IBF light welter ruler Lamont Peterson managed to put a troubled past behind him on Friday night, retaining his belt at Washington DC's Armory in an intriguing test against challenger Kendall Holt.
It had been 15 months since Peterson had last tread on the canvas under the bright lights, a controversial split decision over Amir Khan to capture the IBF crown. Things got worse for the Washington DC native when he reportedly failed a medical test leading up to the Khan rematch and he hadn't been seen in the ring since.
Holt had also ridden a rocky road over the last few years, coming down hard from his career best year of 2008, losing to the WBO light welter strap to Timothy Bradley in 2009, then going 3-2 over his next five contests, losing two important bouts to Kaiser Mabuza and Danny Garcia.
At stake on Friday was Peterson's world title, marking the first time Holt had been back on the world stage in almost four years and the 31 year old had vowed to dethrone Peterson on the strength of a right hand that had previously gunned down the likes of Ricardo Torres, David Diaz and Julio Diaz.
One thing Holt would need to pull off an upset over Peterson would be distance to throw his bombs, and space was the one thing that the reigning champion would almost certainly set out to deny Holt.
Once the bell rang, both fighters showed patience in studying the other, resulting in an even initial pair of rounds where not much occurred. By the third frame, Holt had decided to up the ante and found the target with a few bracing shots that Peterson took well but so far, had no answer for.
Holt continued his run in the fourth, determined to gain momentum in his opponent's hometown but opening up his offensive game also created holes in his defense. Peterson took advantage of one such portal to puncture the challenger's ambition with a perfect right hand that dropped Holt late in the fourth.
Holt beat the count but was immediately in heavy seas as Peterson did his best to finish off the New Jersey man, nearly ending matters in the waning seconds with a belting shot but Holt made it to round's end.
The next two rounds were hellish for Holt as Peterson went to work, hitting his rival with a surge of power shot upstairs and down, battering the challenger around the ring. Holt withstood the worst of it until the end of the sixth when he went down once again.
Holt again survived to fight another round, but the seventh and eighth stanzas were no better for the former WBO boss as Peterson mounted a spearing body assault that left "Rated R" exhausted with little hope remaining.
The end for Holt came at 1:42 of the eighth when referee Tony Weeks put an end to the one-sided affair as Holt was getting battered along the ropes.
Peterson retains the IBF crown for the first time, improving to 31-1-1 (16) and possibly in line for a unification bout against WBA/WBC king Danny Garcia, who meets the challenge of faded former two-weight world champion Zab Judah in April.
The number one challenger to Peterson's title is former European light welter and current IBF International ruler Denis Shafikov, 31-0-1 (17), and the Russian could be in line to contend for the IBF bauble but must win next month's challenge against Alisher Rahimov, 25-1 (12), for the WBC Baltic lightweight belt.
For Holt, now 28-6 (16), its back to the gym but this loss could be the last time he gets to contend for a world title.