By Jeff Powell for The Daily Mail
Not only the politics stink here. Amir Khan must have felt like going out to join the Occupy Washington protesters in their tents after his grand design for global supremacy was set back for at least a year by some of the most controversial officiating decisions the sport has witnessed.
The only consolation for Britain’s unseated world champion, after he was mugged in the darkness near Capitol Hill, is that he will be given an immediate chance to regain his unified light-welterweight title from Lamont Peterson — the local hero who benefited from the latest of the charitable donations which are another feature of life in this power-crazed city.
A referee who deducted two points from Khan for the obscure infringement of pushing off his opponent and a pair of judges who couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see straight have also put on hold the mega-millions of dollars Khan is hoping to bank from a super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Now, instead of challenging Manny Pacquiao’s rival as the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth next May, he can expect to face Peterson for a second time on March 31, probably in more neutral Las Vegas.
And Mayweather can now conveniently ignore Khan, at least until he regains his WBA and IBF belts from Peterson and then goes on to beat one or two more world-class boxers.
Khan’s plans have been knocked so badly awry by this split-decision defeat in a real thriller — the excitement of which has been lost in the controversy of yet another of the injustices which have plagued boxing of late — that his career may have to be prolonged beyond his nominated retirement age of 28. Khan reached his 25th birthday last Thursday and is unlikely to land his bonanza fight before 2013, at the earliest.
Trainer Freddie Roach insists: ‘Yes, Amir can get back on track by beating Peterson and still become the next pound-for-pound king.’
But the road to that summit is even steeper now.
Instead of going straight to Mayweather or easing himself up to welterweight against a manageable British opponent like Matthew Hatton, Khan is obliged to stay at 10 stones and strive to regain — and then defend — his light-welter titles.
That may be a blessing in disguise. Although Khan’s courage and relish for battle contributed to another Fight of the Year candidate, he does not look as ready for Mayweather just yet as he and Roach had imagined. Not that Floyd Jnr will be willing to accommodate him for a while now.
This defeat, however unfair, moves Khan back in the queue for glory. It also puts more testing obstacles in his path.
Although my scoring was within a point of the one judge, Nelson Vasquez, who voted 115-110 in favour of Khan on Saturday, he must expect another tough night against Peterson.
And although he says ‘I hope Lamont has the nerve for coming to England that I showed in giving him this chance in his home town,’ the reality is that the rematch will go to Las Vegas, not least on economic grounds. This first fight was a real barn-burner and HBO will be as keen as Sky in Britain to do it all over again. That is a somewhat enriching consolation for Khan as he nurses his wounds and his grievances.
But then, assuming he beats Peterson, the most logical fight will be against Timothy Bradley in a bid to become the undisputed world champion at light-welter. And it was Bradley who stamped the only loss on Peterson’s record, with a hefty points victory two years ago.
Bradley is like Peterson — albeit a superior version. He is a hungry street-fighter who uses his head as a third fist and Khan reasoned how that tactic obliged him to push Peterson back ‘to avoid a head coming in lower and lower’.
That does not explain local referee Joe Cooper’s decision to penalise a professional prize-fighter for pushing, something rarely if ever witnessed outside the amateur ranks. Nor does it excuse judges George Hill and Valerie Dorsett giving Peterson the verdict by a single point, 113-112, following the deductions.
Although Peterson was mightily persistent, there were periods when Khan boxed his ears off. Even as he intensified the ring-quartering pressure in the middle rounds, there were spells when Khan boxed almost as beautifully as Muhammad Ali to stay away from trouble and land his combinations.
And when Khan was caught by Peterson’s big shots, he proved once again that his supposedly suspect chin is as punch-resistant as any in this hard old game. Scoring a fight is a subjective business but there is a growing need for boxing to take steps to make judging and refereeing as fair and impartial as possible.
It was a mistake by Team Khan to accept the hometown referee who not only gave Peterson his two-point advantage, but who ruled that the local homeless boy made good was knocked down only once, not twice, in the first round.
Every little point counts in fights like this.
Neutral, scrupulous officials have to be the first part of a solution to the decisions which are not only cheating honest fighters like Khan, but are damaging boxing’s credibility in the eyes of the public. From Watergate to Khangate, Washington has much to answer for in the political and sporting arenas.
Filed under: Amir Khan, British Muslims, British Pakistanis, Desi, Pakistan, Pakistanis Tagged: Amir Khan, Amir Khan Boxing, Freddie Roach, George Hill, IBF, Joe Cooper, Lamont Peterson, Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather, Nelson Vasquez, United Kingdom, Valerie Dorsett, Washington DC, WBA, World Boxing Association