From Homeless To World Champion: The Lamont Peterson Story

From Homeless To World Champion: The Lamont Peterson Story

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One man saved two homeless boys from a life of gangs, prison, and cemeteries. In ten years, he turned one into a world champion boxer.

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1. Lamont Peterson’s Hometown

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When Lamont Peterson was an infant, his family moved from Memphis, TN, to Washington, D.C. He was brought up in the capital, but he grew up when he was just ten years young. That was the year his father went to prison. Not long after that, the Petersons lost their home. The third strike followed swiftly: mom split.

2. Abandoned

A young girl walks by an abandoned building and lot in Camden, New Jersey March 9, 2005. The city of just nine square miles ranked worst in murders (41), rapes (56), robberies (857), aggravated assaults (974), burglaries (1,459) and auto thefts (1,150), according to the most recent statistics compiled in 2003. PHOTO TAKEN MARCH 9 REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton SS – RTR6HMO
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That left the kids to take care of themselves with no roof in a city where a hotel once boasted on its marquis: We Now Have Bullet Proof Glass. Ten of the Peterson kids latched on with friends. Lamont and his brother Anthony, younger by 13 months, were on their own. They slept on park benches and in abandoned cars. On cold nights they tried the bus station. The worst, however…

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3. Long Nights

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Lamont thinks back to the worst experiences and says they were the nights he and his brother had to walk all night. They would play with friends during the day until the friends went home to food and a warm bed. The Peterson brothers then fortified their minds for the long night ahead, wandering, waiting for the sun to rise again. But the nastiest night was…

4. Horrible Night

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When the two brothers and a sister knocked on their grandfather’s door for permission to sleep in his house, he told them that they could not. They were shut out. Determined and out of options, the two broke into the basement and spent the night among rotting food, clothing and mice. The toilet was blocked, but they had no option but to use it. It was vile.

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5. Sad Stats

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According to Covenant House, an organization founded in 1972 to help homeless children escape the streets, over 2,000,000 kids in America will face a period of homelessness this year. More than half will experience at least one day without food, and at least half will be on the street because of, or at least in part due to, conflict or abuse at home.

 

6. Lamont’s First Fights

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Some of the toughest times Lamont faced occurred when neighborhood kids would challenge him. He had to protect his little brother, and this led to fights. You might say this was where Peterson obtained his first fight training. Since he was five years old, he dreamed of being a world champion boxer, fighting on TV. An American Bald Eagle was about to make this happen.

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7. The Savior

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Barry Hunter saved the Peterson boys’ lives. Hunter is an amateur and professional boxing trainer out of Bald Eagle Gym in Washington D.C. He was named the 2007 Trainer of the Year by the World Boxing Organization, and an opposing trainer said of Hunter, “He is a great person.” He was about to live up to both of those titles with the Peterson boys.

8. Homeless No More

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Hunter saw them coming out of a homeless shelter. He took the boys home and fed them. They were fortunate. Many don’t find that salvation, although there are organizations that try to help kids who live in the streets. StandUp For Kids, Horizons for Homeless Children and Covenant House are three.

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9. The Peterson Brothers With Barry Hunter

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“Wanna learn to fight?” Hunter asked Lamont. Was there any answer but yes? The boys were starting to get into trouble, and this man who stepped into their lives and fed them was offering a direction—a productive, promising direction, and a way to steer clear of the dark path onto which they were being forced. Hunter trained—and mentored—both brothers.

10. Working Hard

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Lamont Peterson was hitting the gym two times each day with Hunter. He was not interested in days off, and this continued into his career. Coaches would encourage him to take a day off, but he declined. He wanted, he needed, to be around boxing. And he went about his work with a fierce intensity. In his early days, he would have slept in the gym if he could.

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11. Win After Win

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A decade after meeting Hunter, Lamont Peterson stepped into the ring for his first official fight. The year was 2004, and it was in the city of his birth, Memphis, TN. Lamont beat Nicholas Dean by way of TKO. Five years and 27 straight wins later, he won his first title in the welterweight division. Then, in 2011, he was given the biggest fight of his career.

12. The Title Bout

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On December 10, 2011, Peterson fought Amir Khan for the WBA and IBF light welterweight titles. The fight was in D.C., not far from the same streets Lamont used to walk at night with his younger brother. This day was a far cry from those awful days. This day was what he dreamed about as a five year-old. Now, all he had to do was beat Khan.

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13. The Champ

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Amir Khan was a tough champion—and a gracious opponent. In a sport full of trash talk and angry faces, Khan spoke highly of the man who wanted to take his title. “I have huge respect for what Lamont has done with his life.” Of course he followed that by saying that he was absolutely going to beat Peterson.

14. Giving Back

2013 ELIJAH’S PROMISE – (07/15/2013) – NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – USA. Matt Rainey Photography, LLC
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Lamont Peterson did the unthinkable during training for his biggest fight. He took a day off. He spent that day helping to deliver food to the needy. Then he spent Thanksgiving at a homeless mission serving meals…the kind that saved his and his brother’s life ten years earlier. He also served smiles as visitors recognized him—and he fed them encouraging words.

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15. Split Decision

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Ding. Ding. Fight night. Khan and Peterson traded heavy punches. Every round was close, and at the end of 12, the judges didn’t even know who the winner was. They had to go to the score cards and count the points. After an eternity, they determined there was a new champion. It was a split decision. Lamont Peterson went from street urchin to celebrity in his home city.

16. Rematch?

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It is not all happy. Amir Khan’s camp raised questions about the decision and wanted a rematch. They appealed Peterson’s victory due to three irregular events surrounding the referee and the judging. A rematch was scheduled but later scrapped because a banned substance turned up in Peterson’s urine. He said it was for medical reasons. In the end though…

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17. Inspiration

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When you remove all the controversy and posturing, you have a story about a hard worker who beat the odds and survived the streets because of the guidance of somebody who cared. We’re also left with a powerful quote from the fighter who continues to win: “Just because you’re dealt a bad hand don’t mean you’re gonna lose.”

[Featured Image Credit: sports.yahoo.com]

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