- - Thursday, March 21, 2019


It’s one of those weeks coming up in the Washington area — one of those special weeks when the sports menu is full of great local choices.

There’s the return of baseball, with a Monday exhibition featuring the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. Then a Capitals home game in the final days of the regular season against the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night. The Nationals’ Opening Day comes Thursday. Finally, the weekend features the NCAA Tournament East Regionals at Capital One Arena.

Kicking it all off Sunday night is a nationally-televised boxing show at the MGM National Harbor featuring former world champion and local fan favorite Lamont Peterson.

Peterson, who held both the light welterweight and welterweight belts, will face another former 140-pound champ, Sergey Lipinets, in the main event, while Peterson’s brother and lightweight contender Anthony Peterson squares off against former super featherweight world champion Argenis Mendez in the co-main event, featured on a Premier Boxing Champions show on FS1/Fox Sports.

The Petersons remain one of the most compelling stories in boxing — two brothers, homeless and living on the streets as youngsters, were taken in by legendary local boxing trainer Barry Hunter. Both became world class fighters, with Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 knockouts) turning in one of the great local performances in December 2011 when he upset Amir Khan to capture the light welterweight title before a crowd of 9,000 at the Washington Convention Center.

It’s been rocky since. Lamont was stripped of the World Boxing Association’s 140-pound title for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but he retained the International Boxing Federation version of the crown.

He had several successful title defenses — three before local fight fans at the D.C. Armory and Eagle Bank Arena — in between some difficult losses to Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia in nontitle bouts. Then Lamont was beaten badly by undefeated welterweight champion Errol Spence in eight rounds in January 2018, and hasn’t fought since.

“I wanted to rest the body,” Lamont said of the 14-month layoff. “It’s been a long career. I’ve been boxing for 25 years, doing it professionally for 15 years, pretty much straight through. Only injuries have held me back. I just wanted to take some time to relax, and if my body was able to recover and come back close to what I was or better, then I was going to go on.

“I feel rested and good now and just took some time to learn my body more,” said the 35-year-old boxer. “I want to get better, though. If I lose, then that means the game is asking more from me. So, I have to give it more if I say I want to be at the top and one of the best fighters.”

There were expectations, given that MGM plays a key role in the boxing business in Las Vegas, that the National Harbor venue would grow to be a regular host of national boxing shows.

There were three shows in the first five months after the casino opened in December 2016, but Sunday’s card is only the sixth since.

Another local fan favorite, featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr., and his fighting brothers, have been featured on two of those cards. Lamont is making his debut at the MGM National Harbor.

“It’s been a while, so it’ll be a good feeling to be fighting back at home,” Lamont said. “For the first time ever, I’ll be fighting on a card, my brother is fighting on the card and my nephew is fighting on the card. I knew this day would probably happen, but I’m happy that it’s this time around.”

Hunter, the trainer who built the Headbangers Boxing Gym program and who took the two young boys in and raised them, believes that Sunday night is a turning point in the careers of both fighters.

“March 24 is going to be big and it means a lot because a win for Lamont would put him right back in the thick of the running with the top of the 147-pounders,” he said. “For Anthony (33 years old, 37-1 record with 24 knockouts), this is a long time coming. Myself, like so many others, thought he deserved a shot a long time ago. Nevertheless, your time is your time. So, he’s going to go out there and take care of business on the 24th and that should put him in line for a world title fight.”

So before Aaron Judge, Alex Ovechkin, Max Scherzer, Robinson Cano and maybe Zion Williamson take center stage in the District next week, boxing offers an opening act: A gritty, compelling drama about brotherhood, second chances and two local fighters whose careers may be at stake Sunday when they step into the ring.

What a week.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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