Peter­son wins ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY GENE WANG­

Dis­trict fighter is con­vinc­ing enough to im­prove to 34-3-1, out­point­ing Felix Diaz in Fair­fax.

Dis­trict fighter La­mont Peter­son got all he could han­dle from un­der­sized and pre­vi­ously un­de­feated Felix Diaz, but the former 140-pound world cham­pion did just enough, ac­cord­ing to the judges, to earn a vic­tory by ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion Satur­day af­ter­noon at Ea­gleBank Arena in Fair­fax.

Fight­ing at a catch­weight of 143 pounds, Peter­son pre­vailed de­spite what he called se­vere cramp­ing around his rib cage that be­came es­pe­cially acute dur­ing the 12th and fi­nal round. That dis­com­fort al­lowed his Do­mini­can op­po­nent to land with power and reg­u­lar­ity, but Peter­son (34-3-1, 17 knock­outs) weath­ered the bar­rage to re­main un­de­feated in six fights either in or around his home town.

Two judges awarded the de­ci­sion to Peter­son by scores of 117-111 and 116-112. A third judge scored it 114-114 in front of an ex­u­ber­ant crowd that en­cour­aged Peter­son by shout­ing “Head­bangers,” a ref­er­ence to the sta­ble of fight­ers un­der the di­rec­tion of trainer Barry Hunter at the Bald Ea­gle train­ing fa­cil­ity in South­west Wash­ing­ton.

“A lot of times, when you’re in your home town, the judges, and if they’re from here, they don’t want to seem like they’re be­ing bi­ased,” Peter­son said. “So some­times, I’m not crit­i­ciz­ing no one, they overdo it, give [the op­po­nent] rounds or what­ever. I’m pretty sure he won a few rounds. I’d give him three to four rounds off the en­ergy alone and me hav­ing to take breaks” be­cause of the cramp­ing.

De­spite his com­pact stature, the 5-foot-5 Diaz (17-1, eight KOs) proved to be a game op­po­nent par­tic­u­larly in the later rounds, ab­sorb­ing Peter­son’s best shots and re­turn­ing fire. Peter­son was un­able to wob­ble the 2008 Olympic gold medal­ist, who man­aged to some­what neu­tral­ize a five-inch reach dis­par­ity by at­tack­ing from close quar­ters.

Af­ter the fight­ers spent much of the open­ing round in the cen­ter of the ring, Peter­son shifted the pro­ceed­ings to the out­side in Round 2 and held the clear ad­van­tage. Peter­son had Diaz on the ropes dur­ing sev­eral junc­tures, once land­ing a clean right cross to punc­tu­ate a com­bi­na­tion to the body and head. Peter­son kept the ac­tion on the out­side in the third round as well.

The pace picked up in Rounds 4 and 5 with Peter­son dic­tat­ing but Diaz rarely re­lent­ing.

“I knew some­thing had hap­pened to him, but I didn’t know what,” Hunter said of the cramp­ing that be­gan in Round 5. “I told him to go in there, hunt him down, make it phys­i­cal and get to him, es­pe­cially with the jab and the right hand.”

The former In­ter­na­tional Boxing Fed­er­a­tion and World Boxing As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pion was fight­ing for the first time since los­ing via ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion to Danny Gar­cia on April 11 at Brook­lyn’s Bar­clays Cen­ter. In that fight, Peter­son surged in the later rounds and was con­sid­er­ably more ac­tive down the stretch, but two judges awarded the de­ci­sion to Gar­cia based on the per­cep­tion Peter­son started too slowly.

He ben­e­fited from a dif­fer­ent ap­proach Satur­day.

“I wanted to take it to him, and I did,” said Peter­son, whose left eye was no­tice­ably swollen dur­ing his post-fight news con­fer­ence. “I think in one round I ex­pended a lot of en­ergy go­ing for­ward and throw­ing him around, and that’s when I started feel­ing it in my hips. I had to slow down a lit­tle bit and just dis­guise it and try to get through the fight.

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