Light Welterweight Lamont Peterson (29-1-1, 15 KOs) picked apart Victor Manuel Cayo (26-2, 18 KOs) Friday night at the Cosmopolitan Hotel as part of ESPN's Friday Night Fight series. The main event bout was hands down the best fight of the three card series held this year at the Swanky Las Vegas hotel. Added to the pressure of being the main attraction of the night, both fighters knew going in they would be battling for a chance to face Amir Khan.
Cayo put on an amazing show of skill and heart by constantly coming after Peterson, relying on speed over power. For 11 straight rounds he waded in and unloaded on Peterson with combos and flurries. The attack was often sloppy and wild, but it frustrated Peterson for most of the fight. Peterson chose a more measured and balanced game plan, picking his punches and concentrating on landing hard hooks and pinpoint jabs to get the win. With just 14 seconds left in the fight, Cayo went down hard, immediately complaining of being hit in the back of the head. Referee Kenny Bayless counted him out before he could rise to his feet. Through the crowd seemed stunned and upset by the sudden stoppage, Cayo did not protest as he slumped onto a stool to recover.
Peterson landed the crisper punches in the fight, and he landed enough power shots to stun and wobble Cayo multiple times. Cayo weathered the punishment well through most of the fight, and Peterson himself seemed surprised that Cayo was able to shake off some of his hardest shots. The fact that Cayo wound up punching himself out and getting buckled by one punch too many was not all that unexpected. Still, it would have been nice to see the battle go to the scorecards after both fighters performed so well.
The one aspect that set Peterson apart in the fight was his focus. Sticking to his game plan and maintaining a tight defensive posture, Peterson fought a smart fight. He didn't let Cayo bait him into too many toe-to-toe exchanges. He remained cautious and used the whole ring to remain in perfect range to land his best punches.
The one blemish on Peterson's record is a loss against Timothy Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs). Khan's attempts to ink a fight deal with Bradley fell through recently when Bradley declined the fight and lost his WBC title as a result. Bradley's promoters also sued him over his turning down such a big payday against Khan. Zab Judah stepped in as a replacement and struggled through the contest, ultimately getting knocked out by Khan in the 5th round on July 23rd. Peterson also refused a Khan fight contract earlier in his career, but he has more incentive now to finally make the fight happen.
Whether or not Peterson can win the fight is questionable after watching how he handled Cayo. Khan's speed and power balance is much more impressive than Cayo's. Freddie Roach is sculpting Khan into a formidable and fearsome fighter. Khan's aggressive style matched with a record of facing much more experienced challengers might add up to disaster for Peterson when the two finally meet.
Peterson might take a completely different approach to the Khan fight than he did in his Friday battle with Cayo, but that's not going to be enough. He must completely transform his approach to compete with Khan. He will have to develop more speed for starters. Additionally, he'll have to increase his punch output significantly. It's possible for Peterson to revolutionize his fighting style if given the time and attention he needs to get the job done, but it won't be easy. Amir Khan will be the toughest test of Peterson's career.