By Lem Satterfield
ATLANTIC CITY -- In returning to the Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, three-time titlist Paul Williams was back at the scene of the most devasting loss of his career, November's battle of southpaws during which he was stopped in the second round by a left hand from WBC emeritus middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in a rematch of Williams' December, 2010 majority decision victory in which both fighters were floored in the first round.
On Saturday, the nearly 29-year-old, 6-foot-3 Williams faced yet another southpaw in unbeaten Erislandy Lara, a 28-year-old Cuban junior middleweight who repeatedly landed the same punch that Martinez did against a man who appeared to have no answer for it.
Against Lara, Williams hoped to re-establish himself and his nicknamne, "The Punisher," for his reputation as a hard-slugging, high-volume puncher with a seemingly endless energy reserve who is willing to take on all comers.
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.
At the end of the fight, referee Sam Viruet literally had to pull up the orange trunks of Williams, who, in truth, got the pants beat off of him.
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.
But the cards 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.
"Tough customer. He came to fight. That motivated me. He caught me with a pot-shot, but with me throwing my combinations to the body, I don't think that people saw that, but those punches add up," said Williams. "The bottom line is that I out-worked him. I started mixing it up, and his pot-shots didn't phase me."
Lara had an advantage in power shots, 178-to-161, and, overall, 224-to-200 against Williams, who has fought at welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight and nevertheless rose to 40-2, with 27 knockouts, dropping the crafty and elusive Lara to 15-1-1, with 10 KOs.
"I thought that from the third round until about the sixth round, it was Paul's fight at least. No, he did not look sharp. But that's Paul's style. He gets hit. That's why fans love him, because he keeps on coming back. He's a fighter out there," said Williams' promoter, Dan Goossen. "Part of fighting with Paul Williams is getting hit, and mixing it up with the other guy."
As a middleweight, Williams has split bouts opposite Martinez (47-2-2, 27 KOs), defeating Martinez prior to Martinez's scoring a unanimous decision that dethroned then-WBC and WBO middleweight king, Kelly Pavlik.
In April of 2009, Williams also scored a one-sided decision over former junior middleweight world champion, Winky Wright, this, also while they were fighting as middleweights.
In July, 2007, at a time when he was considered the most feared welterweight, two-time world champion Antonio Margarito fought Williams, whose welterweight unanimous decision dethroned Margarito as WBO welterweight king.
Margarito had already knocked out Martinez in their welterweight match up in February of 2000, and, also also owns an 11th-round stoppage win over current WBA junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto.
Other big wins for Williams include knockouts of former world champs Sharmba Mitchell, and, Verno Phillips. The one over Mitchell was in the fourth round in Aug. of 2006 while campaigning as a welterweight.
In November, 2008, Williams scored the eighth-round knockout Phillips for the WBO junior middleweight belt. Phillips was coming off of a victory that dethroned Cory Spinks as IBF junior middleweight champ.
Although Williams suffered his lone defeat against southpaw, Carlos Quintana, in February, 2008, Williams regained his WBO championship, four months later, by stopping Quintana with 15 seconds left in the first round.
Williams has, nevertheless, faced questions concerning his vulnerability entering the fight with Lara, who was coming off of a March 25 majority draw with tough, Mexican-born Carlos Molina, who left the ring with a record of 18-4-2, with six KOs and an unbeaten streak of 10-0-1 that includes two stoppages.
"I'm looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things. When you fight a guy at [Lara's] level, you are not going to rise," said Williams. "I got a little lazy allowing him to get his pot-shots in, but I didn't feel that I was in any real danger."
BoxingScene.com's Round by Round Review
Round One - Williams took the action straight to Lara, jabbing twice but falling short. Lara circled in an attempt to find an opening, and then came forward before landing a left and a right, followed by a clubbing right that appeared to stun Williams. Lara also landed two more significant left hands out of a crouch, and then retreated from the jabbing Williams. Lara closed with a right, left, right combination and then moved away. Lara's round, 10-9.
Round Two - The left hand landed early for Lara, who then takes a hard left from Williams. The taller Williams then moves in behind his jab, lands a hard left, but then is stunned by a counter left that shakes and rocks him backward on rickety legs. Lara boxed the remainder of the round and effectively used his lateral movement. Lara's round, 10-9; 20-18, Lara.
Round Three - A hard left lands, yet again, for Lara, and then another as he then crowds Williams to protect himself. As Lara boxes, Williams appears a step or two behind, taking another left and missing with a right. Another looping left catches Williams coming in. And another. And still another booms off of the right side of Wiliams' jaw. Williams closes with a succession of shots to the body, but Lara's speed and mobility and his left hand has won him yet another round. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 30-27.
Round Four - Williams was warned for landing a low blow early in the fourth, and when the action resumes, fires and continues to pound Lara's body during clinches. Williams aggression and body blows trouble Lara for much of the round until the smaller fighter. Near round's end, Williams fires and lands four consecutive left hands during a clinch. Lara closes with a counter left, but Williams won his first round. Williams, 10-9; Lara, 39-37.
Round Five - Lara's counter left lands twice early, yet again. Two more lefts land on Williams, who is cut badly his left eye. But on the left side of Lara's head there is a large, swelling welt. Lara, nevertheless, fires and lands another left as Williams digs a left right to the body. Another left by Lara, who also takes five unanswered left hands on the inside and four body shots from Williams. Williams closes the round by digging heavily to the body. Williams round, 10-9; Lara 48-47.
Round Six - Referee Sam Viruet has ruled that there was an accidental clash of heads in the fifth round. Williams continues his body attack against the covering Lara, and then fires a hard right, followed by a left from a distance before Lara clinches. Williams lands four uppercuts in a row before Lara lands another hard left hand. More uppercuts and body shots from Williams, who takes two a lef-right from Lara. Lara appears to be aiming for the cut with his right hooks. A left-right from Williams forces Lara back, as does a right to the body. Williams' round, 10-9; 57-57.
Round Seven - Lara targets the eye with three right hands, followed by a head-swiveling left. Another left-right combination from Lara and then a left land as the smaller man dances away. Another left-right combination finds the mark for Lara. Another left lands for Lara, who chases Williams to the ropes. Lara has his hands at his waist when reaches the mark with two more left hands. Williams is wobbled by another left and clinches. An up-jab from Lara lands, as does a left after the bell. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 67-66.
Round Eight - Still another left finds the right side of Williams' face. Another left from Lara. Lara takes a hard right to the body, but, yet again, shakes Williams with the left. A right from Lars is matched by a right from Williams, who is bleeding from the mouth. Lara's jab reaches the mark twice, then he dances away and clocks Williams with two more left hands. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 77-75.
Round Nine - Lara starts by boxing from a distance, his up-jab being followed by the left. Another left impresses the crowd.
The left hands just keep on coming from Lara, and Williams is not adjusting. The effective boxing and movement has won Lara his third consecutive round, 10-9; Lara, 87-84.
Round Ten - Midway through the round, Williams leans into another hard left hand and seems stunned. Williams is simply being beaten to the punch and appears to lack steam on his own. In close, Williams fires away at the body, but Lara matches him. Two right hands have Williams looking shaky just before the bell. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 97-93.
Round Eleven - Williams continues to follow and eat punches, highlighted by a left right. Another left stuns Williams, and then another, and then a right hook that draws blood from Williams' nose. Williams fires five straight uppercuts and body shots, but Lara punctuates the action with a head-jarring left and moves away. Lara mocks Williams by licking out his tongue and continues to dance and land effectively from a distance as Williams chases him in vane. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 107-102.
Round Twelve - Lara continues to fight from a distance, ignoring the swelling lump over the left side of his forehead. A short right hand clips Williams on the inside, despite the crowd's chants of "Paul, Paul." A thudding left nails Williams, yet again. Williams is simply being beaten to the punch. Williams' shorts begin to fall as Viruet tries to pull them up. Lara's round, 10-9; Lara, 117-111.
BoxingScene.com has it for Lara, 117-111.