by Curtis Bunn, Urban News Service
Abandoned and left on the streets, these two boxing champions are now cheered by the very parents who once cast them aside. it is the story of four individual transformations combining into one incredible tale.
As a result, each victory in the boxing ring moves brothers Lamont and Anthony Peterson farther away from an unfathomable childhood living on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Lamont, a former champion who has won 34 bouts, and his brother Anthony (36-1) have achieved admirably in the sport, but their crowning success is that they have survived. When they were 8 and 6 respectively, the Peterson boys were homeless. They lived for two years in desolate buildings, bus terminals, abandoned cars—any place they could squat.
Theirs is a story of triumph over circumstances that “are something I’ve never seen,” said Barry Hunter, the brothers’ trainer who met the boys when they were 10 and 8. “They are battle-tested. I know people who have gone through far less pain and hurt and cracked. Not these kids.”
Lamont, 31, the welterweight champion until this year, is the quieter of the two, an introspective sort who’d rather stay at home with family and a small circle of lifelong friends. Anthony, 29, is gregarious and open, full of laughter.
“I don’t know how I would have faired if I had their upbringing,” Hunter said. “To live through sleeping in cars, benches, on the streets—as kids—it’s remarkable that they are so well-adjusted.”
A tough opponent in the ring hardly registers with them as a crisis.
“Life is hard,” is a Lamont Peterson mantra that he uses during most interviews when asked about his background.
That could be viewed as an oversimplification, considering what he and his brother endured: father in prison, mother an alcoholic with 12 children. The kids were scattered about, with the older kids going to a grandparent and others to various places. Amazingly, Lamont and Anthony ended up with nowhere to go. . . except the streets.
For food money, they cleaned car windows at stoplights. Eventually, they were placed in foster homes. But they were not afraid of being homeless, and left one foster home they did not like and returned to the streets.
They eventually found stability in boxing and Hunter, a trainer at a local D.C. gym who became a surrogate father. But even it took a while for Hunter, chief of the Headbangers boxing team, to get to them. Because of his family dynamics, Lamont Peterson said he did not trust adults “…at all. I took care of myself (and Anthony).”
Hunter saw something in the boys’ talent, especially Lamont at that age, and the sport helped draw them together. He remains their trainer, closest friend and confidant all these years later.
Their rough upbringing, they contend, has scarred them, but not destroyed them. Lamont called boxing “perfect for me because it’s an individual sport. In the ring, you only rely on yourself. That’s been me all my life.”
Said Anthony: “My background definitely has helped in a good way. There are times when training gets tough and I remember the cold nights and the hungry nights and it helps me dig deep to keep pushing.”
Their two years as vagabond youths made the brothers Superglue tight. “I don’t believe there is a set of brothers as close as us,” Anthony Peterson said. “We’re inseparable. . . We’ve come a long way. It’s awesome to make (our) dreams come true and our family proud.”
Lamont, who was the IBF and WBC welterweight champion until a controversial loss by decision to Danny Garcia last spring, said he is not driven to be champ again. Two days before he defeated Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz Jr. early October in Fairfax, Virginia, Peterson said: “If I never fought for another belt, I wouldn’t care. As long as I’m fighting top guys that the fans want to see me fight, I’m okay with that.”
Anthony gained his 36th win against just one defeat about an hour before his big brother’s victory—a technical knockout in just 22 seconds. He’s a top contender awaiting a shot at a title fight.
“I’m just preparing for the time to come,” he said.
The Petersons realize their story is almost unimaginable. It is a reason fans in D.C. are so supportive of the brothers. They carry into the ring toughness, perseverance and will, all derived from their life-on-the-streets upbringing.
Until recently, the brothers lived together. They are known for their fanatical workout regimen that they say is derived from their childhood. With boxing, “You have to make a way,” Lamont Peterson said. “This is where (our) upbringing helps.”
Their parents are better these days and attended their sons’ fights in Fairfax, Virginia, about 20 minutes from D.C.
“There are no disadvantages to fighting at home,” Lamont Peterson said. “I can train in my gym, sleep in my bed, have access to whatever I need. . . And it’s great when you can have your family and friends in the building rooting for you.”
Said Hunter: “Their story is just crazy. To snatch a championship as Lamont did and to be on the cusp of fighting for the title like Anthony is—with their background—just amazing. It’s not supposed to happen. But they made it happen.”