D.C.’s La­mont Peter­son wins WBA wel­ter­weight ti­tle by unan­i­mous de­ci­sion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY GENE WANG gene.wang@wash­post.com

cincin­nati— La­mont Peter­son’s wel­ter­weight de­but be­gan with scant ac­tiv­ity but fin­ished in a flurry of pun­ish­ing com­bi­na­tions, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the championship rounds, leav­ing no doubt that the Dis­trict boxer and his team had made the cor­rect choice in mov­ing up to 147 pounds.

Satur­day night’s unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over Rus­sia’s David Avanesyan at Cin­tas Cin­ter for the World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion wel­ter­weight championship pro­vided full val­i­da­tion, with two judges scor­ing the bout 116-112 and a third 115-113.

Peter­son, the for­mer uni­fied world cham­pion at 140 pounds, showed few ef­fects from his 16month lay­off, among the long­est of his ca­reer. A left shoul­der in­jury suf­fered in train­ing didn’t ap­pear to limit him, ei­ther.

“I felt pretty good, felt strong. En­ergy was there,” Peter­son, 33, said af­ter pos­ing for a pic­ture with his team in his locker room and a belt around his waist. “I wouldn’t say any rust. Just great to be back in there.”

Peter­son (35-3-1, 17 knock­outs) did his best work in rounds 10 through 12, at one point bring­ing the crowd to its feet with a com­bi­ence that backed Avanesyan (22-2-1, 11 KOs) into and al­most through the ropes. Avanesyan, for his part, rarely was able to con­nect through Peter­son’s de­fen­sive stance.

As has been his trade­mark, Peter­son used the early rounds of his co-main event, be­fore Adrien Broner’s match against Adrian Grana­dos, to mea­sure his op­po­nent while estab­lish­ing his jab. He did so with pre­ci­sion, par­tic­u­larly in Round 1, keep­ing the fight in the cen­ter of the ring and re­peat­edly work­ing the body from close range.

But by fight­ing mostly inside, Peter­son at times nul­li­fied his reach ad­van­tage, al­low­ing Avanesyan, 28, to land oc­ca­sion­ally in sub­se­quent rounds. The blows did lit­tle to rat­tle Peter­son, though; he coun­ter­punched to the body re­peat­edly, an­other hall­mark of his de­lib­er­ate fight­ing style.

“We took a chance go­ing in there in­jured,” said trainer Barry Hunter, who did not re­veal Peter­son’s ail­ment un­til af­ter the fight. “No­body knew. We had to keep that a se­cret. Num­ber two, the lay­off, and three, to go up in weight, so we had a few things we had to deal with, but we pre­pared, and that’s what led to a vic­tory.”

Peter­son was fight­ing for the first time since he scored a ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion against Felix Diaz in Oc­to­ber 2015. Dur­ing that fight at Ea­gleBank Arena in Fair­fax, Peter­son en­dured se­vere cramp­ing, most no­tice­ably in his mid­sec­tion, lead­ing Hunter to con­clude that the time to go up in weight was at hand.

The climb in di­vi­sions fol­lows a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion; Peter­son’s pre­vi­ous two fights were con­tested at catch­weights of 144 and 143 pounds, re­spec­tively. Peter­son, the for­mer uni­fied su­per light­weight cham­pion, last fought at 140 pounds on Aug. 9, 2014, col­lect­ing a 10th-round knock­out of Edgar San­tana at Brook­lyn’s Bar­clays Cen­ter to re­tain the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion ti­tle.

The IBF soon stripped Peter­son of the belt, how­ever, be­cause he de­clined a manda­tory de­fense and in­stead faced Danny Gar­cia. Peter­son lost to Gar­cia in a con­tro­ver­sial ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion.

Gar­cia next faces Keith Thur­man in a uni­fi­ca­tion bout for the WBA su­per wel­ter­weight ti­tle and the World Box­ing Coun­cil belt. Peter­son pre­sum­ably would be in line to meet the Thur­man-Gar­cia win­ner.

“It didn’t seem like I for­got too much from my last fight,” Peter­na­tion son said. “Some­times you don’t get in the ring for a long time and ev­ery­thing seems kind of new. Ac­tu­ally I felt calmer in this fight, go­ing into the fight, than I did my last one.”

Avanesyan last had fought ninth months ago, log­ging a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over Shane Mosley to claim what was then the in­terim WBA wel­ter­weight ti­tle.

Notes: Broner won a split de­ci­sion in main event, a wel­ter­weight non-ti­tle fight. He im­proved to 33-2 with 24 knock­outs. Grana­dos dropped to 18-5 with 12 KOs.

Peter­son-Avanesyan fol­lowed a bout fea­tur­ing an­other D.C.-area fighter, Thomas Wil­liams Jr. The light heavy­weight (20-3, 14 KOs) was seek­ing a re­turn to world ti­tle con­tention in his first fight since he lost via fourth-round knock­out to WBC cham­pion Ado­nis Steven­son on July 29, 2016, in Que­bec City.

Wil­liams’s un­de­feated op­po­nent Satur­day, Mar­cus Browne, was not so ac­com­mo­dat­ing in that re­gard, end­ing the fight with a knock­out 42 sec­onds into Round 6. Browne (19-0, 14 KOs) also sent Wil­liams to the can­vas in Rounds 2 and 4, and he was in com­mand from the open­ing bell.

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