By Cliff Rold
“Eyes Wide Shut” isn’t just the name of an odd Stanley Kubrick flick. It’s also an apt description of the events of November 20, 2010 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. One shot and then the image that has stayed with everyone who saw it, the photo stills of the defeated, separated from his senses, asleep with his eyes open staring blankly across the ring floor.
For his sake, former Welterweight titlist and Middleweight contender Paul Williams (39-2, 27 KO) can’t afford a reprise when he returns to the scene of crime this Saturday.
For his sake, former Cuban Olympian Erislandy Lara (15-0-1, 10 KO) will be shooting for homage to last fall.
Both men are gambling big this Saturday.
There is always drama in that. Big gamblers win big. When they don’t, they make for melancholy tragic-comic figures sitting in front of pawnshops at dawn, waiting for the shopkeeper to come and give them a coin for one last piece of hope.
Both competitors in this weekend’s HBO main event better bring a bag for the cash windfall…but keep that family heirloom watch on the side just in case.
Coming off the first blemish of his career, a draw against a streaking and tough Carlos Molina earlier this year, Lara is making the bigger gamble on paper. Against Molina, he often appeared listless, his offense uncreative. Lara, a southpaw, has a good right jab and straight left behind it. The pressuring, energetic Molina left some wondering if, when competed against, Lara really had more than that.
Williams is a hell of an opponent to ask that against. In only his seventeenth fight, with his previous most significant win probably coming against Contender Season Two winner Grady Brewer last year (Brewer of course last seen knocking off undefeated Fernando Guerrero), Lara’s team has addressed the failings of the Molina bout by taking it up a notch.
The choice is brazen and bold in that sense. Going from a draw with Molina to a bout with Williams says Team Lara thinks their man might be getting bored, that after hundreds of amateur fights and accolades, already at 28 years old, Lara needs to feel tested to stay focused.
Or it says they are cashing in and moving on, Lara another recent Cuban bust weighing the scale against, well, Joel Casamayor (and, so far but it’s still too soon to tell, Yuriorkis Gamboa).
Of course, what appears on paper is not always what appears in the ring. Williams might be in an even riskier spot than Lara right now. Knockouts like the one he experienced in his challenge of Sergio Martinez for the Middleweight crown last year can have lasting affect. Psychologically, it can affect how the fighter behaves in the ring, making them more defensive and less willing to throw. For a punching whirlwind like Williams, that would mean a different fighter.
And we don’t know if a different Williams can be a good one.
Physically, medical reports suggest suffering traumatic concussions can make suffering future concussions easier. Martinez KO2 Williams was definitely a traumatic concussion. Lara, for his faults, throws straight, true, and with snap. Both of Williams’ losses, to Martinez and Carlos Quintana, were against southpaws. Lara does not have the professional chops those two did entering against Williams.
He’s got a much deeper overall background in the game.
Williams could have taken an easier route and no one would have been surprised. A soft win, maybe two, and he could be right back in the driver’s seat for the only fight that counts for him. He is tied 1-1 with Martinez. A third fight could redeem him. For now, the second defines him.
That’s not a fun burden to be left with. Enter Lara?
The pressure of a guaranteed HBO date meant someone with a pulse but why Lara? Could it be that, after Molina, Team Williams sees a mark? Williams has been in with a prime Antonio Margarito, won the first fight with, routed Wink Wright, and avenged the Quintana loss in only a frame.
Lara can’t be that tough after all that, right?
The truth is no one will know until they lock horns Saturday night. The boxing world knows Williams but doesn’t know what he has left. It wants to know exactly what Lara has. There should be answers one way or another by Sunday morning.
That much one can bet on.
But wait, there’s more…
Another Heavy Dud: http://www.boxingscene.com/sultan-dirrell-retire-now-review-ratings-update--41126
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--41182
Cliff’s Notes… Alexander Povetkin and Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA Heavyweight belt now that Wlad Klitschko is a unified “Super” champ? If they want to pay, who cares? Wlad is the only real Heavyweight Champion. Anyone stupid enough to pay a sanctioning fee for sunshine up their hind side saying different is a fool well parted with their money…Yes, that includes his brother who won his belt off a fighter Wlad had already defeated in a title eliminator…All those belts are cute promotional gimmicks, but there’s only one world and only one real Heavyweight champ…Derek Jeter will have 3K before another week goes by so congrats ahead of time. Sometimes, they still do it the right way...For the record, Ichiro is less than 700 away an on pace for another 200 hit season. Still love those Mariners…Team USA for Olympic Boxing 2012 is coming together. Do this scribe and fellow BoxingScene stalwart Jake Donovan have another summer of Olympic coverage in us? Might need to start training ahead.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]