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May 16, 2013

By Adam Denman

In life, people face trials and tribulations that not only help them grow but also help them turn negative circumstances into positive things for the future. Boxing is a sport of heart, determination, and grit, something that IBF 140-pound title holder Lamont Peterson possesses not only inside the ring but outside as well. The constant battle for survival that he fought when he was young and homeless stands for something more.

Peterson learned to survive at a very young age, often sleeping in abandoned cars in his native Washington D.C.  He didnít always know where he was going to go, what he was going to eat, or where he was going to sleep, something that many other people in life would fear. But Peterson's rise from a life filled with the unknown prepared him well for this weekend's non-title fight against Lucas Matthysse in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and he doesn't seem the least bit rattled.

When asked during a recent conference call if heís afraid of  Matthysseís punching power (33 knockouts in 36 pro fights), Peterson's response was, ďyou know youíre going to get hit during the fight. I donít worry about anybodyís punching power until I get hit."

Peterson said itís the clean shots that you have to worry about and while he may get hit, he doesnít plan on getting hit cleanly by Matthysse. Still, he considers Matthysse to be in the upper echelon of the division. ďWhat I see on paper and on film, heís right there with the rest of those guys, if not better. Heís a top guy. Weíre fighting each other for a reason, because weíre two of the top guys that want a challenge and thatís what weíre going to do Saturday night.Ē

Statistics bear out Peterson's assessment of Matthysse.  The Argentinean's record is 33-2 with one no contest. His only two losses were both by decisions to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, and the verdicts could have gone either way, but went against Matthysse, who was fighting in his opponents' home region both times.  The loss to Judah came in Newark, NJ, not far where Judah grew up (New York City), and Matthysse lost to Alexander, of St. Louis, in nearby St. Charles, MO.

Even though Matthysse has lived through two controversial losses, he doesnít believe he will have to get a knockout to win and will get a fair shake this Saturday night. ďIím not coming in with that mentality [of needing a knockout]. Iíve been training a lot because I know I am going up against a very experienced fighter. Iím going to come out to do my work. Iím going to work just like Iíve been working hard for the fight and I believe the judges will give a clear decision.Ē

Sandwiched around a testosterone controversy, Peterson (31-1-1 16 KOs) has won four out of his last five against some of the best talent that the light welterweight division has to offer. His only loss came against Tim Bradley in December 2009, and he rebounded  by winning against Damian Fuller by seventh round knockout. Next, Peterson struggled against Victor Ortiz during the first six rounds, even getting knocked down twice, but he came together during the second half of the contest and battled to a gritty majority draw.

In December 2011, Peterson battled Amir Khan, and with the help of a Washington D.C. referee who unfairly deducted two points from Khan, he escaped with a split decision to earn the WBA and IBF junior welterweight championships.  A rematch was planned, but Peterson was kept out of the ring for 14 months because he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. When he came back (now holding only the IBF belt), Peterson served notice that he is still a tough out by stopping Kendall Holt in the eighth-round on February 22nd of this year. He reminded us that even after the layoff that Lamont Peterson is back.

ďI really didnít learn anything about myself that I didnít know already. It was good to get back in the ring. It had been awhile since Iíd been in there and I just wanted to get in there and really get my feet wet again. Itís pretty much about getting comfortable because I knew these big fights were going to be coming and coming fast.Ē

Matthysse has more than a punchers chance even if he finds himself down on the scorecards. He realized that he has punching power early in his career and works on power consistently in the gym. He prides himself not only in his abilities but also his knockouts.  ďEarly on in my career I found out that I had a good punch. Iíve obviously trained hard throughout my career to obtain that. It keeps me calm. It gives me a lot of confidence and Iím very calm in the fights because I know what the opponents are thinking about in order to land one punch they might get caught with one of my punches. So obviously itís a great deal of confidence that I have because of my punch. Thereís a lot of pride and obviously itís one of the most important things in boxing being able to knock someone out, something thatís very, very important to this sport. I feel a lot of pride and a lot of happiness.Ē

Peterson has never stepped away from a challenge, and he understands in order to be the best that you have to beat the best. Many fighters have avoided Matthysse because of his reputation as one of the biggest punchers in boxing. Peterson is a throwback fighter when boxers would fight each other regardless of their purse because to them it was about their legacy and Peterson shares his thoughts on how the media has sized Matthysse up. ďIt was nothing about Matthysse that I saw in the ring. It was the media who said things like no one wants to fight him. Iím a division, in the same division, when I hear things like that, that are not true, it kind of gets under my skin. Iíll fight anyone without being angry of anything, itís just the fact that I want to prove to everyone Iím the best in the weight class. A lot of people, when you hear about the best in the weight class, they were saying his name. So of course that was the person that I wanted to prove myself and to let people know that someone out there wanted to fight him.Ē

On the call, it was revealed that Peterson thought his IBF belt would be on the line this weekend, but he recently found out that the fight will be at a catchweight of 141 pounds so neither his belt IBF belt nor Matthysse's worthless WBC interim title will be at stake.

ďI always thought we were fighting for my belt. I wasnít sure if we were fighting for his belt. But for the most part, thatís what I expected until a few weeks ago when it was said that it wasnítÖBut the main thing is you have two of the top guys fighting each other. To me, I wonít say belts donít mean anything but as far as where Iím trying to be in the sports and trying to be the best fighter at the weight class and possibly another weight class, those belts mean nothing.Ē

Both fighters agree that if they win this fight, Danny Garcia, the true world champion at 140 pounds, should be next. Peterson said, "Yes, Iím definitely okay with that," and Matthysse agreed, "Yes, definitely thatís what I want. I want that, if thatís the reason for this fight. I hope everything comes out okay because yes, I would love to fight Danny Garcia.

Peterson realizes that a loss will take him away from his goal of becoming ďthe manĒ in the 140-pound division. A win Saturday night would remind people of who Peterson is. ďPeople seem to forget very fast about how I performed in the Khan fight..I want to prove to people that Lamont Petersonís still a top fighter and a world champion."

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