by Cliff Rold
It’s always fun to watch the progressions.
A quality talent turns professional, moves through some usual suspects to establish their place as a prospect of note, and then it’s on to the recognizable name foes. After beating a few of them, it’s on to the former titlists. That’s usually a sign that the big stuff is coming. Opportunity is on its way if the final obstacles can be overcome.
This isn’t the pattern for everyone who gets into boxing’s title scene. It might be the most common. There is a reason for that.
The pattern works. The development of talent is not a science, but the formulas followed can appear that way. Think, for instance, of Canelo Alvarez. For a couple of years, in part because he was gifted a belt early on, his quality of opposition was roundly thrashed. People ignored his age, or the bigger picture, demanding big moves in the now.
Instead, he was developed to a point where he could defeat Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara and share a big money bill with Floyd Mayweather.
This week’s Friday Night Fights main event (9 PM EST/6 PM PST) is all about the pattern. If it works, as it is intended, we will have a new contender in the Light Heavyweight division.
Thomas Williams has certainly looked the part. The 26-year old Maryland native, at 6’1 with decent power and a solid southpaw skill set, is someone to get interested in at 175 lbs. Turned pro in 2010, Williams picked up a string of early wins against fighters who often showed up with losing records.
He faced the last of those in 2012 and by 2013 was beginning to pick at more veteran fare. Wins over Otis Griffin and Yusaf Mack put names on his record. Griffin once won a reality television boxing competition called “The Next Great Champ” and has faced an assortment of names over the years. Mack is a former title challenger.
Cornelius White and Enrique Ornelas followed, both of them staples on cable in recent years and with fairly recent losses to current Light Heavyweight titlists Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins. Williams stopped them both, coming off the floor against White.
It was only the second stoppage loss in the career of Ornelas and the first since 2004. All of it was ultimately promising.
All of it holds to the pattern.
While Williams already graces some of the divisional top ten lists out there, already is being regarded on the fringes of contention, a win Friday in an IBF eliminator makes his title chances more real. He’ll have his toughest obstacle to date.
Former WBA Light Heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo (23-6-1, 10 KO) is just the sort of ‘in the pattern’ test one might expect. Campillo was stopped in each of his last two serious fights. Kovalev destroyed him in three. Rugged Andrzej Fonfara came from behind to stop him in the ninth round of a good fight.
At 35, the unlucky Campillo is fighting for his life. But for the whim of questionable judging, he may never have shared a ring with Kovalev or Fonfara. He was jobbed out of the title he held in a bout with Beibut Shumenov and jobbed out of the IBF title in an unsuccessful challenge of Tavoris Cloud. Win either fight officially (he won them both unofficially), and his fate is far different.
Fate is cruel in boxing.
Campillo could play the part of cruel fate for Williams this week. While he may have slipped from the peak performance we were seeing just a couple of years ago, Campillo remains a skilled, intelligent professional. He is, by a bit, the most accomplished foe Williams has faced.
If Williams isn’t ready for the next level yet, Campillo can prove it. Even if he is, Campillo is capable of making him earn it.
It’s all part of the pattern.
None of that takes away from the fun.
Who cares about Nelly in 2014? Seriously? Yeah, that “Groove” remix was cool and all but whatever. …Forgetting about Sharknado 2 until the last twenty minutes, it can be safely assumed the movie was still seen. Then the DVR was set to watch it all later…How bad is a card that something as ‘just okay’ as Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves is seen as the saving grace? Rod Salka-Danny Garcia has been pilloried but HBO paying for Sergey Kovalev-Blake Caparello is just as bad on paper…Fear not. The best weekend of the year is coming. Check the calendar for the Friday and Saturday after Labor Day. Look at the whole spectrum of global action. Try not to drool.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]