The enigma that is Paul Williams.
By now, it's become a cliche to name Paul Williams the "most avoided fighter in boxing". It's a title he's unofficially held for a few years now. The list of champions who have seemingly avoided him is long and illustrious. Everyone from Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley have, at one time or another, been accused of ducking the southpaw out of Augusta, Georgia.
Some people have even called out Manny Pacquiao for not facing Williams.
With good reason.
He's a relentless and very tall southpaw who keeps his jab continually in his opponent while blistering him with solid straight left hands. His height has caused problems for so many fighters and his hand speed is blinding. For a tall man, Williams has excellent stamina and rarely tires in a twelve round fight.
Some people have dubbed him 'the next Tommy Hearns', but I don't think that's fair to Hearns or Williams.
Yes, both were overly tall fighters, but that's where the similarities ends. Hearns was one of the most devastating one-punch knockout artists of all-time. His right hands turned world champions into bed wetters. He was molded out of the Motor City and contained the stuff of Mack trucks.
Hearns must be considered one of the all-time greats. He held battles against Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, and Iran Barkley. His career record was an unbelievable 61-5-1. Unbelievable because he fought actively until he was forty one years old with a couple of wins coming at the age of 46 and 47. When you consider the level of competition he faced, that's a very impressive record.
Paul Williams is a fighter that could be one of the all-time greats.
He has substantial wins against the likes of Antonio Margarito and Winky Wright. The lone blemish on his record is a unanimous decision loss against Carlos Quintana — a loss he quickly avenged with a subsequent one round knockout of Quintana.
I was of the opinion that Williams was on the road to greatness and would someday be talked about within the company of a Marvin Hagler or Tommy Hearns.
I just don't know.
The reason is simple — Sergio Martinez.
The same Sergio Martinez that Williams fought on December 5th of 2009.
The same Sergio Martinez that knocked Williams down and continually landed big, big shots leading to a close 12-round decision for Williams.
In my opinion, their brawl was the fight of the year. Undoubtedly they're scheduling a rematch. It could turn into a trilogy in the vein of Gatti-Ward. That's a very, very tall order but these guys are like two pit bulls in a phone booth. They just don't let up.
I thought Martinez should have won the fight. Williams was more active, but Martinez continually landed the bigger shots.
There's one thing that can now be said about Williams — nobody will ever accuse him of having a glass chin. How he stayed up after some of those right hands is beyond me.
Nor, should anyone ever question his heart. He was relentless all night long, even while Martinez was teeing off on him.
But, it exposed Williams as a fighter that does have some weaknesses.
He is very, very susceptible to a right hook counter off his left. Martinez continually rocked him all night with that punch.
He also doesn't have the knockout power of someone like a Tommy Hearns. He never really hurt Martinez and his one knockdown seemed more like a slip to me.
It could be that Sergio Martinez is that good of a fighter. He only has two losses against Margarito and Williams (although any losses to Margarito are now suspect due to his use of hand casts). People have dubbed him one of the most avoided fighters in the sport.
My judgement is still out on whether Williams will join the legions of legends or be remembered as a Pernell Whitaker type of fighter. Very good, but not quite Hall of Fame caliber.
He needs to get in the ring with some world-class level of fighters. To me, that means Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao, Hopkins, or Mosley.
He's a risk for any of those fighters. They face a very real possibility of losing to him. But, he's not a 'name' right now. Paul Williams won't bring in an extra 500,000 PPV buys. The general public knows nothing about him and there certainly won't be the hype of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
For now, it looks like he'll have a rematch against Sergio Martinez and possibly a fight against Kelly Pavlik. Those would be excellent fights under any conditions. Although I'm a bit surprised that Pavlik would want to fight him while he's seemingly recovering from his loss to Bernard Hopkins.
There are a host of other fighters at the 160 lb (middleweight) or 168 lb (Super Middleweight) classes that would be excellent fights for Williams. I'd especially like to see him line-up against Lucien Bute or Carl Froch. Undoubtedly those fights would be huge across Canada and Europe and they would be extremely entertaining.
Until then, Williams is Cinderella without a glass slipper. The prettiest girl around, but can't get into the ball.