The stratospherically tall Paul Williams is set to challenge the newly minted WBC middleweight champ in a long anticipated rematch against Sergio Martinez this Saturday, November 11th at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Martinez has managed to make himself into something of a sensation recently in spite of posting a disappointing 1-1-1 record over the past two years. The poor results show the limitations of using the record alone to judge a fighter and don’t reflect the excellent boxing skills and fighting spirit Sergio shows in the ring.
The loss was very close and disputed by many, and the draw was a travesty against honesty and competence in boxing when a whacked out Kermit Cintron should have been KTFO after taking the full count or at least DQed for arguing with the ref afterwards. The gang of officials who sanctioned and officiated the bout scrambled to find a single functioning brain cell between the lot of them to tell them what to do next before resuming the bout a farcical 5 minutes later, but that’s all water under the bridge for the new WBC champ coming off his signature win over the towering Kelly Pavlik.
The Argentinean seems to have attracted a significant American following the last couple of years because of his stellar fighting acumen, but perhaps more tellingly by his personal demeanor as an old school consummate gentleman with additional descriptors such as Hollywood handsome tagging along.
All that attention might raise the hackles of the perpetually underappreciated Paul Williams who has been struggling for meaningful fights, recognition, and the large purses that traditionally come with the type of success he’s had in his career thus far, 39-1, 27 KO. If riled, he must be hiding it well since he’s been virtually silent on the promotional end since the fight was announced while Martinez has garnered most of the press.
Williams got little credit for their first fight in spite putting up a great fight and coming away with the majority decision that some claim Martinez deserved. He followed that with another controversial win over Kermit Cintron who has become the King of Controversies. Cintron dove out of the ring during an exchange and hit floor, “apparently” unable to continue until he suddenly came to life to protest the fight’s stoppage much like the Martinez knockdown.
So, Williams is coming off a majority decision and then a technical decision against top ranked contenders and wondering what he has to do to get some recognition and a more comprehensive win.
Williams’ biggest problem besides being impossibly tall and talented is that he’s also a southpaw with a freakish reach making him a very awkward fight. Martinez is also a southpaw, and traditionally two lefties don’t make fan friendly fights though their first match had HBO raving for more. Williams did himself no favors with the public by demanding a 158 lb catchweight for this challenge which is just more catchweight silliness in boxing that lately seems to be catching on like a wave of the latest flu pandemic.
Thankfully their promoters finally got the contracts hammered out, so now it’s up to the fighters to take care of business in a definitive way on the cards that fans can get behind. I get the feeling that this fight is a grudge match for the two training teams if not the fighters themselves since Martinez’s team were vehement in their protest after losing the first fight. Martinez himself just flashed his trademark sunny smile and shrugged his shoulders knowing that he’d already been done in worse for the Cintron fight and that little could be done to change the outcome.
I personally thought Williams edged it, but boxing does itself no favors with perpetually poor refereeing and judging, such that close fights or unsporting behaviors can become contentiously controversial on no other basis save individual perceptions that the rules of boxing are not being followed for a sporting contest.
That’s what rematches and rubber matches were meant for, to straighten out the record, something boxing, ie, promoters and ABCs could better promote, but typically they are more interested in following up tough fights with easy walkovers to build up fragile fighter psyches rather than dicker over infinitesimal purse percentage splits in another tough fight.
So, here we are with two top lifetime welter/junior middles fighting at a 158lb catchweight with the WBC and the Ring middleweight titles on the line in what should be a pretty good scrap. Martinez also won the WBO belt when he dethroned Pavlik but was almost simultaneously stripped of that belt and his WBC junior middle belt afterwards, so Martinez is becoming painfully aware of the self serving capriciousness of the various ABC orgs, refs, and judges.
Reports initially indicated a possible weight problem with Martinez scaling near 180lbs, but in California, he is looking sharp and trimming down as he moves his conditioning up. Here’s a training pic some 2 weeks before the fight that shows a ripped Sergio at whatever his current weight is, so I suspect with the length of his camp, it should be no problem cutting weight.
Team Williams is apparently working on secret weapons and buried itself somewhere deep in Georgia not to be bothered by the press as I’ve heard scarcely a peep out of them. Williams has been much like Kelly Pavlik and Vitali Klitschko in sticking to his longtime trainer, in this case one George Peterson, whereas Martinez seems to have outside training input at the Robert Garcia Gym in Oxnard at the start of camp.
I personally feel both Pavlik and Williams could stand some additional training input from quality outside sources, but it’s their call and loyalty is an admirable trait.
In their last fight Martinez was able to utilize ring movement to direct the stalking Williams around the ring before using his quickness to leap in with damaging shots and combinations before moving out again. It worked OK overall as a counter to Williams’ reach, but it looked to me like Martinez tired down the stretch from fighting such a large, awkward opponent with such an energy sapping fight plan.
The other option would be to stand more at ring center and take the fight directly to Williams.
That would fit perfectly into Williams’ fighting style which has been to take the fight to whomever he’s fighting, softening them up with a blizzard of punches, often delivered in combination from different angles with both hands. Williams has a lot of experience fighting high profile lefties now, a record 4-1, 2KO against Sharmba Mitchell, Carlos Quintana, Winky Wright, and Sergio Martinez, so he has to be confident that he can handle Martinez again.
Remember, Williams did much, much better in his rematch against Quintana, avenging his only loss with a monstrous KO that Williams would love to replicate for this fight to avoid another controversy not of his making.
Williams is an aspiring young man who wishes to please the fans and doesn’t always fight to his strengths which is using his spectacular reach and work rate to overwhelm fighters at a distance. He willingly allows himself to exchange in close which is where the most realistic chance of beating him comes, and though he usually gets the better of those exchanges, a quick fisted combination southpaw puncher like Martinez can pose a danger and make him look clumsier than he is, which is one of the reasons the public has not flocked to him. The other being that Williams is not a dynamic personality with dynamic ring persona. He’s more in the mold of Joe Louis, another small town Southern country boy going quietly about his work to beat every fighter he encounters which keeps his record shining without casting any limelight on himself.
Though Williams and Martinez exchanged opening knockdowns in their first encounter, neither fighter is a one punch artist, but rather a combination, accumulative, attrition type of puncher. It’s possible someone’s chin could crack eventually in spite of both proving to be very durable fighters if the pace gets ramped up to what I suspect it to be with both looking harder for the KO this go round.
I’m guessing the odds will be fairly even come fight night with Williams being a slight favorite, but I have a sneaking suspicion that training preparations will be key in this fight and I have no inside insight there. From the outside, it looks like Martinez has been making all the right moves, but he has a huge obstacle to overcome since Williams is a much quicker, a more dynamic and awkward fighter than the orthodox Kelly Pavlik, a tall powerhouse that Martinez was able to move inside on at will thanks to flowing eye cuts that kept Pavlik blinded for the latter rounds of their fight.
If the fight is near as exciting and as closely contested as the first, I imagine HBO would be willing to put on the rubber, so I’m expecting a good, maybe a great, very tight fight, but you might not want to risk betting the farm in this one unless you enjoy chewed off nails and split judges cards.
The undercard is intriguing with an undefeated two division champ, Zsolt Erdei, 31-0, 17 KO, former title challenger Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, 34-2, 22KO, and undefeated middleweight contender Fernando Guerrero,19-0, 15KO, fighting, but unfortunately against TBA type of journeymen. Still, these guys may be relatively unknown, but it’s a good opportunity to showcase their skills for future title challenges.
Pick’em, Danno-Winner Takes All……..