Instead of performing like a guy who hadn’t fought in 16 months, Lamont Peterson looked like a boxer ready to go 16 rounds with David Avanesyan.
Ending a career-long layoff, Peterson appeared fresh and energized Saturday night as he earned a unanimous decision over Avanesyan to win a 147-pound title and become a two-division world champion at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
The fight was essentially a toss-up after nine rounds, with Peterson ahead by one point on two of the scorecards and trailing by one on the other. However, the former unified 140-pound champion swept the final three rounds to prevail by margins of 115-113 and 116-112 twice.
It was the first time fighting at the 147-pound division limit for Peterson, but the 33-year-old Washington, D.C., resident seemed quite comfortable as he made himself a candidate to challenge the winner of next month’s Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia title unification bout.
“[Avanesyan] didn't do much that surprised me,” Peterson said. “I expected to put pressure on him the way I did. If anything I didn't expect him to fight back as much when I started picking up the pace. But he showed up and showed why he's a champion, and why he belongs on this level.”
Peterson outlanded Avanesyan 228-182 in total punches and 188-156 in power shots. He was also more efficient, landing 31 percent of his punches compared to 24 percent for the 28-year-old Russian.
Peterson’s precision and endurance were uncharacteristic for a fighter who hadn’t competed in the ring since gaining a 12-round majority decision over Felix Diaz in a 144-pound fight in October 2015. But he showed no signs of being rusty from the opening bell as he worked behind his jab and lateral movement in the early rounds.
“I was expecting to pick up where I left off,” Peterson said. “Sixteen months may seem like a long time, but if you keep in the gym and you're still working on your craft, it's not a long time.
“It gave me time to work on some things—conditioning and technique. I took some steps forward tonight. I'm looking to get back in camp and keep moving.”
Fighting in the U.S. for just the second time in his career, Avanesyan suffered his first loss since dropping a six-round unanimous decision in his second professional fight to future title challenger Andrey Klimov in July 2009.
“I thought it was a close fight, and I thought that I was landing my punches more cleanly while his punches were being blocked,” Avanesyan said. “Lamont is very good, but I thought the judges were impressed with his movement, but I had the power.
“I understand it would be hard to win a decision in the U.S. I'm upset I lost my title, but I will keep fighting and I'd love to fight Lamont again.”
Throughout much of the bout's second half, the fighters engaged each other with their foreheads pressed together as they exchanged inside. While Peterson concentrated much of his effort on landing body shots, Avanesyan worked upstairs as he fired uppercuts and hooks to the head.
The Russian also had many effective moments as he switched from an orthodox to a southpaw stance throughout the bout. In the end, though, Avanesyan couldn’t escape the tireless Peterson, who unloaded punishing hooks to the body in Round 12 in his quest for a late knockout.
“I knew I had him from the start,” Peterson said. “He couldn't get past my jab, and I knew I could execute my game plan.
“I'm just happy to be back in the ring. I got 12 good rounds in, and I'm hoping to get back in the ring soon.”
For a complete look at Avanesyan vs Peterson, visit our fight page.