The WBA has ordered an immediate rematch between junior welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Thursday night.
Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) won a split decision against England's Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) in controversial fashion to win the WBA and IBF 140-pound titles on Dec. 10. Khan, who was fighting in Peterson's hometown of Washington, D.C., had two points deducted for pushing -- an almost unheard of foul call -- in the seventh and 12th rounds by Washington-area referee Joe Cooper. Had the points not been deducted, Khan would have retained the belts on a unanimous decision.
"The WBA ordered an immediate rematch. I'm thrilled that he's getting one and hope we can start the negotiations and get the fight done," Schaefer said. "Amir and Lamont are both terrific young men and athletes who fought their hearts out in Washington in December and I'm sure this decision will get applause by fight fans around the world. The rematch will be one of the most anticipated fights of 2012 because both guys are exciting, young and I think it's exactly the kind of fight people want to see."
Golden Boy had appealed the decision to both sanctioning organizations, claiming that Cooper's penalties were uncalled for and that the scorecards were mishandled. Golden Boy claims there were discrepancies between the scorecards kept by the WBA supervisor and IBF supervisor, although the scorecard kept by the Washington commission is official and had Peterson winning. Golden Boy contends that the WBA supervisor's master scorecard, which collects round by round scoring from each of the three judges, had the fight a draw.
There is also controversy over the so-called ringside "mystery man," Mustafa Ameen, who is affiliated with the IBF and had a credential arranged by the IBF as a courtesy, but was not at the fight in an official capacity. However, he was seen on video at ringside apparently touching the scoring slips, which is against the rules, and distracting a judge. He was later seen in the ring apparently celebrating with the Peterson team after the fight.
"Since Khan continues to focus on a man at ringside, I want to be very clear -- Mustafa Ameen is in no way, nor has he ever been, affiliated or associated with anyone within Team Peterson," said Barry Hunter, Peterson's manager, trainer and father figure. "That includes myself, Lamont and (brother) Anthony Peterson."
The IBF is slated to hold a hearing on the fight next week.
Even with the controversy, the December bout was widely considered one of the best fights of 2011. Khan has campaigned hard for a rematch since the post-fight news conference.
"All I want is a fair chance and you know if I had a fair chance on the last fight, I definitely would have won that fight, and it's just one of the things," Khan said last month when discussing his appeal with reporters on a teleconference. "I mean I wasn't treated right and even the fans in D.C. said that I clearly won the fight. I don't know what the referee was watching."
Despite the WBA order, Peterson is not bound to a rematch. He could vacate the belt. He is also one of the leading candidates to land a June fight against welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao, one of boxing's two biggest stars. Peterson could move up in weight if that fight is offered to him and earn far more than he could earn in a rematch with Khan.
"One thing you cannot do is force a fighter to take a fight," Schaefer said. "Everybody has to do what they feel is best for them. I respect that. In this weight class a rematch is the biggest fight that can be made and it would be a shame if that doesn't happen. I say that, yes, as a promoter, but also as a fight fan. It would be a hugely anticipated fight."
Schaefer said he was hopeful he and Hunter could work out a deal. Peterson, who was Khan's mandatory challenger when they met, is a promotional free agent.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, Schaefer offered Peterson more than $1 million for the rematch, but Hunter declined to negotiate because he wanted Peterson to relax after a tough fight and to enjoy the holidays. Peterson earned a career-high $650,000 for the December bout.
"The bottom line is that after we decided not to accept Golden Boy's offer for a rematch only days after the fight, and said that Lamont wanted to enjoy the holidays with his family and have time to make the best decision for his career and the future of his family, they started filing protest letters and trying to spin the media as some form of retaliation," Hunter said.
"I hope we can negotiate in a respectful manner," Schaefer said. "It has been our goal all along to get this rematch done and I hope the WBA decision is going to help the process. My intentions are to do it in a very respectful manner because I like Lamont and Barry very much. We have worked on a few fights together. Whatever happened in Washington has nothing to do with Barry or Lamont. They weren't the referee or the scorekeeper. Lamont fought his heart out and so did Amir."
Hunter did not sound in the mood to negotiate a rematch. He and Peterson have felt disrespected by Khan and Golden Boy in the wake of their greatest victory.
"Unfortunately, we are in this process of dealing with these unfounded protests," Hunter said. "It would be an understatement to characterize Lamont as being disappointed in the unprofessional manner in which Khan is attempting to discredit his performance in the ring and victory. We were raised to conduct ourselves where champions display professionalism, both in victory and defeat. Lamont previously tasted defeat and handled it the way it should be handled -- he worked harder on areas that needed improvement to maximize his performance in the ring. Now, he is world champion.
"Khan blames everyone and everything but his performance and lack of ability to make adjustments in the ring for his loss."
Hunter also brought up the fact that Golden Boy slammed Zab Judah and promoter Main Events, which protested Khan's knockout win in their July unification bout, claiming Khan's body shot that ended the fight was a low blow.
"When Zab Judah filed protests for Khan's repeated low blows in their July 2011 bout Golden Boy and Khan argued that a referee's decisions should be honored," Hunter said. "Now, Golden Boy and Khan are flip-flopping on the referee's decision when it's not favorable towards them."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.