Khan blamed the referee for his shock defeat, saying "it was like I was against him [Peterson] and the referee" [GALLO/GETTY]

Hometown favourite Lamont Peterson took a contentious split decision victory over Amir Khan on Saturday to seize the WBA and IBF junior welterweight belts, leaving the British fighter feeling cheated.

Peterson, helped by referee Joe Cooper deducting two points from Khan for pushing in the seventh and 12th rounds, scored the split-decision to win the WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles in Washington.

Judges George Hall and Valerie Dorsett scored the fight 113-112 in favour of Peterson. Nelson Vasquez had Khan winning 115-110.

"It must have been a good fight. They're already talking about a rematch,'' Peterson said.

Strong start

Khan, who was favoured to win in his sixth title defence, started out strongly, scoring the only knockdown in the fight late in the first round. In fact, Khan, who complained that Cooper was favouring Peterson, thought he had knocked Peterson down a second time. It was ruled a slip.

"It was like I was against him and the referee,'' Khan said.

Peterson began his counterattack in the third round, taking the fight to Khan and hitting him with a series of blows to the head, buckling his knee.

The challenger secured the fight by winning the 10th and 11th rounds on Hill and Dorsett's scorecards. The 12th was ruled even after the point was deducted from Khan.

"I was shocked. There was no warning,'' Khan said about the 12th round point deduction.

"I'm a fighter - not a referee,'' Peterson said when asked his opinion on Khan's penalty.

"It's always going to be rough at this level ... I'm always prepared for a backyard fight "

- Lamont Peterson

"It's always going to be rough at this level,'' Peterson said.

"I'm always prepared for a backyard fight.''

In a bizarre post-fight press conference, fans of both fighters crowded the room, repeatedly cheered and had to be admonished by officials from the promoters.

Oscar De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions put on the fight, started campaigning for another bout even before both fighters spoke.

"There will be a rematch,'' De La Hoya predicted.

Spurred on by a crowd just short of a sell-out in the first championship fight held in Washington since 1993, Peterson improved to 30-1-1. Khan is 26-2.

"We all know who won the fight,'' Khan said.

Source: AP