By Lem Satterfield
ATLANTIC CITY -- During a November's battle of southpaws at the Boardwalk Hall in this East Coast gambling city, three-time titlist Paul Williams fell face-first and was rendered completely unconcious for the first time in his career -- the shocking knockout coming as the result of a second round left hand from WBC emeritus middleweight
champion Sergio Martinez.
The sudden end happened during during the rematch of Williams' December, 2010 majority decision victory in which both fighters were floored in the first round, but Williams' trainer, George Peterson, has all-but called the punch that flattened Williams a once-in-a-million shot.
"There is no adjustment to that punch. It was a punch that was not seen. You can't make an adjustment to that, it was something that you could not see," said Peterson during a recent national conference call with reporters.
"It's like the wind blowing, you can't see the wind blowing, but the wind is there," said Peterson. "You don't go to the gym every day and practice for a punch that you don't see. It's as simple as that."
On Saturday night, Williams returned to Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom, where he had earned his initial win over Martinez before losing to their second match up to Martinez in the venue's main arena.
This time, it was yet another southpaw in unbeaten 28-year-old Cuban junior middleweight Erislandy Lara who would continually blind-side the 29-year-old, 6-foot-3 Williams.
Nicknamed "The Punisher," it was, Williams, himself, who was repeatedly punished by the same left hand that Martinez landed.
Before the 12th round, Peterson told Williams that he needed a knockout to win, to which Williams responed, "I know," according to Kellerman. During the post-fight interview, Kellerman asked Williams about that exchange.
"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," 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."
Despite the blood dripping from around both eyes and from his nose after facing Lara, Williams was, yet again, the recipient of a dubious Atlantic City decision -- one that was lustily booed by those in attendance.
"They did a good job of mimicking Martinez, but you saw in the first six or seven rounds, Lara tried to do that, and he couldn't," said Williams' promoter, Dan Goossen.
"Paul was, more often, feeling stronger and sharper in the early rounds," said Goossen. "But obviously, Paul lost three to four rounds after that, and that's when Lara started landing some shots."
HBO commentators Max Kellerman and Roy Jones had it nine rounds to three for Lara. HBO ringside scorer Harold Lederman had it 117-111 for Lara, as did BoxingScene.com.
But the official ringside judges, Hilton Whitaker and Don Givens, scored it 115-114, and, 116-114, respectively, for Williams, with Al Bennett tying the bout at 114-114.
Lara had an advantage in power shots, 178-to-161, and in overall punches, 224-to-200 against Williams, who, nevertheless rose to 40-2, with 27 knockouts, dropping the crafty and elusive Lara to 15-1-1, with 10 KOs.
"It was a good fight, but I don't know what the judges saw," said Lara. "The Martinez fight was a blueprint for this fight, coming with the overhand left," said Lara. "That's what we practiced in the gym. I would like to have a rematch."
Despite often enjoying an advantage in height and reach over most of his opponents, there is no reason for Williams to alter his approach and to "fight tall," according to Peterson.
"Paul's style has got him wins in 39 out of 41 fights. His style has to be working. In addition, Paul has a win over everybody that he's fought," said Peterson about two weeks prior to Williams' facing Lara.
"I can't see no reason if you've got 39 wins out of 41 fights to want to change the style," said Peterson. "If something is working, then you keep it working. We're going with what's working."
Williams has had the most troubles against fighters who are southpaws, sufrering his only other loss to left-hander Carlos Quintana, in February, 2008.
Williams regained his WBO championship four months later by stopping Quintana with 15 seconds left in the first round.
But Peterson was angered by the fact that Williams faced questions concerning his vulnerability entering the fight with Lara.
"Paul's gotten stopped in his last fight, and the media has nailed this guy to the cross," said Peterson. "I'm going to say that the media has done it. So he can't wait, I can't wait until this is resolved."
But there may have been more questions raised by his performance against Lara, who was coming off of a March 25 majority draw with tough, Mexican-born Carlos Molina.
After facing Lara, Molina 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.
On Saturday night, at Home Depot Center, Carson, California, Molina rose to 19-4-2 with six KOs after dominating former champion Kermit Cintron (32-4-1, 28 KOs), who returned after a 14 month layoff to a unanimous decision loss by scores of 98-92, 98-92, 98-92.
Hospitalized with similar damage over both eyes following his first bout against Martinez, Williams had hinted at retirement "after two or three fights" prior to facing Lara.
"When I retire, in about two years," said Williams, "they're going to say, 'He never ducked nobody.'"
But Williams still longs for a return bout against Martinez.
"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, dismissing a return bout against Lara.
"They never give me the gimme fights," Williams had said before facing Lara. "People say that I remind them of a throwback fighter, so that's what my legacy is going to be."