By Cliff Rold
30-year old Jr. Middleweight Paul Williams (41-2, 27 KO) of Aiken, South Carolina, picked up his first real win since May 2010 on Saturday night at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas with a dominant unanimous decision over 36-year old Nobuhiro Ishida (24-7-2, 9 KO).
It was the first fight for Williams since a soundly dismissed split decision win over Cuban Erislandy Lara in July 2011. Ishida was hoping to ride the momentum of a huge 2011 knockout of contender James Kirkland but it was not to be.
Ishida came into the bout a pound over the Jr. Middleweight limit at 155, Williams just under at 153 ½ lbs. The referee was Jon Schorle.
Williams began the fight behind his long southpaw right jab but soon walked into a looping right hand counter to knock him off balance. Williams landed two clean rights near the corner but Ishida responded, back at center ring, with a nice lead left. Action slowed to a feeling out form as each man surveyed the other to finish the first round.
The second round brought some physical punches and physical comedy, Williams’ trunks slipping below his cup and hanging well below his knees. Schorle would eventually pause the bout to pull Williams’ trunks up. From distance, Williams was able to land and control the pace. In close, both men were landing, Ishida’s shots shorter and sharper.
Williams started the third with a harsh strong of punches, Ishida backed to the ropes. Pushing off, a tangle of feet saw Ishida briefly on the floor. Schorle ruled no knockdown and the fight resumed. Ishida was firing but not landing as often as Williams. A long Williams left hand drew an “ooh” from the crowd but Ishida took it well and had a sound reply. A counter right for Ishida rocked Williams in the final minute and a left hook buckled his knees, Williams quickly clinching.
Ishida again pasted Williams with the left hook in the fourth, waiting for the chances until the midway mark as Williams went on the offensive. In the final minute, an awkward clinch saw both men leaning on the rope and whipping shots at each other. A Williams right hook and straight left slammed home against Ishida on the ropes in the final seconds.
Both men traded blows at close quarters early in the fifth, Williams landing and throwing more. They traded wide hooks in the middle of the round and Williams kept hooking, blasting Ishida with shots. The sixth would settle into a phone booth, Ishida getting some work done but not enough to stem the Williams attack.
The pace ebbed a hair in the next two rounds but compared to most fights it was still guns blazing. Williams held serve in both the seventh and eighth but Ishida had moments with the right hand in the latter.
While Ishida never quit, and continued to fight hard, the fun of the early going waned down the stretch as it became clear Ishida could never really get into range of victory. He had a spirited eleventh but Williams stayed a step ahead with his consistent whirlwind of activity. The fight closed to a round of applause as the academic verdict was tallied.
The final totals favored Williams at a perfect 120-108 across the board for Williams. Williams was happy with the win and called for future clashes with Jr. Middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez, Middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez, and even a rubber match with World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez.
Martinez and Williams split two memorable encounters, Williams winning a non-title decision that saw both men on the floor in 2009 only to suffer a second-round knockout loss in their 2010 rematch following Martinez’s capturing of the World Middleweight title against Kelly Pavlik.
It was a stark contrast with the heinous finish of its co-feature on the card.
33-year old Gabriel Campillo put on a clinic in the televised opener. When the scores were read, he probably felt like he needed to visit a clinic to cleanse the plague cast on his house.
Rising from two first round knockdowns, Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KO), 173.5, of Madrid, Spain, outboxed and outfought 30-year old IBF Light Heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KO), 175, of Tallahassee, Florida, only to fall victim to a terrible split decision verdict that casts yet more shame on a sport that just can’t get its officiating in order. It was a good fight. The stench of the outcome will obscure that fact.
The referee was Mark Nelson who, along with the judge who would ultimately award the bout to Campillo, was the only official who did his job.
Cloud started the fight with a swift, sticking left jab, bringing the fight to a loose, observant Campillo. Campillo absorbed a left and right towards the corner and slipped away. Just past the halfway mark of the round, Cloud came over the top with a huge right hand and Campillo rocketed towards the floor. His face wearing a look of surprise, Campillo rose to his haunches and rose to meet the referee at the count of five.
Cloud charged and continued the attack, a left near the ropes rocking an off balance Campillo. Ruling only the ropes had kept Campillo up, the referee jumped in and began another eight count. With less than a minute to go, Cloud wearing a smile, Campillo moved and covered up to survive and get to his corner.
Campillo came out focused for the second, his typical calm replaced with movement and a hope for solutions. He missed a southpaw lead left and was caught with a hard right counter form Cloud. Cloud took a step back and Campillo came forward with the jab. Before he could get comfortable, Cloud returned to pressing but then returned to moving back and Campillo began to land with his right jab and left hand. Finding his stride, Campillo came down the pipe with a beautiful left and later a slick right uppercut.
Cloud was still oddly in a boxing posture to start the third, Campillo's jab beginning to flow. A hard right to the body landed for Campillo and then a left and right. Campillo’s combinations were coming, and landing, even as Cloud went north. Cloud was being trapped in a high guard, waiting for Campillo to finish punching before he would attempt to throw. Campillo easily rolled a couple of rights from Cloud and struck with a five-punch combination to the head and body in the final thirty seconds.
His lead from the first round almost erased, Cloud remembered to double his jab and started to land the right again early in the fourth. A counter right inside forced a step back from Campillo and he took two more against the ropes. Going backwards, Cloud was caught in the Campillo stream; going forward, he was able to land parts of a power volley along the ropes, his body shots landing best. A Cloud left hook turned Campillo near the corner but there was little behind it. In terms of rounds, Cloud appeared to even the affair. With two knockdowns, advantage remained but he went to the corner with a small cut over the left eye.
Campillo’s long, straight shots kept Cloud pinned down on the outside early in the fifth. Cloud’s body shots lacked thunder; the same could not be said for a Campillo who was getting good extension when he went downstairs. Cloud landed a left hook to the face of a backpedaling Campillo but down the stretch it was Campillo countering the socks off of Cloud. With seconds to go, Campillo caught Cloud in the corner with a flurry and then was tagged with a counter hook. Both men nodded at each other at the bell, Cloud smiling at the force of his closing blow.
Round six began with two ill-intentioned lead rights from Cloud. Neither landed flush. Jabbing and coming forward, Cloud landed a left hook and kept throwing at a well-kept guard. Campillo landed a sweat praying counter uppercut. Both men did a fine job making each other miss for a lengthy spread during the last two minutes of the round, landed blows kept mostly singular for both men.
In the seventh, Campillo backed Cloud up with a volume of shots into the corner, a Cloud hook breaking the wave. His turn to go on offense, Cloud went forward and attacked only for Campillo to answer back again. Blood flowing freely from Cloud’s eye, Campillo backed Cloud into the ropes with a series of shots. Again, Cloud exploded off with a big hook. Campillo spent the last thirty seconds working off the ropes, yet another uppercut whipping into the chin of Cloud.
His right eye also beginning to swell, Cloud came out hard in the eighth, a left jab knocking Campillo off balance. Campillo reset and went to work, a right hook landing at center ring with more leather behind it. Cloud backed Campillo to the ropes with a pair of lefts but couldn’t keep him there. In the last minute, Campillo began working Cloud over in the corner and along the ropes, following Cloud to ring center before Cloud responded with a hard salvo to back him off.
Action slowed a tad in the ninth but Campillo maintained his firm control of the affair. Relaxed and fluid, Campillo landed when he let go and Cloud found himself struggling to land more than an occasional, and weakened, body blow. Cloud came no closer to finding an answer to the riddle in front of him in round ten, his first round explosion forgotten and a knockout growing necessary to save his belt.
It was nowhere close to coming in the eleventh and, after a clash of heads, Cloud’s had a second cut over the left eye. He insisted on continuing as the ring doctor was called in to look. The doctor agreed and action resumed. Suddenly Cloud was on the attack and letting both hands go but he was struggling to land and Campillo was grinning. A furious exchange ensued at mid-ring. Following Cloud to the ropes, Campillo clowned for just a moment and was rocked with a flush right hand, Cloud’s best punch since the first. Campillo stayed up but Cloud may have narrowed the gap with his last minute rally.
Boxing with extreme caution, Campillo let Cloud make the fight in the final round until the final minute. Three bursts of combination punching over the last sixty seconds closed the show and Campillo raised his gloves in victory in the last ten seconds. He awaited the verdict of the judges to see if he was correct.
Boos began as soon as the crowd heard the words “split decision” leave the mouth of announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. The first score read was a just one at 115-111 from Denny Nelson. It was followed by a criminally inept 116-111 for Cloud from David Robertson. Joel Elizondo delivered the final blow to Campillo at 114-112. Campillo sunk to his corner with grief before rising to soak in the cheers of the crowd. Cloud’s mother passed out, likely as shocked as the crowd at the verdict.
Cloud said his mother was a tough woman and would be okay at the start of the post-fight interview, a brief moment of levity in a bad situation. Asked if he believed he won, Cloud said yes. “I dropped him several times in the fight. I was the aggressor throughout the fight. He’s a good fighter…but he cannot take a punch. He a decent fighter and everything but I feel I won the fight. I don’t think he did enough to take my title.” Asked if he would be willing to take a rematch, Cloud said yes but only conditionally. “If the crowd feel he deserves another rematch, we’ll give him a rematch later on. As for now, we’re on to bigger and better things.”
Campillo couldn’t be stopped from his ongoing victory lap around the ring for his interview right away. When he did pause, he wore a bemused look as he explained that he felt he’d won the fight after the early knockdowns. He stated he wanted an immediate rematch and he certainly earned it.
For the third time dating back to a 2010 heist of his WBA belt against Beibut Shumenov, Campillo found himself on the wrong side of a bad decision. A draw against Karo Murat looked like anything but as well. Campillo could well today hold the WBA and IBF belts and have a case for being the best Light Heavyweight in the world beyond World Champion Bernard Hopkins.
Damn the verdicts. Doesn’t he anyways?
The card was televised in the U.S. on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Goosen-Tutor Promotions in association with Don King Productions.
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]