Last night’s Showtime card at the DC Armory was headlined by a light-welterweight scrap between Washington’s Lamont ‘Havoc’ Peterson and Montreal’s Dierry ‘Dougy Style’ Jean. At stake was Peterson’s IBF belt, a relatively insignificant designation given the larger implications for both fighters. For Peterson, it was a chance to rebound from his devastating loss to Lucas Matthysse last May, in which he was brutally knocked out after deciding to trade with the Argentine. Given the psychological toll this sort of defeat can have on a fighter, the state of Lamont Peterson’s mental fortitude was the fight’s biggest question.
For Dierry Jean, this was his first bout with a top light welterweight. While most of the boxing world knew little about Jean (which was obvious on the Showtime broadcast, where noncommittal adjectives like ‘solid’ were used to describe his ability), he came to DC preceded by some Canadian hype. It was generally thought he was faster and potentially a harder puncher than Peterson, but could his raw talent and athleticism overcome Peterson’s superior pedigree? Jean was confident he would use these skills to take the fight to Lamont and overwhelm the champion. I thought he would as well, but my prognostication — predicated, in part, on an overestimation of Jean’s power — proved faulty.
Lamont Peterson was too big, too cagey, and too consistent for Dierry Jean last night, and won a competitive fight authoritatively. Jean showed his speed early, several times piercing Peterson’s defense. These glimpses of danger also told another story, though, because ‘Havoc’ found out early that if he didn’t take defensive chances he could weather these attacks and return fire. Paramount to this was Peterson’s realization that Jean couldn’t really hurt him. Several times Jean reached him with flush power shots, but while stung on occasion, Peterson was never truly hurt and ‘Dougy’s pressure was not substantive enough to wear Peterson down. Realizing he could cope with Jean’s power must have imbued Peterson with confidence, given his last outing. And as the fight went on, the champion’s moxie became more pronounced.
Jean doesn’t have the punching power of Matthysse, but as well he wasn’t able to get more shots off or hurt Peterson because his opponent’s style neutralized his power. The Montrealer’s lack of experience manifested itself most through his lack of adaptability. It was obvious Jean had never fought anyone as good as Peterson because he couldn’t adjust to ‘Havoc’s’ style by changing his angles or rhythm. He could only fight back harder, capitalizing on bursts of energy between Peterson’s frequent barrages of left hooks and power rights. And the champion maintained this pace throughout the entire fight while continually pushing Jean back. In control of the bout by the middle rounds, Peterson showboated by wind-milling his right hand, an act of bravado that delighted his fans but didn’t foreshadow any devastation, given his own modest punching power.
Peterson vs. Jean played out as a recurring reality check. Every time Jean mounted some offense Peterson responded coolly and refused to yield control. By the later rounds it was obvious ‘Dougy’ needed a stoppage to win, but the champion shrewdly closed off all opportunities. To his credit, Jean never gave up and fought gallantly even when it was clear his was a losing effort. Too skilled to be hurt and too smart to open up, Peterson retained his title in an entertaining bout.
The Take Away
It is probably a tad hyperbolic to say that with last night’s win Lamont Peterson regained control over his career. After the fight he told Jim Gray that he never dwelled negatively on the Matthysse loss. If true, this speaks to the strength of mind a boxer needs to compete at a championship level, where almost everyone loses at some point, and fighters must learn from their failures in order to move forward. Is he capable of getting back in the ring with Matthysse? Perhaps, although if he does, Peterson would be wise to maintain his distance and box rather than agree to a brawl. ‘Havoc’ is a smart fighter presumably capable of making this adjustment, and seemingly confident enough to get back in the ring with the division’s elite.
Meanwhile, Dierry Jean gave a fine account of himself but also showed his limitations. There should be no questions about basic fighting skills or toughness, however. Jean has speed, decent power, a sturdy chin, and a lot of heart. If he works on his weaknesses (such as expanding his offensive repertoire) he can compete with any of the top super-lightweights. Jean is almost thirty-two, and while he’s older than most ‘emerging’ boxers, the potential for a bright future remains. To ensure he fulfills it, Jean might be wise to follow Lamont Peterson’s example on how to rebound from a loss. Ultimately, ‘Dougy’s entertaining style should ensure he receives future fights, and if he rounds himself out stylistically, he could still become a champion.
— Eliott McCormick