Peterson revved for the Garden
Story by Alex Dombroff
Photos by Chris Cozzone
Anthony Peterson promised he wouldn’t be smiling as much when it comes time for him to enter the ring. But until then, the thought of fighting at Madison Square Garden has him brimming ear to ear.
On February 21, Peterson will battle former world title challenger Edner Cherry at MSG on the undercard of Miguel Cotto’s bout with Michael Jennings.
For Peterson (28-0, 19 KOs), fighting Cherry doesn’t just signify a chance to get a name win on his resume, it also provides the opportunity to take the same stage as some of boxing’s most legendary figures.
“Ray Robinson, [Muhammad] Ali, Joe Louis,” said Peterson. “Great guys like that have fought at Madison Square Garden.”
More impressive than getting to perform in the building oft-dubbed the Mecca of Boxing is the road Peterson and his older brother Lamont, also an undefeated prospect, have taken to get there.
The brothers found themselves homeless at an early age, abandoned by parents who had fallen on hard times.
The boys spent their childhood sleeping in homeless shelters if they were lucky, but often spent their nights on the streets or inside the local bus station.
The first trade Anthony learned, at the age of 7, was thievery. Anthony often spent his days in public, pickpocketing money so his brother and he had the means to get by.
“That’s the first order, to survive,” said Peterson. “What I’d do, I’d go in the arcade game, where they’re paying attention to the game and not paying attention to me. So I would go in their pocket and take the money. My hands were so small, I never got caught.”
Over time, Lamont became a regular at Barry Hunter’s boxing gym in Washington, D.C., where the boys grew up.
Anthony soon followed, not because it was something he wanted to do, but instead something he felt compelled to do.
“Boxing was always my brother’s dream,” said Peterson. “It was never my dream. Being a little brother, I followed everything he did. If he stole something out of the cookie jar, I stole it too. I had my own things, but the bigger picture was planned for us by Barry. He said we would need each other.”
The rest is history as the brothers worked their way up the amateur ranks with Hunter by their side, and on September 25, 2004 both made their professional debuts on a card in Tennessee, each scoring knockouts wins.
Hunter is still with them, training and managing Anthony and Lamont. He is confident the tribulations they faced early in their lives have prepared them for anything they could face in the future.
“If you’ve been to hell, and you know it’s hot down there and you can get burnt, you don’t want to get burnt again,” said Hunter. “Everything they’ve had, they’ve earned. It makes a big difference in the way they attack the sport, and the way they handle their lives in general.”
Enter Edner Cherry, the 28 year old Bahamian brawler now living in Tampa, who surely poses the stiffest challenge of Anthony’s career.
Cherry(24-6-2, 12 KOs) is coming off a loss against Timothy Bradley in his lone world title attempt, but has faced a who’s who of top contenders in the lightweight division, including several former world champions and ranked contenders. Cherry has beaten the likes of Stevie Johnston, Jaime Rangel, and Wes Ferguson twice.
“This is no gimme fight,” said Bob Arum, whose company, Top Rank, co-promotes Bradley and is promoting the show. “This is a real competitive, interesting fight.”
Hunter sees the upbringing of his pupil, combined with opportunity to fight at Madison Square Garden, as a perfect storm that will flood Cherry.
“There have been so many legendary performances here at Madison Square Garden,” said Hunter who later referenced Kobe Bryant’s record setting 61 point performance from Monday night to drive home the point. “If you know where Anthony comes from, to end up having a chance to perform at Madison Square Garden is amazing. Any time you come through this place, or someone performs here, something may happen.”
Peterson echoed Hunter’s sentiments, adding that their preparation would be suitable for an even bigger fight on such a grand stage.
“We want to approach this fight like it’s a guy who is 100-0 with 100 knockouts,” said Peterson. “We don’t discriminate. Since we have the opportunity to fight at Madison Square Garden, we want to have a pleasant performance at Madison Square Garden.”
If anything could go wrong, fighter and trainer joked, it’s that big brother Lamont, who will be in Anthony’s corner, might get jealous and forget which one is scheduled to fight.
“If the camera catches Lamont,” said Hunter. “They will see him throwing punches, and weaving also. He’ll be doing a little fighting that night too.”
Come the 21st, the jokes will stop and things will get serious as Peterson vies for the biggest win of his professional career.
Until then, he’s all smiles.