Paul Williams Prepares to Show Us All
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Feb 14, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Paul Williams
When we last saw former welterweight and junior middleweight titleholder Paul Williams, it was July of last year and he was taking more punches than anyone expected from Erislandy Lara. Williams was returning to action following his knockout loss to Sergio Martinez the previous November. Lara, an up-and-down Cuban who was coming off a recent draw with Carlos Molina, seemed a safe opponent for Williams. He was not known as a power puncher, had arguably lost to Molina and was at times, a listless, non-aggressive sort who would play well into Williams’ volume-punching hands.
The problem was that Lara treated the fight like the Super Bowl, coming in game shape, ready to fight and just as ready to display his solid punching ability. Further complicating matters is Williams’ inability to avoid the left hand of a fellow southpaw- which Lara is. Left after left landed on Williams. While he got in his shots, the prevailing opinion was that perhaps the 30-year-old Williams, 40-2 (27), was not the same fighter he was before he met Sergio Martinez (whom brutally knocked out “The Punisher” in two rounds).
“You look at a fighter like [Miguel] Cotto and it’s really a shame that two losses in our sport and people are writing you off,” says Dan Goossen, who, along with adviser Al Haymon, has promoted Williams his whole career. “Media, the experts, all these people think that you’re through. Cotto, as we know, suffered two losses to [Manny] Pacquiao and [Antonio] Margarito and obviously, he has shown that he isn’t through. I have the same impression after the Sergio Martinez and Lara fights for Paul. I heard the broadcasters halfway through the Lara fight say that Williams should retire but I didn’t see a fighter against Martinez or Lara who I thought was through. I saw a fighter that’s ready to go out there and prove himself to these naysayers that believe he’s still ‘The Punisher.’ He’s a three-division fighter, the same as Cotto was. He’s got two losses as Cotto and he will be back as strong as Cotto after the 18th.”
Maybe so. The announcers on HBO that night seemed to think he was a fighter all done in. They focused on that and really nothing else. In the end, it was a bit unfair to Lara, who put in an excellent performance against a guy HBO seemed to tag as finished.
However, insult was accompanied by injury on this night in Atlantic City when the judges gave a clear Lara win to Williams. The scores were so widely criticized that, soon after the fight, New Jersey commissioner Aaron Davis (who handed out the judges’ assignments) suspended ringside judges Donald Givens (116-114, Williams), Hilton Whitaker III (115-114, Williams) and Al Bennett (114-114) indefinitely.
“I thought that was bullcrap,” Williams said on a recent conference call. “It’s not like the judges were off by more than one point. It was one point. Why would they want to make a big deal about that? I thought that was bullcrap.”
To be fair to Williams, it did feel as though Davis might be covering himself by giving into public opinion. After all, he received no punishment for assigning three relatively inexperienced judges to work a major fight on HBO. For Williams’ trainer, George Peterson, the fight was close and the criticism of the outcome was more on HBO’s calling of the fight than anything.
“The judges called it just like that saw it,” said Peterson, “not the away the announcers saw it. The judges saw it another way. They should let the announcers do their job and let the judges do their job.”
“Most guys seen that he was hitting me with clean punches to the head but this isn’t the amateurs. We're counting body shots and I worked the body the most,” said Williams of the decision.
It is clear that in Williams’ and Peterson’s minds, they won a close fight, as is their right. However you scored the fight (and there are others who feel Williams did enough to win), what was evident was that he was either rusty or slowing down. Something was wrong.
At his best, Williams was a giant volume puncher. At a reported (but seemingly taller) 6’1” with an 82” reach, Williams was able to traverse 147 to 160 pounds with ease. But the up-and-down nature of his weight moves along with a style that never fully utilized his height and reach. Perhaps giving way to inside wars has dulled Williams just a hair. Say what you want about him, he’s a warrior. He will not give up. Williams simply will not stop coming. And maybe, at this stage of his career, that is a problem.
Saturday night at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas (live on Showtime), Williams will once again get the chance to prove that July was a fluke and the previous November came down to a lucky left hand. The man he gets to prove it against? Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida, 24-6-2 (9), a lanky 6’1”, 36-year-old whose claim to fame is knocking out junior middleweight contender James Kirkland in one round.
“I’m excited to be given this opportunity and to be able to prove myself again,” said Williams. “I love that because it’s just more motivation and that, come Feb. 18, I’m going to put on a helluva show for my fans and the people who aren’t my fans.”
Ishida, a solid fighter who takes to give, arguably hasn’t lost since 2004. He’s never been stopped nor knocked down. Against Kirkland last April, he seemed a monster, dropping Kirkland three times en route to a TKO win from out of nowhere. Though he has porous defense, Ishida will be coming with confidence, conditioning and a straight-ahead style that either will play right into Williams’ needs or it will show us the end is nigh for “The Punisher.”
“[Against Kirkland] that was his night,” said Williams. “You can’t fault anybody for coming in there like he did and he won and he knocked him out. I have to give him his props for that. He did what not a lot of guys have been able to do. Coming up on this fight on the 18th, I know he’s in the best shape and he’s going to try and go out and repeat that again.”
“I think Paul Williams has a good chin and has a lot of power and is one of the top fighters in the world,” said Ishida. “I didn’t expect to get a knockout against Kirkland. You never really expect that. I’m not sure about a knockout against Paul Williams but I think I will get the win. I’m going to make it a very long night for Paul Williams.”
Williams has now been off for almost seven months. In this day and age, sadly, that is par for the course with many premium cable-TV fighters. But while the fighter makes more money and thus is able to rest between fights longer, he also becomes rusty. Taking off that much time, then hitting the gym and going into a fight becomes more like Russian Roulette. As a fighter ages, the possibility of coming out and shooting blanks becomes greater and greater. Williams insisted he has been ready to fight all year but the opportunity did not arise.
“It’s not us. We always want to fight. It’s finding the right opponent to say yes. A lot of times, we don’t know who we are going to fight until the last month or the last couple of weeks,” said Williams.
Strangely enough, Williams was originally slated to face Ishida instead of Lara last year. HBO turned down Ishida as unacceptable. This year, on Showtime, Ishida is now acceptable. Go figure. In any case, the fight is all action. Will it tell us if Williams is top-shelf after all these wars? Who knows? Ishida may or may not be a top-level contender himself. He could have caught Kirkland at the same time and just been lucky- or he could be experiencing a late-career surge.
Likely, we will just see an action fight that goes the distance. Should Williams win, he will go on to a lucrative fight with a bigger name than Lara. He appears to have no interest in avenging what he deems a bad night at the office.
“I have no reason to fight [Lara] again,” said Williams. “He didn’t get any fame and glory for winning that fight. All he got is me having a bad night. That’s about it. If he had gone out and gotten a title, then I would definitely like to fight him again.”
Williams may or may not prove a lot of things Saturday night. One thing he will never have to prove is that he has the heart of a lion. Say what you will about his adviser or the sway he gets with the networks, Paul Williams comes to fight. How well he performs when he does remains to be seen.
Lucky us. We get an action fight on Saturday night. There is one problem with the card.
“Corpus Christi has always been a great fight town and we expect a great crowd out there on Feb. 18,” said Goossen. “Texas has always been a great state for our sport and we thank Dickie Cole and all their commission.”
Hopefully, Commissioner Dickie Cole has remembered to call the local anti-doping lab to come to the fight this time. Not to cast aspersions on any fighter on this card because I’ve never a PED rumor about any of these fighters but the health and safety of all is job one. Making sure everyone is working on the same playing field is vital and I would hate to have the Texas inspectors fill up bottles of urine again only to throw them out because Dickie forgot to make a call.

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You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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