Paul Williams Enters The Proving Stage

By Matthew Hurley: After IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron injured his right hand in a shaky but successful title defense against Jesse Feliciano in November his proposed February unification bout with WBO champion Paul ‘The Punisher’ Williams was scrapped. Cintron went on the disabled list but still found time to call out nearly every fighter in and around the welterweight limit with the exception of Williams. Ultimately, Cintron got a rematch with former champion Antonio Margarito, who knocked him out in the fifth round of their first bout back in 2005, and Williams, who defeated Margarito for the title, was left scrambling for a dance partner..

For several years Margarito was deemed by many to be ‘the most feared man’ in the welterweight division. By defeating the Tijuana native in a very close decision Williams, 33-0 with 24 KOs, by way of the victory and Cintron’s apparent avoidance of him, was crowned with that sobriquet by many writers and fans. Indeed, the sheer physical dimensions of Williams will present problems for any fighter. At a listed six foot one (although some say six-foot two and a half) with an eighty-two inch wingspan Williams’ elongated body type is even more freakish than Thomas Hearns’ when the famed ‘Hitman’ was terrorizing the welterweight division back in the early eighties. Couple that with a southpaw stance and it is little wonder that managers or rival promoters would be unwilling to put their fighter in the ring with him.

The fact remains, however, that as talented and imposing as he is Williams still has a lot to prove and being christened boxing’s ‘most feared man’ is a little misleading when one realizes that the victory over Margarito was only a little over six months ago and his list of past opponents does not exactly resemble a Murderer’s Row. Missing out on the opportunity to unify the belts with Cintron is grounds for frustration but hardly an indication that the entire division is ducking him.

Looked at from a different perspective, Cintron’s desire to get back in the ring to avenge his defeat at the hands of Margarito can be viewed as proof of his championship mettle – or the overestimation of his chances by his trainer Emanuel Steward. Regardless, it will further clear the air in the talent-rich welterweight division which could easily produce a number one contender for Ring Magazine champion Floyd Mayweather by the years end.

Williams will defend his title against Carlos Quintana, 24-1 with 19 KOs this Saturday night on HBO’s Boxing After Dark and it is a perfect opportunity for him to further his cause. In order to firmly establish bragging rights as the number one man in the division a resume has to be established and Williams hasn’t even made one successful title defense yet. The potential is certainly there but only impressive victories under his belt will force the hands of fighters like Cintron, Margarito, WBA champion Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and, to an extent, Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather remains the exception to every rule because in the end he will do whatever he wants regardless of whether it is right or not. He seems more interested in cashing out now that his star status is in full bloom.

Should Williams defeat Quintana then he should ride the momentum and schedule a second defense immediately if a more lucrative bout with one of the other champions is not forthcoming. Activity in the ring will only enhance his burgeoning skills and promote his visibility to those boxing fans who don’t quite yet know just how good he really is. With every subsequent victory he will inch closer to a big money, break through bout. It will come because boxing fans are now demanding stellar match ups and promoters, always more concerned with self-interest, are realizing that it is in fact in their best interest to give the fans what they want.

Williams, only twenty-six years old, is coming to understand and accept this. He’s already experienced the ecstasy of winning a title belt from a respected champion and had the rug taken out from beneath his feet when the lucrative Cintron bout fell apart. He may clench his fists in frustration at the perception that he is being avoided by his peers but turning himself into the proverbial 147 pound elephant in the welterweight division by wreaking havoc among the other contenders will eventually propel him into a mega-fight where he can prove once and for all if he truly is the elite boxer of his class.

Article posted on 08.02.2008

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