By Lem Satterfield
A nearly 6-foot-3 southpaw who has fought as a welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight, Paul Williams is looking to prove that he still is deserving of his "Punisher" nickname, this despite having been blasted into unconciousness in the second round of November's rematch with southpaw Argentinian former Sergio Martinez, a man Williams had beaten by majority decision in December of 2009.
On Saturday night, the 29-year-old Williams (39-2, 27 knockouts) return to the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, where he lost to Martinez, but this time, Williams' clash of southpaws matches him against undefeated Cuban native Erislandy Lara (15-0-1, 10KOs).
Williams has said that he is motivated by the return to the East Coast gambling city, even as he eyes retirement.
BoxingScene.com has sought the opinions of 11 of the sport's insiders regarding their opinions on who will win Saturday night's bout.
Mike Coppinger, USA Today, Ring Magazine, BoxingScene.com -- Paul Williams UD 12 Erislandy Lara: I think that Paul Williams will be too much for Erislandy Lara.
For one, this is a tremendous step-up in class for the former Cuban amateur star. But more importantly, it's a match-up featuring a volume-puncher versus a counter-puncher.
Erislandy is slow to pull the trigger, throwing few punches. But Williams is often throwing punches that reach the triple digits in per round, making it hard for a tentative boxer like Lara to be effective.
The X-Factor, of course, is how "The Punisher" responds following his first knockout loss -- a devastating defeat in which he was knocked out cold.
If he fights like the Williams we have all come to know, then I don't think Lara's inexperience will be able to cope. So the pick is Williams via unanimous decision.
Jake Donovan, BoxingScene.com -- Paul Williams UD12 Erislandy Lara: I don't see P-Will going full throttle in his first fight back since landing on the wrong end of last year's most notable knockout.
I do see him being able to outbox Lara, whose career seems to have hit a wall. Lara was on the rise, but the competition level went stale, as evidenced by his near loss against Carlos Molina.
Molina was the first live body Lara has faced since early in his career. Paul Williams should be able to outwork him enough to take a comfortable points win in an entertaining but not particularly memorable battle.
Doug Fischer, RingTV.com -- Erislandy Lara TKO Paul Williams: The Paul Williams-Erisland Lara fight is a tough call. The southpaws don't figure to match up well, stylistically.
My guess is that Lara is either going to catch Williams and get him out of there early or get outworked over the distance in a stinky fight. I'm going to go with the underdog and pick Lara by early to mid-rounds TKO.
My hunch is that Williams' chin is burnt out and that any flush left that Lara lands will expose that.
Norm Frauenheim, 15rounds.com -- Paul Willliams KO 10 Erislandy Lara: It’s hard to know what to make of either fighter. Paul Williams has vanished from the pound-for-pound discussion.
That's what has happened since Williams was knocked out by Sergio Martinez. Erislandy Lara’s evident talent pegged him as an intriguing prospect, but he has been only that for the last few years.
Can Lara score an upset by winning a decision? Yeah. His arsenal includes precise, quick punches. But his limited power won’t keep Williams off of him.
If Williams wasn’t turned into damaged goods by Martinez, his pressure and whirlwind volume of punches will overwhelm Lara.
Thomas Gerbasi, BoxingScene.com -- Paul Williams W 12 Erislandy Lara: Erislandy Lara's talking a good game, but I still see Paul Williams as the better fighter.
Throw out the second Sergio Martinez fight and there's no way Lara gets this fight. Expect a strong return from "The Punisher."
Lee Harris, In The Corner Boxing Radio -- Paul Williams UD 12 Erislandy Lara: Obviously the big question in this fight is Paul Williams’ state of mind after the brutal KO loss to Sergio Martinez in his last bout.
Some fighters never fully recover from such a KO, and we’ll never know until we see him action. Erislandy Lara has the technique and decorated amateur background to give anyone problems.
Lara is an effective counterpuncher, has good footwork, and has fought solid opposition to begin his pro career. However, at times he still reverts back to that amateur style.
At times he lacks the professional experience that Williams has, and showed a lack of fire in the Carlos Molina fight. I think Williams will be ok from the loss to Martinez, and will show little ill effect.
He’ll need to swarm Lara like he usually does, apply a steady, high volume attack, and force Lara into exchanges. If they swap leather, it is definitely to Williams’ advantage.
Williams is the busier and more powerful puncher of the two. I see a tactical fight early, with Williams’ punch output and heart taking over the fight as it goes the distance.
Kevin Iole, Yahoo!Sports -- Paul Williams W12 Erislandy Lara: Erislandy Lara hasn't fought anyone remotely in Paul Williams' class, and he looked bad in his last outing in a draw with Carlos Molina.
Williams controls the tempo and wins the fight going away with his jab.
Steve Kim, MaxBoxing.com-- Paul Williams W 12 Erislandy Lara: I think that Paul Williams is a mystery, and that Erislandy Lara is a conundrum.
Honestly, I dont have a strong feeling, but I think Williams will out-work Lara to win a decision
Michael Rosenthal, RingTV.com -- Paul Williams UD 12 Erislandy Lara: Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara is tough to call. On one hand you have a time-tested veteran who throws a million punches but who suffered a terrible KO loss.
On the other hand, you have a gifted former amateur star with limited pro experience who is coming off a troubling draw. The key is whether Williams has put the loss to Sergio Martinez behind him. My guess is that he has and that he will outwork Lara to win a close but unanimous decision.
Joseph Santoliquito, Managing Editor Ring Magazine -- Paul Williams KO 6 Erisiandy Lara: Paul Williams knows that he has to look good and be emphatic to grab back some of his lost luster.
Robert Velin, USA Today -- Paul Williams KO 7 Erislandy Lara: Paul Williams has a lot of advantages against Erislandy Lara, including experience.
Williams also has the reach, height, punching power and the motivation of wanting redemption after his early KO vs. Sergio Martinez. Williams with a seventh-round TKO.
By a vote of 10-1, the experts have chosen Paul Williams to defeat Erislandy Lara.