Williams vs. Martinez II: For the HBO Middle-Catchweight Championship of the World
By Gabriel Montoya, from Maxboxing.com (Nov 18, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
A year ago, in December, the weight-jumping 6’3” southpaw Paul “The Punisher” Williams took on southpaw and current middleweight champion of the world Sergio Martinez in a battle that was hailed by many of one of the best of 2009. The fight was a junior middleweight bout between two men many in the sport avoid due to Williams’ height and reach (82”) and Martinez’s hit-and-run, speed-first style. Neither men are big draws nor superstars in American boxing, so it’s been a hard road for both men as they look for that big marquee name to send them over the crossover star threshold and into boxing’s superstar stratosphere. So, in December of last year, with no name like a De La Hoya, Pacquiao, or Mayweather to feast on, they fought each other in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

It was a helluva fight with Williams catching Martinez off-balance and dropping him in the first round. Later in that same stanza, Martinez, 42-2-2 (24), dropped Williams, 39-1 (27), hard and the fight was on. Over the next 11 rounds, the men traded shots and momentum but it seemed to many that Martinez was in control through the middle of the fight, while Williams seemed to finish much stronger.

Williams ultimately got the close decision majority decision that many felt Martinez deserved.

So they moved on after the grueling fight, each resting for a few months before stepping back in the ring.

Martinez was up first in April when he stepped up to middleweight and took on Kelly Pavlik. This time out, Martinez left nothing to the chance as he bruised, battered, and cut up Pavlik’s face en route to a unanimous decision for the true, linear, man-who-beat-the-man, middleweight title. For a man of 35, largely unknown outside of his native Argentina and Spain, where he spent a lot of his career, it was the ultimate validation of a lifetime spent looking for that shining moment.

Williams went on to fight Kermit Cintron in May. The fight was a much-anticipated bout between two men who really didn’t seem to like each other at all. Though it was fought in California’s Home Depot Center before a meager crowd, the HBO-televised bout was on a large stage as it was playing right after the replay of Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley. Many felt this was going to be Paul Williams’ coming-out party, though the only thing that came out was Kermit Cintron when, after a heated exchange with Williams, followed by a sloppy near tangle, Cintron appeared to dive out of the ring in the third round. Conflicting reports say either Cintron refused to continue or was not allowed to. It didn’t matter in any case as Williams was awarded the decision per California rules that state a fight can be scored after three rounds as opposed to standard Unified Boxing Rules of the Association of Boxing Commission (which require four completed rounds). In any case, Williams was not allowed his shining moment and the crowd was left without a main event worth talking about beyond, “Did he really just jump out of the ring?”

Now, five months later, neither Martinez nor Williams had a fight and HBO needed a decision from them. It would appear HBO wanted this fight very badly and since neither man had an opponent, a deal was struck for the rematch. The thing is, both men’s situations had changed in the time between that first fight. Martinez is now the middleweight champ. Not a trinket holder. Not a vacant or interim or silver beltholder. He is the middleweight champion of the world.

Yet, HBO, according to anonymous sources who refused to go on record, the deal for this fight does not recognize Martinez as champion. Martinez is not getting any of the gate money for this fight. He is not getting any of the sponsorship money for this fight. And, to top it all off, Williams, a fighter who is billed as the “Most Avoided” or “Feared Man in Boxing” who can fight from 147 to 160, first demanded a catchweight of 158 pounds for the 160-pound title. According to these sources, the deal was a take-it-or-don’t-be-on-HBO-this-year offer to Martinez.

The reasoning for the catchweight, according to Williams, is simple. He wants to face Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather after this fight and so he wanted Martinez, who will most likely weigh closer to super middleweight the night of the fight, to stay closer to 147.

“What we’ve said is that we were gearing up for a 147-pound fight in our next fight, which happens to be this one,” said Willams. “As you know, we were hoping to get either Pacquiao or Mayweather. So that was the reason [we] was light going into the Martinez fight. The max weight is 158, to make everything clear.”

Williams, who spent a large part of his career at 147-pounds, despite his height, says it’s hard to gain weight to get into the middleweight division.

Another reason given for the catchweight is that promoter Dan Goossen feels Williams is putting himself at risk taking the fight.

"The reason why is because Paul is always taking additional risks when he fights over the welterweight limit. We’ve got a 147-pounder and for the last few years, we’ve been giving up a lot by going up in weight.

Williams’ trainer, George Peterson, seemed to take both umbrage with the questioning of the catchweight imposed on the champion and liberties with the middleweight division’s history.

“Well, I don’t understand this issue,” said Peterson. “You know, I heard this several times. You know, Hopkins had that built for 13, 14 years and the most he ever weighed is 157 and I didn’t see that - hear that question servicing back then.”

The bit about Hopkins is true but the fact is only one fighter, Oscar De La Hoya, asked him for a catchweight of 158 pounds. Oscar was able to pull off that demand because the paycheck he was offering was so good and the fight was so winnable for Hopkins.

In this case, it’s hard to understand how Williams was able to pull off the gate, the sponsors and a catchweight.

If Williams’ adviser, Al Haymon, ever went on record, perhaps we’d get an answer.

“I mean, I just can’t understand the difference in two pounds. I mean what’s the difference if a man - if the sanction body says, ‘You know, this weight limit is a certain thing and this young man makes this weight limit,’” said Peterson.

That is exactly the question: If two pounds doesn’t matter, then why did Williams and Al Haymon ask for it?

The reasoning of, “We’re hoping for a welterweight fight,” will mean absolutely nothing if Williams comes into fight night weighing over the limit of 160 pounds. All the talk of having trouble getting up in weight will be meaningless blather.

The real reason, at least in this writer’s opinion, is that Martinez weighed in at 159½ in his last fight, is 35, and just spent several months on a victory tour. At the WBC mandatory 30-day weigh-in, Martinez weighed 176 pounds to Williams 162. Last week, Martinez’s weight was 166. That might be all you need to know about why the catchweight was asked for.

Beyond the behind-the-scenes chicanery lies a good fight. Two elite southpaw fighters who will take on anyone willing to face them, will meet again in Atlantic City this Saturday night (live on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing,” 10 PM ET/7 PM PT).

Williams has lost once before, to a southpaw named Carlos Quintana, in a unanimous decision. Williams came back in the rematch and knocked Quintana out in one round.

Martinez has two losses. One early in his career to Antonio Margarito in just his 14th pro fight. The other loss is to Williams.

Both men bring speed with a slight edge going to Martinez. The power seems even.

If there is one thing that is different this time around is that both men had about three weeks to prepare for the first fight. This time out, both men have nothing but full training camps and tons of time to think about the other guy and how to beat him. “Of course, we didn’t know his capabilities as much before but we know what he is subject to do,” said Peterson. “He knows he’s an old man, of course, and he can run for a period of time and then he has to stop. He’s going to have to fight; there’s going to come a time in that ring where he’s going to have to fight and I know who will get the best of that. So we’re not worried about that. We all feel confident about this. We have time to prepare and we are prepared. I mean if the fight takes place tomorrow night, we all wait, and we’re ready to go.”

“I just basically wasn’t prepared for him but now I’m prepared for him, so I think it will be more,” said Williams. “If everybody thought the first fight was good, that’s me on, you know, a three-week notice and look at me with a three-month notice.”

For Williams, time to prepare will only serve to enhance what was a winning performance the first time out.

“I’m going to do what I do best and we’ll put a real beating on [Martinez] this time. If the knockout comes, it comes,” said Williams. “I’m going to put that beating on him this time; you know, it’d be much brutal this time.

“Paul is in a situation here, Gabe, where he’s going to make the necessary adjustment,” said Peterson. “Whatever it takes, he’s going to be able to make the adjustment, whatever it is.”

Whatever it takes, indeed.

You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Leave-it-in- the-Ring.com. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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