Tall, athletic, fast, and capable of throwing an astonishing amount of leather in each round of each of his big fights, Paul “The Punisher” Williams was a superb fighter back in the years 2006 to 2010. Sadly, Williams’ career was cut short when he was left paralyzed in a motorbike accident, this in 2012. By then, however, the tall, long-limbed southpaw had more than made his mark on the sport.
There are a couple of key dates regarding Williams this month: he will turn 40 on July 27, and it was 14 years ago this week (July 14) when Paul turned in one of his best fighting performances, a 26 year old, approaching his peak Williams defeating the then feared Antonio Margarito by wide decision to win his first world title – the WBO welterweight crown. Even now, fans marvel at the way Williams could throw around a 100 punches a round, and we also wonder what would have happened had Williams got the big fights he wanted, with Floyd Mayweather especially (some said, and still say, Mayweather wanted nothing to do with Williams).
It came as a big shock when, in his next fight after besting “Tony,” Williams lost a decision to big outsider Carlos Quintana. Plenty of people said Williams should never fight at 147 pound again, that weight issues had played a major part in the defeat. But Williams knew better, and he showed his greatness in the immediate rematch when he destroyed Quintana inside a single round to get revenge.
Williams did move up soon enough, to 154, where he beat Verno Phillips to win the interim WBO belt. Then, with a keen eye on landing a super-fight with middleweight ruler Kelly Pavlik (this fight, like the Mayweather fight, alluding Paul), Williams move up to 160. Wins over Winky Wright and Sergio Martinez came.
But while there was zero debate about the decision Williams won over the outsized Wright, the majority decision win he picked up over Martinez was controversial. Before the demanded rematch, Williams defeated Kermit Cintron in an odd affair, where Cintron literally flew out of the ring in the fourth round, hitting his head and being unable to continue. Did Cintron fall or did he jump? The weird fight generated plenty of chatter among fight fans, let’s put it that way (Williams winning via TD).
Then the rematch with Martinez came – with the WBC and Ring Magazine middleweight titles on the line – and the Argentine scored THAT knockout. Williams, out as soon as Martinez’ left hand bomb landed, suffered a highlight reel second-round KO that was and is disturbing to watch.
Then, a close (not officially but in the minds of most fans) and controversial decision win over Erislandy Lara came, as did a wide decision win over Nobuhiro Ishida; before Paul suffered the life-changing crash. Williams was and is determined to walk again and he is today actively training young fighters.
So how great was “The Punisher?” The KO loss to Martinez hurts Williams’ legacy in the opinion of some, yet at his very best – wins over Margarito, Quintana, Wright, Phillips, Sharmba Mitchell, Walter Matthysse – Williams was a fantastic fighter. In fact, for a while, Williams was too good, too dangerous, for his own good.
Who today thinks Mayweather would have beaten Williams in, say, 2007 or 2008?
Williams’ final record reads an impressive 41-2(27). Whether you feel he was great or close to great, Williams was some amazing fighter.