Paul Williams: “I Just Want To Beat Them All” - Boxing
Interview by Gabriel Montoya (Feb 5, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)        
When we last saw WBO welterweight titleholder Paul ‘The Punisher’ Williams, it was July of 2007 and he was edging out Antonio Margarito in an action packed slugfest most had expected him to lose. After a slew of potential opponents either fell by the wayside (or ran screaming into the countryside depending on who you talk to), Williams will make his first title defense this Saturday against Carlos Quintana at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. The bout will be televised by HBO. An underdog in his first title challenge, Williams not only seized the belt from Margarito but also seemingly
inherited his moniker of ‘The Most Feared Man in Boxing’.

It’s hard enough to define yourself in boxing’s deepest division without the added problem of finding someone to just say yes to a bout with a 6’1” (seems more like 6’3”) southpaw with an 82” reach and a pedal-to-the-metal style. In the six months since winning the title, Williams has called out WBA and WBC titleholders Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He has tried securing bouts with top contenders such as Joshua Clottey and Zab Judah. Most notably Williams came within a signature’s length from a February unification bout with IBF titleholder Kermit ‘The Killer’ Cintron. Following a hand injury in his tune-up bout turned war with Jesse Feliciano, Cintron would postpone the bout. Despite Promoter Dan Goossen and HBO offering to move the fight to a date when the Puerto Rican fighter would be fully healed, Cintron instead signed for a rematch with Antonio Margarito (who incidentally is the mandatory challenger for Paul Williams) with the winner to face Miguel Cotto in a unification match. It was a move that left Williams on the outside looking in and Goossen fuming.

“For as long as I have been in this sport,” Goossen claims, “I have never seen a fighter turn down a million dollars and a unification fight for half that to be on an undercard.” Goossen believes his fighter isn’t being avoided due to a low profile but rather out of fear of his combined size and style. “You avoid Cory Spinks,” says Williams’ promoter Dan Goossen, “but you fear Paul Williams. As evidence, you only have to look at Kermit Cintron.”

After offers to the hard-hitting likes of Joshua Clottey and Zab Judah, it would be Puerto Rican southpaw Carlos Quintana, 24-1 (19), who would step up to the plate. Hardly the marquee name Goossen, Williams, and trainer/manager George Peterson were hoping for but a formidable fighter nonetheless. Quintana is a boxer/puncher whose only loss was at the hands of Miguel Cotto. Quintana is a versatile fighter not to be taken lightly.

“We've got to give Quintana credit,” says Peterson. “After all he is a real slick boxer. He's a mover. And he's a got a lot of class. We are approaching this fight like it's Paul time to win a title all over again.”

“I don’t know what his best strength is,” says Williams. “What I do know is he’s going to have to show me something.” For some southpaws, fighting one of their own can be tricky. But Williams says that doesn’t concern him at all. “For me it doesn’t make any difference. Right or left-hander. I have to go in there and fight my own fight.”

All during the hit and miss parade of possible opponents and musical fight dates, Williams trained with his team in Puerto Rico. It is a place he fell in love with last summer when he trained for the Margarito fight. “It’s hot now. The people are great. They give me a lot of love down here. So we fell in love with the island.”

A former amateur fighter who grew up in Washington, D.C., George Peterson understands exactly what it takes to get and keep the young lion ready. Williams’ style is one that generally calls for him to throw more than 100 punches in the course of any given round. It’s a style that wears out his opponents while overwhelming them. Both trainer and fighter believe in a no frills approach to conditioning in order to prepare for this. Sit-ups, bar dips, little weight training and lots of running keep this young lion prepped and peak form.

“Absolutely, absolutely. Everything has to be done correctly. I’m old school. I’m 66 years old. I came up during the days of guys like Holly Mims and Bob Foster,” Peterson explains. “I fought as an amateur myself right there in D.C. It’s old school conditioning. You know… these guys today… they got the finest equipment in these gyms. They got air-conditioning. They got all kind of bags now. A double-end bag and a triple-end bag. They got heavy bags now. 150 lb heavy bags. With the best of leather. We didn’t have all that stuff when we was coming up. So we do things the old way.”

Williams and Peterson’s mental approach to any and every fight is a shining example of the strength of their bond. Williams rarely studies tape of his opponents. He leaves the research and strategy to Peterson and relies on him during camp and in the fight to break down what he needs to know to succeed. This system allows the fighter to be open to the moment without any preconceived thought. Factoring in that Williams has been in camp more or less since the last quarter of 2007, his conditioning to this point should allow him to execute whatever plans Peterson designs.

“The thing about it is we’ve been training for this longer than ever before,” says Peterson. “We thought we were going to be fighting Cintron in December. And here we are. We had a real good camp. This time we are going into the fight without injuries. That's a big plus.”

A healthy byproduct of this extended camp is that the lanky welterweight has been near his goal weight of 147 for quite some time. According to Peterson, this is by design and allows the fighter to be even stronger on fight night. “We aren’t worried about making weight,” Peterson explains. “In his last fight we ate breakfast that morning and he weighed 145. So we don't try to make 147. We try to make 144, 145. We make 144 and eat breakfast.”

Saturday night, Williams gets to shake off the past and take control of his future. A day after breaking camp, the long plane trip to possible glory looming, Williams seems eager for the opportunity.

“I love to fight. But the rest did me good,” says Williams of his six month hiatus from the ring. “Basically I wasn’t fighting but I was training. Now I am ready to fight. I’ve been so focused on this fight that I’m at the point where I just want to get in there. I’m not going to back up. I’m going to be right there.”

As for after the fight, the team as a whole shares a similar vision of the future: the other champs can run but they can’t hide.

“That's been the story of our life,” says trainer Peterson. “We've been getting this treatment from day one. So we are used to it. But we feel after awhile longevity will prevail. And we are going to be around until this thing comes to a head. I do believe that after awhile the boxing community is going to demand that [the top guys] will have to fight Williams.  It's going to have to take place. We are patient. This young man is 26 years old. So we got time.”

“I think we have already made our statement,” says Goossen, referring to the Margarito fight. “I think the real question is what will the other champion do to state their case for being the best welterweight in the world? I don’t care who comes out on top. If they don’t fight Paul Williams, they can’t call themselves champion.”

“I let my fists do the talking,” says a quietly confident Williams. “I don’t worry about them other guys,” “My main focus is to keep winning and eventually get a big fight with [the other champions]. As long as I keep winning they are going to have to end up fighting me. Guys know I’m a tough match up. And they know I’m going to fight them every second of every round. Me? I just want to beat them all. Nothing else matters to me. No matter what happens in the ring I just want to keep winning. That’s my main focus. Just do what I been doing.”

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