By Lem Satterfield
ATLANTIC CITY -- At the Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, three time former world champion Paul Williams faced unbeaten Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara, a 28-year-old rising junior middleweight. Although the judges cards read that Williams was the winner, clearly, the blood dripping from his nose and the cuts around both eyes did not.
But the opinions that mattered were those of the official ringside judges: Hilton Whitaker and Don Givens had it 115-114, and, 116-114, respectively, with Al Bennett scoring it 114-114, making Williams the beneficiary of a controversial majority decision that was lustily booed by the crowd. Williams rose to 40-2, with 27 knockouts, dropping the crafty and elusive Lara to 15-1-1, with 10 KOs.
David Itskowitch, the Chief Operating Officer at Golden Boy Promotions, who handle the career of Lara, expected a controversial decision when Bennett's score of 114-114 was announced.
"That's it, we're f*cked," thought David Itskowitch, when Bennett's card was the first one that was read aloud.
"As soon as I heard that, I knew that we were in trouble. I mean, when a fighter looks like he won by a wide margin, and then you hear a close score like that, it's a shame. And then, those other two judges, I don't know what fight they were watching. But in the majority of everyone's eyes, Lara won the fight," said Itskowitch.
"Now if you go and look at Lara, and he's got that welt on the left side of his face that came from a clash of heads. Now you go and look at Paul Williams, if you can get near him, and see what Paul Williams looks like," said Itskowitch. "I mean, his face looks like a pizza. So this is just aother one of those things where the kid, Lara, works so hard, and then he comes in as the underdog, he does what he has to do to win the fight."
HBO commentators Max Kellerman and Roy Jones had it nine rounds to three for Lara, and ringside scorer, Harold Lederman, 117-111 for Lara, as did BoxingScene.com.
"Lara took some criticism for his last fight [against Carlos Molina], but I heard that the guy that he had a draw with beat the crap out of Kermit Cintron. But not everybody saw that fight, and it was a tough fight, and now, you know how good the other guy was," said Itskowitch.
"Did he lose this fight with Williams in the record books? Sure. But anyone who saw this fight, knows who won this fight. I mean, to me, it was pretty evident. To Harold Lederman it was evident, and to Max Kellerman it was evident," said Itskowitch. "And, you know what? I'm willing to bet that the majority of the vast majority of boxing writers had Lara winning that fight. So if [HBO officials] Kery Davis and Ross see the fight, they should be able to see what really happened tonight."