One-year-old Lenox Peterson picks up a five-pound weight and begins his regimen of deep knee-bend exercises following his dad and uncle’s final local workout at the famed Headbangers boxing gym at Bald Eagle Recreation Center in southeast Washington, D.C. Since he was born, the young Peterson has watched; as his dad, two-division champion Lamont Peterson, became one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world; and, as his uncle Anthony followed in those footsteps.
D.C. native Lamont Peterson faces Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y. for Spence’s IBF welterweight title. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
For the Petersons, boxing is a family affair, filled with the sacrifices that are the difference between becoming a champion and defining a place in history. The latest sacrifice came last fall, when Lamont, 33, relinquished his World Boxing Association (WBA) Welterweight belt to step up and take a fight against Errol Spence, Jr. for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Welterweight title, set for Jan. 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He could have taken the mandatory WBA defense for an easier payday. However, against the 27-year-old Spence, he faces the most talented welterweight in the division and a man who is five years younger and on the other side of 30.
Boxing has been reluctant to give its receding fan base the fights they want, at the times when they would be the most exciting. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio waited well past their primes to face each other, ultimately devaluing future pay-per-view fights despite their bout generating historic revenue. Peterson took his career-defining challenge not only to access the audience of the Premiere Boxing Series cable TV platform on Showtime, but to give fans a fight they want to see in the sport’s most glamourous division.
“Once you’re in the top 10 or top five range it’s important to make the best fights,” Peterson told the AFRO. “Being a champion brings a lot of responsibility. The trendy move is to make the best business decision, but then what about the fans? Hopefully, this will start a new trend of making good fights that are exciting for fans and good for promoters, TV networks, and fighters too, so that makes it a winner for everybody.”
Peterson and Spence know each other and trained together earlier in their respective careers. There has always been healthy respect between both men for what seemed like an inevitable matchup that has now come to fruition. During those training sessions, Team Peterson knew that at some point their professional journey would bring them to this crossroads. The business of boxing requires fighting friends, so personal feelings aside, this clash has the potential to be remembered as a fight of the year—despite being the first major bout of 2018.
By fight standards, the promotion for this championship has been stoic, and lacked the personal attacks or hysteria that often accompanies these events. Peterson and Spence have been all business and operating with a classy purposefulness that may signal a new trend in boxing promotions.
If contrasting styles make compelling fights, this bout is the perfect storm. Spence, a southpaw, faces the conventional Peterson. They are both technically sound, and this matchup could be fought in the middle of the ring. Given their training history together, there will be no surprises. Spence has the advantages of size, strength, and age. Peterson may have to also work through ring rust, since he has fought only three times since 2015. His only fight in 2017 was a 12-round unanimous decision he won over David Avanesyan to claim the WBA 147-pound title he later vacated.
“You’ll see a high skill level from the both of us,” Peterson said. “If I’m not on my technical game, it’s going to be a long night. It will be high-class, high-paced, chess match.”