- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

Growing up on the streets of the District, brothers Anthony and Lamont Peterson learned this lesson early: They had to fight for what they wanted, both figuratively and literally.

When Anthony was 7 years old and Lamont was 8, their father was sent to jail on drug charges, and their mother was left to care for seven children by herself. And so the brothers were shuffled between foster care and living on the streets.

Enter trainer Barry Hunter, whom the brothers credit with changing their lives.

Said Anthony Peterson: “Barry instilled hard work in us when we were youngsters. When we were 9 and 10 years old, he used to tell us that we had to work real hard to get what we want, and we didn’t understand it back then. He was always on our back. We had no childhood.”

Despite being forced to grow up quickly, the Petersons still had dreams and desires. Hunter noticed that immediately when he first met the brothers.

“They had a brother-in-law, Patrice Harris, who was fighting and told me about these little guys who were brothers in foster care and had a lot of potential,” said Hunter, who runs the Headbangers boxing team. “He brought Lamont first to the gym. I was pretty hard on the kids when it came to training, and I put him through a full workout. The first time he did everything almost to perfection. I knew there was something different about him.

“I really didn’t know too much about the other sibling. One of the days I picked up Lamont, and Anthony popped out and started throwing punches. He told me he wanted to go to the gym, too, and that is when he got into boxing. They have been doing it together ever since.”

Now 13 years later, the brothers are returning to the District as two of the sport’s rising stars and on the verge of fighting for world titles.

Tonight at the D.C. Armory, the 135-pound Anthony (22-0, 16 knockouts) will defend his North American Boxing Association lightweight title against Luis Ernesto Jose (27-4-2, 24 knockouts) of the Dominican Republic. The 140-pound Lamont (20-0, eight knockouts), will defend his World Boxing Council U.S. light welterweight title against John Brown (23-12-1, 11 knockouts) of Atlantic City. The fights, promoted by PMG Boxing, will air on ESPN2.

“It feels great to come home now to fight in D.C.,” said Lamont, 23. “This was all part of the plan, to step away from D.C. for a while, build up a record and a fan base and then come back to D.C. when we were just a few fights away from fighting for a world championship. Then when we do win the world titles, we are going to fight here in D.C. with those world titles.”

The Petersons became fan favorites on ESPN2 and in fight shows in Memphis. But Hunter had reservations about the brothers fighting in the District.

“I was on the line about coming here to D.C. this early before we won a world title because past history has shown that D.C. has not been real supportive of its fighters,” Hunter said. “Memphis really embraced us, and we got kind of spoiled in Memphis. But people have been behind us for this fight, so I figured let’s give this a try.”

If the Petersons win tonight and continue to put on impressive performances, they may return to the District within the year with world championship belts around their waists.

“Pound for pound, skill for skill, I would put them up there now with the top fighters in the world,” Hunter said. “The mental part is what I want to work on more. It is a different story when you are fighting HBO pay-per-view for millions of dollars and a championship. It’s a big difference. I want to know we are prepared to fight at that level mentally.”

The Peterson brothers believe they are. They are committed not just to being champions but to take a place among their heroes, such as Pernell Whitaker and Sugar Ray Leonard.

“Barry has been saying get a few more fights in on a bigger stage,” Lamont said. “He knows skill for skill we can beat anybody out there, but there are steps we need to take to get there, and we are just one or two fights away from getting there.

“We are in boxing for more than money or a world title. We want to be among the greats ever. When people talk about Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard, we want that kind of status. Lots of people win world titles, but most people don’t even know their names. We are going to train hard until we retire because we want to retire undefeated.”

Even if the Petersons do became stars and remain undefeated, would they consider fighting each other?

“We are very close, as close as close can come,” Anthony said. “There is no chance we will ever fight each other. That will never happen. But we will both be world champions.”

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