(Lamont Peterson connects with a right on Dierry Jean; credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lamont Peterson insisted all through the build-up to his 140-pound tilt with Dierry Jean that he was just fine from the knockout loss to Lucas Matthysse, and he fought like it Saturday night on Showtime — wading through power shots from a hungry young talent to deliver his own, never flinching, never shaking.
It was enough to take a competitive, exciting unanimous decision over a fighter who had his own point to prove, which was that his inexperience didn't mean he wasn't ready for the next level. And the Canadian Jean showed he was ready for that level; Jean is a real dude. He just didn't have enough in his first move up to that level to come away with the win.
The 1st round was a jabbing contest, but it didn't take long for a real fight to develop. Peterson applied some pressure in the 2nd and Jean responded well to it, stealing the round late. Through four, it could've been either man's bout or even; the two would trade momentum back and forth like they were on a NAFTA superhighway.
The momentum would shift for a stretch of rounds in the 5th, with Peterson going from aggressive to super-aggressive, not letting Jean find his footing, trapping him on the ropes, then tagging him with huge straight rights, savage body punches and eventually working in left hooks. The exchanges that had gone Jean's way early began to go Peterson's, as Jean had to contend with the fierece awakening of the usually slow-starting Peterson.
The announced crowd of 5,668 was loving the groove Peterson had worked himself into, but Jean never disappeared — he was still catching Peterson at times. And in the 9th, he exploded, finding a home for his right hand again and again and again. If Peterson's chin was damaged goods, if his confidence was wobbly, this would've been the beginning of the end. But they swapped rounds for the remainder.
I scored it 117-111; the judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 and 118-111.
Jean said afterward, "I'm definitely leaving with my head held high." He should. He was just a step behind Peterson strategically (Peterson made adjustments faster and retained the advantage of them longer, but Jean made his own changes) and in work rate. When Jean explained the loss as "maybe just a matter of experience," he wasn't lying. This was his first loss, but Peterson said he saw some of himself in Jean — he thought Jean could rebound the way he did after he lost to Timothy Bradley, a big step-up fight earlier in his career.
Now that career, in doubt somewhat after the Matthysse loss, is right back on track. He said he wants junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia before moving up to 147. It's the right fight for Showtime to make; it's a much better option than Mauricio Herrera, and whether the fight was in Philly or D.C., it would draw from both cities.
Until then, Peterson will bathe in the glow of one of the "up" chapters of his saga, the one that began with him homeless on the streets of Washington and all over the place in his boxing career since.
"My whole life, you all know my story; it's never been easy," Peterson said. "Why would it be easy now?… I'm built to get them setbacks and show people you can get up and fix things."