Amir Khan had his two world titles taken from him after 12 terrific rounds against Lamont Peterson – a tight fight that was finally decided by deducted points and not by punches landed.
In Washington DC, over 9,000 fans paid their 25 bucks, prayed and watched in amazement as the boy from the streets of the nation's capital added his story to the list of boxing fairy tales with a split-decision win on Saturday night. Valerie Dorsett and George Hill scored it 113-112 for Peterson and Nelson Vasquez went 115-110 for Khan, who lodged a complaint with the local boxing commission because of "certain ambiguities" in the scores.
The performance of the unknown and untested referee, Joe Cooper, and the scores of the officials dominated the post-fight and threatened to ruin what had been a genuine slugfest. Cooper took a point off Khan in round seven for pushing down on the American's head and shoulders; Peterson was winning the round before the fairly drastic reduction and the margin was 10-8 on all three scorecards when they were presented at the end. Cooper kept on talking to Khan and in the final round, which Khan clearly won, he deducted another point for the same infringement; all three judges scored the fight 9-9 and that means, quite simply, if there had been no reductions Khan would easily have kept his titles. "I was fighting two people in there," Khan complained afterwards.
It was a great fight to watch as a neutral. Peterson was sent reeling to the canvas twice in a blistering opening, as a result of poor balance, Khan's punches and a clash with the static referee. But Peterson rallied from round three onwards and, gradually, an incredible triumph in Peterson's amazing career began to look possible.
Khan won the fight on rounds, rocked, hurt and in the first certainly dropped Peterson once and possibly twice, but disturbingly neglected the continual warnings from Cooper for what was, it has to be said, a fairly innocuous but illegal move. It is strange that Khan committed the same foul in the final round and even stranger that the referee stopped the flow of a desperate and gripping last round to hand Khan the crucial punishment. It was not a butt or savage low blow or anything sinister. There was simply no need and when they do it all again in Las Vegas in April, Cooper will not be involved.
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