(From left to right: Lamont Peterson; trainer Barry Hunter; ring announcer Henry Jones; Kendall Holt)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a circular schizophrenia inherent in the build-up to Friday Night Fights' Lamont Peterson-Kendall Holt bout. The card is dubbed "Redemption," but Peterson and his crew don't ever feel they did anything wrong to make it so the junior welterweight tested positive for a banned substance last year. Peterson said at a news conference Wednesday that he knows he'll never get away from that test, but is at peace with himself over it. Peterson's trainer/manager Barry Hunter wanted the news media to get away from asking about it after a handful of questions on the subject, instead suggesting the focus should be on what is, indeed, a nice fight on paper.
And Holt — he said the only time he considers the questions regarding Peterson and performance enhancing drugs is when the media asks them.
It's simply not possible to think about Peterson-Holt, though, as a fight with anything less than two major hooks: It's Peterson's return to the ring for the first time since the positive test that derailed a rematch with Amir Khan; and it's the best match-up of the month, from a pure boxing standpoint, as well as an end to a string of lackluster (or worse) FNF cards on ESPN2.
These two — both top 10 caliber junior welterweight talents — know and like each other, having even gone through a training camp together once, although they did not spar. But, as Holt noted, "This is a business," and will be the first time Holt will roots against Peterson. And Peterson said he would bring the same intensity against Holt or someone he didn't like or even his own boxing brother Anthony (more on him later). "If I decided to fight my brother, then I won't lose my edge," Lamont said said. "Not that that's going to happen, but if we was to get in there, I'm going after him, so that's going to be the same way here."
The Peterson camp repeatedly complimented Holt as an "explosive" fighter, referring to his knockouts of Julio Diaz and Ricardo Torres in their rematch. But the issue with Holt has never been how explosive he is; it's been where his head is.
Holt on Wednesday explained where his head was, sitting by his lonesome without new trainer Jesse Reid or Tim Thomas or anyone from his promotional company Gary Shaw Productions (one Shaw official's name was originally on a paper placard next to Holt's, John Beninati, but Henry Jones, acting as emcee of the event, said Beninati didn't want to participate and, apparently, left the premises).
For much of his career, Holt has been taking care of a small child as a single father. But his son is nine years old now, which means that, for the first time in his career, Holt was able to leave for a training camp elsewhere, he said. Then Holt said something that I found stunning: "This is going to be the first fight where I've walked into the ring with an actual game plan."
Holt explained that he usually comes into fights expecting a knockout ("I have a job where no matter how early I leave I still get paid, so that's a benefit of boxing"), but knowing Peterson is sturdy, he plans to go all 12 rounds. Thus, the game plan. He won't say what the plan is, but he did mention that he would be working over Peterson's body. So what has he been doing in all his other training camps, if not working on a game plan? Just getting in shape, he said. "I'm a reaction fighter," Holt, who has until this point fought based on what his opponents are giving him, declared.
Both men are coming off long layoffs. But Holt, who last fought in March of last year when he beat Tim Coleman, has said he's healthy following surgery for a shoulder injury, and Peterson said he is mentally and physically ready after a layoff that was at least partially a result of the failed drug test.
"Fourteen months off, that's the longest of my career," Peterson said, adding that he stayed in the gym throughout. "I'm anxious right now and really excited to be fighting at home again, too… I don't think it's going to throw me off at all. I've been fighting for 18 years now, no breaks. I think at this point, a 14-month layoff gave me some rest. I needed to allow my body to rest and work on some things I needed to work on in the gym."
There's no doubt Peterson will have the hometown advantage in D.C. at the Armory, since it's his backyard. He said he expects to feed off the fans. Cologne Hunter, wife of Barry Hunter and one of the people working on the business of the bout, said they have had the strong backing of Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council member Vincent Orange and Events D.C., the local convention and sports authority. She said tickets were selling well, but didn't give specific numbers.
For all the questions about the refereeing and scoring and the "mystery man" after Peterson-Khan, Holt said he wasn't worried about any high jinks from the local jurisdiction. And if you remember his first bout with Ricardo Torres in Columbia, which far exceeded the scope of improprieties in Peterson-Khan I with flying beer cans and members of the Torres camp grabbing Holt's leg and the like, you know he's seen worse.
"I'm comfortable with anywhere fighting. I'm a fighter. That's what we do," Holt said. "There's nothing that is going to compare to what I went through in South America."
Peterson said after the bad test result, people in D.C. "didn't have to say anything to me. They just showed me support and I knew they were behind me."
Holt said he wasn't worried about Peterson testing with synthetic testosterone in his system — testosterone that would've also been in his system for the Khan fight.
"I don't have any trepidation about that. I've known these guys for years, they always seemed to be stand-up guys to me," Holt said. "Whether they took it for permance enhancing, I doubt it, but if he did, he did. No matter what, I'm coming here to fight."
Here we'll just quote Peterson extensively:
"I could care less what people are saying. Once the doctors confirmed that there there was, you know, no steroids in my body and I didn't do anything illegal, I was comfortable at that point. To be honest when everything first got out, I wanted to know, my doctor, did he give me some steroids? Something he was not supposed to give me? Once the doctors confirmed it wasn't, I was OK. I knew people were going to come and say this and that and probably until the day I die, they're going to say certain things. At this point I can't worry about it. I have to go on with my career, starting off Feb. 22. You can take that Khan fight away, but you still can't say Lamont Peterson can't win fights without PEDs."
Concluded Hunter: "Instead of keep dwelling on that — he's been vindicated by the medical community — I'm happy. I want to talk about Lamont Peterson-Kendall Holt Feb. 22."
–Lightweight Adrien Broner dropped by the news conference for a little while. He counts Peterson as a friend and "big brother" and said he would be on hand Friday to support him against Holt. "They're both strong boxers," he said. "It's going to be a hell of a match."
He talked a bit about the Floyd Mayweather deal with Showtime. He didn't know if it would be a "seismic" shift: "It depends on whatever he makes of it. He don't have that much longer in this game. After his career is over, then it's all about the Adrien show."
He wouldn't rule out appearing on the May 4 Mayweather card. "If the check is right, man," he said. "I'm Mr. HBO, though."
He also wouldn't commit to signing a long-term deal with HBO, clearly hoping to play the two sides against each other to maximize whatever he does get: "I'm a businessman. Why tie yourself down when they still going to war?"
–Anthony Peterson was originally scheduled to appear on the undercard.
"Barry had better plans. Tremendous plans," Anthony said. "I was originally on this card. He was like you know what, I got two main event fighters. I can't put two main event fighters on one card. I'm going to split you up and let you fight on another ESPN card by yourself, and then you can be in the main event, and you can get back in the rankings."
He said the bout would be in D.C, he believed on March 29, but didn't know the opponent. I threw out the notion of Raymundo Beltran, who's popular with ESPN2 and is a top-10 lightweight. "That would be a great fight. Awesome."
But he doesn't think about his opponents in advance: "When I don't see them, they're like a monster in my head. I'm like, he's a giant, he's going to crush me! It gets me prepared."
Anthony said he had some management and promotional problems, and hoped to be the first fighter to sign with Headbangers, the gym/team run by Hunter.
As for the rest of this undercard: It's a bit light, but cruiserweight Venroy July was talking to the media. He's a lawyer and a college wrestling champion and an aspiring promoter; for all I know, he also runs a piano tuning business on the side, is a world-ranked trampoline competitor and a half dozen other things. Check out Lem Satterfield's upcoming story for RingTV for more on him.
Also filling out the card are a variety of Headbangers types, so it'll be interesting to check out what other up-and-comers might be in the stable.