Peterson started out slow. Content to throw his jab and circle from the outside, Peterson freely gave up the first three rounds in exchange for the opportunity to measure, time and gauge Holt as well as to avoid Holt’s early dangerous power. In these rounds, Peterson, who took some jabs, clearly saw Holt’s heavy punches, ducking Holt’s left hooks and slipping and pivoting away from Holt’s right crosses.
In the fourth, Peterson began to press the action walking in behind his high guard. Peterson applies very smart pressure, always looking for his opponent’s punches, Peterson uses his legs to drop deep in his stance or twists sharply with his waist to avoid punches. Because Peterson does not bend over far at the waist to duck or weave, Peterson is almost always on balance to deliver a counter. Holt began to unravel after Peterson ducked Holt’s mid-range left hook and stepped in with short left hook of his own. Holt backing up from the pressure with his left hand down took a short lead right cross. Seconds later, near the end of the fourth, a hard overhand right lead began the combination that put Holt down. Holt arose to survive the round, but was in no condition to survive the fight.
From that point on Peterson applied pressure and surgically destroyed Holt, who despite pre-fight claims that this time would be different was unable to adjust. Peterson vicious inside game, digging hooks with both hands to the body, coming up to the head with hooks and straights was on full display. Tony Weeks stopped the beating in the 8th.
With his Golden Boy contract secured after the easy victory and with Golden Boy’s rich stable of elite 140 pounders to contend with, Lamont Peterson can return to where he belongs, in the ring with the best in the sport.
On Saturday night, Showtime presented a card from Detroit, MI. Perhaps inspired by Sunday’s upcoming Academy Awards, the Showtime broadcast was long, drawn out and featured middling, but serviceable talent. This was not the Oscar’s, but the Floyds.
In the main event, Ishe Smith defeated Cornelius ‘K-9’ Bundrage for a junior middleweight belt and for the right to be the last standing Contender reality series alumni. Both fighters claimed pre-fight that their opponents would have to kill them to win. Unfortunately, they produced action that made the audience want to die. Not even a reality series slow motion camera, editing and sound effects could have made this fight exciting. Bundrage fought like he was defending the Detroit Unified School District slap boxing championship. Ishe Smith, who does either just enough or not quite enough, did just enough this time to become the first Las Vegas born fighter to win a major title belt. On the undercard, J’Leon Love with a good jab, decent foot movement and but mechanical and slow and pushing everything else, defeated a game, but limited Derek Findley.
What made the broadcast worthwhile was watching Ishe Smith's reaction to his victory. Smith and Bundrage were 34 and 39 years old respectively on fight night. Boxing is a sport that leaves very few boxers financially secure. Both men may have been better served spending the last 17 years of their lives competing to become plant supervisor. But shift work even with its security does not lend itself to the outsized hopes, dreams and emotions that a career as a prizefighter provides. Upon hearing the decision, Ishe Smith collapsed on his knees to the canvas overcome with tears while still gently cradling his infant child’s head in his wrapped hands. No matter how much fans and writers dismiss the of the plethora world title belts, Smith’s reaction showed the worth these titles still hold to the men who work their whole lives to gain them.
Other thoughts and observations:
David Price proved he belongs in the storied history of British heavyweights when he did what British heavyweights do when hit by large Americans... he fell down.
Floyd Mayweather showed class real class and authenticity in the ring after Ishe Smith’s win. His ease amongst other fighters and the respect they show him bodes well for his future outside the ring - one that may be better served as a mentor and trainer than in the corruptive world of promotion.
Heavyweight Malik Scott joined the array of smooth boxers denied clear wins by judges who lack the ability to see what happens in the ring. Much like Steve Cunningham, Malik Scott is a fine practitioner of boxing as a sport, not the sports-entertainment variety or the self-sacrifice to achieve transcendence in the ring variety of boxing, but of the hit and not get variety.
If you think Showtime’s $250 to 300 million dollar deal with Floyd costs them a lot, it will cost fight fans $360 to $420 dollars over the life of the deal.
Finally, what may have been the best news of the weekend was Adrien Broner revealing in an interview with an ESPN teleprompter that after Ricky Burns he wants to move up to junior welterweight. This is a move that would save those of us who like to see great fighters take on great challenges a year of Adrien Broner engaging in Peter McNeely ‘Cocoon of Horror’ fights where the only thrill is for those fans receiving a vicarious testosterone rush for latching on to Broner.
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?