D.C. Council Hearing scheduled for Feb. 3
The World Boxing Association (WBA) has mandated a rematch between light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan because of questionable decisions made by Joseph Cooper and Mustafa Ameen's apparent intrusion into the scoring process during their bout here in the District of Columbia on December 10, 2011. Lamont Peterson is appealing the decision.
Khan lost his WBA and International Boxing Federation (IBF) light welterweight titles via split decision. Some of those who witnessed the fight deemed it controversial because the British fighter was penalized two points for pushing. According to the WBA, the outcome was impacted by referee Joseph Cooper's decision not to credit Khan with a knockdown in round one and his decisions to deduct points from Khan in the seventh and twelfth rounds. Khan brought into question the presence of a "mystery man" distracting judges at ringside. The WBA claims Ameen's appearance was unauthorized but he seemed to communicate with fight officials throughout the fight. Ameen was seen on video at ringside apparently touching the scoring slips, which is against the rules, and distracting a judge. He was later seen in the ring apparently celebrating with Peterson after the fight.
"Since Khan continues to focus on a man at ringside, I want to be very clear – Mustafa Ameen is in no way, nor has he ever been affiliated or associated with anyone within Team Peterson," said Barry Hunter, Peterson's trainer and mentor. "That includes myself, Lamont and (brother) Anthony Peterson."
Golden Boy, the organization that promoted the fight, had appealed the decision to both the WBA and IBF, stating that Cooper's penalties were uncalled for and that the scorecards were mishandled. Golden Boy contends there were discrepancies between the scorecards kept by the WBA supervisor and IBF supervisor, although the scorecard kept by the Washington Commission is official and had Peterson winning. Golden Boy claims the WBA Supervisor's master scorecard, which collects round-by-round scoring from each of the three judges, had the fight a draw. When Andre Johnson, Peterson's manager, was asked for his thoughts on WBA's decision, he simply stated "I am disappointed and somewhat sad about the WBA ruling."
The WBA emphasized that normally it would not interfere with the discretionary function of a referee. But, in this instance, due to several irregularities, it had no viable choice but to order a rematch.
"I am pleased that justice has been done," Khan said. "All we ask as sportsmen is for a fair and level playing field when we compete. I want to prove without doubt that I'm the best in the 140-pound division by taking care of business in the rematch."
However, the rematch may not occur. On Tuesday, January 17, Golden Boy withdrew its appeal to the IBF. As a result, Peterson can choose to surrender the WBA title, and keep the IBF title, rather than fight Khan again. Given the various options available, Team Peterson will deliberate carefully prior to making its final decision.
Peterson is one of the leading candidates to get a summertime fight with Manny Pacquiao, one of the biggest stars in the game. Peterson could move up to 147 pounds if that fight is offered to him and earn far more than he could earn in a rematch with Khan. Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said he is hopeful a deal can get worked out with Hunter. Peterson, who was Khan's mandatory challenger when they fought, is a promotional free agent.
"One thing you can't do is force a fighter to take a fight," Schaefer said. "Everybody has to do what they feel is best for them. I respect that. In this weight class a rematch is the biggest fight that can be made and it would be a shame if that doesn't happen. I say that, yes, as a promoter, but also as a fight fan, it would be a hugely anticipated fight."
Immediately following the fight, Schaefer offered Peterson more than $1 million for the rematch, however, Hunter refused to negotiate because he wanted Peterson to unwind after a difficult bout and to enjoy the holidays. Peterson earned $650,000 for the December fight.
"The bottom line is that we decided not to accept Golden Boy's offer for a rematch only days after the fight," Hunter said. "Lamont wanted to enjoy the holidays with his family and have time to make the best decision for his career and the future of his family. They started filing protest letters and trying to spin the media as some form of retaliation."
The controversial outcome of the fight has caused some boxing fans to wonder if it may have an impact on the District's ability to attract future fights. D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange (At-Large) will hold a public hearing regarding the match. The hearing is scheduled for February 3, at 10 a.m. in D.C. Council Chambers. The At-Large Councilmember chairs the Committee on Small and Local Business Development, which oversees the District's Boxing and Wrestling Commission.
Orange feels the District's boxing brand is receiving negative publicity because of possible scoring, and judgment irregularities during the fight. "I feel that it's important that we have this hearing to clear up any possible misconceptions of how the fight was handled," he said.
In the wake of their biggest win, both Peterson and Hunter have felt disrespected by Golden Boy. Hunter did not sound as though he was ready to negotiate a rematch.
"I hope we can negotiate in a respectful manner," Schaefer said. "It has been our goal all along to get this rematch done and I hope the WBA decision is going to help the process. My intentions are to do it in a very respectful manner because I like Lamont and Barry very much. We have worked on a few fights together. Whatever happened in Washington has nothing to do with Barry or Lamont. They weren't the referee or the scorekeeper. Lamont fought his heart out and so did Amir."
Hunter had a bit more to say.
"Unfortunately, we are in this process of dealing with these unfounded protests. It would be an understatement to characterize Lamont as being disappointed in the unprofessional manner in which Khan is attempting to discredit his performance in the ring and victory. We were raised to conduct ourselves where champions display professionalism, both in victory and defeat. Lamont previously tasted defeat and handled it the way it should be handled – he worked harder on areas that needed improvement to maximize his performance in the ring. Now, he is world champion."