By Jake Donovan
The 2012 season premiere of Showtime Championship Boxing is officially underway, as all four televised fighters made weight for Saturday’s show live from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Headlining the telecast is a 12-round junior middleweight showdown between former two-division titlist Paul Williams and Japanese contender Nobuhiro Ishida. Both fighters honored the contracted 155 lb weight limit, Ishida making weight on the dot while Williams came in slightly lighter at 153.5 lb.
Williams (40-2-1, 27KO) was once referred to as boxing’s most avoided fighter, as he struggled to secure desired bouts at both welterweight and junior middleweight. However, the lanky southpaw has fallen on hard times as of late, beginning with his eyes-wide-shut knockout loss to Sergio Martinez in Nov. ’10, landing on the very wrong end of the Knockout of the Year.
Last year hardly went any better. Williams emerged victorious in his long ring appearance of 2011, but in a highly controversial decision as he was lucky to escape with the win against Erislandy Lara last July.
The back-to-back struggles leaves the burden of proof on Williams that – at just age 30 – he’s not yet done in the fight game.
Looking to send him spiraling further downward is Ishida (24-6-2, 9KO), who went from unheralded journeyman to overnight upset specialist on the strength of his first round knockout win over James Kirkland last April.
Ishida was brought in as cannon fodder for Kirkland, who was fighting for just the third time – albeit in the span of a month – after being out of the fight game for two years due to past legal troubles. The fight revealed just how far Kirkland had fallen off, getting caught early and never recovering as Ishida sent him to the canvas three times en route to a massive upset.
Unfortunately for the Asian import, he was unable to cash in on the success. Golden Boy Promotions, who now promotes him, alleges to have tried and failed to secure fights for Ishida, including an attempted rematch with Kirkland.
Some 10 months after the 36-year finally put his name on the map, he now gets his first Showtime headliner and a chance to land yet another shot heard ‘round the boxing world.
In the co-feature, all-action Tavoris Cloud defends his alphabet light heavyweight title against hard-luck ex-champ Gabriel Campillo of Spain.
Both fighters came in within the divisional limit. Cloud was exactly 175 lb, while Campillo checked in at 173.5, his lightest weight since moving back up to light heavyweight in 2009.
Cloud (23-0, 19KO) has developed a following as one of the potential breakout stars of tomorrow. Unbeaten, exciting and relatively young at age 30, the only problem the Floridian has endured is finding the right dance partner to further enhance his name.
For now, he settles for making the fourth defense of a belt he picked up in 2009 by outpointing former titlist Clinton Woods. Inactivity has continued to plague his career in the prime years, fighting just twice in 2010 – including a year-long break after winning the title – and just once last year.
The positive spin on that bad news is that his last two fights – wins over Glen Johnson and Yusaf Mack – have appeared live on HBO, with his co-feature slot on Showtime marking three straight premium cable appearances.
It’s more than can be said for Campillo (21-3-1, 8KO), who if not for bad luck wouldn’t have any at all.
It can easily be argued that the Spaniard’s record should run closer to 24-1 than its current mark. The ex-titlist is coming off of a controversial draw to Karo Murat last October in what was a rematch to his equally suspect split decision loss to the same fighter three years prior.
Where Campillo is best recognized in American circles is in his being held at gunpoint in his Jan. ’10 rematch with Beibut Shumenov. Campillo had his title stolen from him in front of a Fox Sports viewing audience, as Shumenov escaped Las Vegas with a criminally scored split decision.
A Cloud-Campillo showdown was initially pitched late last year, when Cloud was in search of a replacement opponent for Zsolt Erdei, who cited an injury in pulling out of their New Year’s Eve scheduled Showtime headliner. The idea of such a fight was met favorably in the court of public opinion, but was nevertheless nixed by Showtime, who opted to instead cancel the show altogether.
Serving as the lead-in to the SCB portion of the show, a new experiment by the company has Showtime Extreme presenting live undercard action.
Serving as the centerpiece of that segment is heavyweight contender Chris Arreola, who takes on Eric Molina in a 12-round heavyweight bout.
Arreola (34-2, 29KO) has won six straight since losing twice in the span of three fights. The larger-than-life Californian attempted to become the first fighter of Mexican descent to capture a portion of the heavyweight crown but failed miserably against Vitali Klitschko, suffering a humiliating 10th round stoppage in their Sept. ’09 title fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Two fights later, Arreola went from rebounding contender to heavyweight in peril after showing up ill-prepared in his majority decision loss to Tomasz Adamek in April ’10.
The loss continues to sting, but also served as a major wake up call. His conditioning has improved in each of his past four fights, and appears to be the case heading into Saturday’s stay-busy affair. Arreola weighed in at 245, slightly up from his past few fights but still not cause for major alarm.
He outweighs his opponent by nearly 20 lb., as the Texas-based Molina (18-1-1, 14KO) came in at a near career-heavy 228 lb.
The Showtime Extreme live bonus coverage begins at 8:00PM ET, leading directly into the flagship SCB series which airs live at 10:00PM ET.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]