By Kieran Mulvaney
One year ago, Amir Khan celebrated his 24th birthday a couple of days before facing Marcos Maidana at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. That battle, in which Khan dropped Maidana in the opening round but had to withstand a furious late-rounds charge from his hard-hitting opponent, was voted as the Fight of the Year.
One year on, Khan celebrates (naturally) his 25th birthday, two days before taking on Lamont Peterson in Peterson’s home town of Washington, D.C. And should he deal with the threat posed by his once-beaten opponent in sufficiently impressive fashion, he may find himself recognized as the Fighter of the Year.
Other contenders have fallen by the wayside: Although Floyd Mayweather demolished Victor Ortiz in September, it was his only outing of 2011, which won’t be enough to garner the laurels. Manny Pacquiao fought twice, but did not look convincing on either occasion. Sergio Martinez and Nonito Donaire each had one spectacular win early in the year, but both followed that with uninspiring, hard-grafted victories over lesser opposition. Khan, in contrast, beat previously undefeated Paul McCloskey, then demolished Zab Judah, and now faces the highly-ranked Peterson.
Peterson, however, is not planning on lying down. He proved his resilience on the undercard of Khan-Maidana, when he rebounded from two knockdowns to secure a draw with Ortiz. He is not flashy, but he is technically sound. Khan will need to be careful not to overreach and leave himself off-balance, as he sometimes does after throwing flurries, as Peterson will look to punish him with counters.
Conversely, Khan will have seen the one time Peterson looked out of his depth, when he lost a lopsided decision to Tim Bradley in December 2009. Peterson was simply unable to match Bradley’s speed and angles. Those will be Khan’s big advantages on Saturday night.
For Peterson, it will be an uphill task. Although he is skilled, he is likely not as much so as Khan. Nor is he as fast or as powerful. Even so, the challenge he poses to the visitor are considerable, and the roar of the hometown crowd will only strengthen his undoubted spirit.
Amir Khan may be a few weeks away from being Fighter of the Year. But first, on Saturday he must make sure he is Fighter of the Night.