Both Lamont Peterson and Kendall Holt have had their share of disappointments in the sport of boxing, but Friday night's clash will send one back up the ladder of public perception.
The loser will face some serious questions about his future.
The fact that an IBF light welterweight title fight is being seen on ESPN's Friday Night Fights is odd. Generally, ESPN's showcase of the sweet science is reserved for up-and-coming fighters and/or aging combatants competing past their primes.
Peterson and Holt are neither.
Peterson is the champion, and he's only 29 years old. Holt is a 31-year-old ex-champion trying to prove he can still compete with the best fighters in the division.
So, why isn't this fight on the undercard of a pay-per-view, or the main event of a Showtime or HBO broadcast? There are a few reasons, but two of them directly relate to why this is a must-win for both men.
Peterson actually won the title in his last fight against Amir Khan. It was a controversial decision, and a fight that I felt Khan won. There was a knockdown incorrectly called a slip that would have changed the decision.
Peterson agreed to give Khan a rematch, but he subsequently failed the drug test preceding the fight. This development—coupled with the controversial nature of his win over Khan—cast doubt over Peterson's standing as a truly elite fighter at 140 pounds.
As something of a disgraced fighter after the failed drug test, Peterson needs a win to validate his previous success, and to move on to bigger and better things.
Does the winner of this fight deserve a unification bout?
Holt has been a champion before, but hasn't really boxed like one of late.
He held the WBO title from July 2008 to August 2009. But Holt has never shined while in the ring with stars. In his first-round KO win over Ricardo Torres (the fight that won him the WBO title), he was floored twice before stopping Torres.
He lost the title in a unification bout to Timothy Bradley which began a stretch that saw him lose three of five fights.
One of those losses was a close split-decision to current WBA super light welterweight champion Danny Garcia. If Holt is going to prove he's worthy of being a champion, ready for a rematch with Garcia and other big money challenges, he must defeat Peterson.
Though Peterson and Holt have arrived at this moment on different paths, this fight will likely be the last opportunity either man has at having a truly notable career.