WASHINGTON: American Lamont Peterson stunned Britain's Amir Khan on Saturday, winning a majority decision to take the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association light-welterweight world titles.
Referee Joe Cooper took two points from Khan for shoving Peterson during the bout, one in the seventh round and another in the 12th, and they proved to be the margin of the Englishman's controversial defeat.
One judge saw Khan a 115-110 winner while the other two judged Peterson the victor by scores of 113-112, giving the hometown hero the triumph.
“It was like fighting two people in the ring, the referee and Lamont,” Khan said. “I can see why there hasn't been a big fight in Washington in the last 20 years, because of decisions like this.”
Peterson, once a homeless youth living on the streets of the US capital, improved to 30-1-1 before a sellout crowd of 8,647 at Washington Convention Center while Khan fell to 26-2 with his eight-fight win streak snapped.
“A lot of people thought I was the underdog but I followed my game plan the entire time and it worked,” Peterson said. “It was a long road but all the hard work paid off. Couldn't have been a better night.”
Two days after his 25th birthday, Khan suffered his first defeat since falling to Colombian Breidis Prescott in 2008, a defeat that could alter his plans to move into the welterweight ranks early next year.
“I'm ready for a rematch,” Khan said. “He wants to do a fight I'm here.”
Peterson, whose only loss was in 2009 to unbeaten US rival Tim Bradley, could look for a rematch against Bradley but made it clear he was ready to face Khan again as well.
“I would definitely give him a rematch,” Peterson said. “Why not? He gave me a chance.”
Khan made $1.1 million for the fight plus more from British pay-per-view television while Peterson took home $650,000.
The fight was electric from the start, Khan stunning Peterson in the opening seconds and knocking the challenger into referee Cooper midway through the first round. Peterson went down but Cooper ruled the move was not a knockdown.
Khan left no doubt with 28 seconds remaining in the first round, landing a hard right to the jaw and following with a solid left that staggered Peterson into the ropes and onto the canvas.
The champion got the better of most exchanges in a flurry-filled second round and the third was just as aggressive, this time with Peterson pressing the attack and getting the better of Khan, notably on two hard rights to the jaw in toe-to-toe action that had the crowd roaring.
Khan answered in the fourth and fifth with better defensive moves, clinches and counterpunches, at times covering during a Peterson flurry and then backing off and opening his arms wide to taunt that the American's blows had no effect.
Khan used evasive moves to set up attacks well, but at the end of the seventh round, Cooper took a point from Khan for repeated pushing after the champion used his left forearm to shove Peterson away.
“Every time I tried to keep him away from me he kept coming in low,” Khan said. “I was the cleaner fighter. He was so wild in there. He was either going to head butt me or push me all night. The referee wasn't giving me a chance.”
Tension built as the fighters tired and Peterson, eyes swollen and face bloodied, chased Khan in vain most of the last two rounds.
Cooper took another point from Khan for a shove with 1:50 remaining in the fight and it kept Khan from winning the round on all three cards. Without it, Khan would have kept his titles with a majority draw.