LAS VEGAS – A sliver of sunshiny optimism has slipped through the cloud of frustration under which Paul Williams has boxed for several years.
After a remarkably one-sided victory over Winky Wright that clearly put Williams among the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters, the Punisher is hopeful that boxing’s big names from 147 to 168 pounds finally will stop ignoring him and start calling him.
“I’m hot,” Williams said. “Somebody is going to have to step up to the plate if they want to eat. All of those guys, they’ve got to call me out now. I’m tired of calling people out.”
But perhaps Williams ought to watch the tape of his masterful middleweight performance against Wright at Mandalay Bay on Saturday night.
What welterweight, middleweight or any weight who values his career would be eager to take on the man who can do what Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) did to one of the best defensive fighters in the sport?
After winning a blowout victory on all three judges’ cards with a storm of 1,086 punches, Williams still might be cursed to remain the most avoided fighter in boxing. His unique physical skills simply set him apart: Stingily listed at 6 feet 1 inches, he’s far too tall and rangy for most welterweights, yet he’s too quick and active for most middleweights.
What’s more, his style is equally perplexing to opponents of every size.
While using his height and reach advantages to prevent his opponents from fighting inside, he bobs his head and moves his upper body with frenetic energy for nearly every second of his bouts, rarely holding still long enough for an opponent even to establish a jab.
“He’s not awkward,” said Dan Goossen, his promoter. “He just happens to move his head. Good defense, it’s called.”
But Williams’ biggest problem in landing the biggest fights? He’s still not famous enough to attract opponents strictly for the glory or the paycheck – although that also could change if fight fans keep catching on to his remarkable skills.
The Mandalay Bay Events Center was only about half-full for the card, and some of those fans raised chants of Wright’s name. By the 12th round, they stood and applauded Williams’ dominant display in his first main-event fight in Las Vegas.
Only one boxer in the world could be taken seriously when he says he’s equally able to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Bernard Hopkins. Williams claims he’s perfectly comfortable fighting at 147, 154 or 160 pounds, noticing no difference in his strength or mobility – and he even said he’d gladly move up to 168 or 170 if the right fight presented itself.
“It’s no different but the eating part,” Williams insisted. “I still have the same game plan. I really don’t care. It all feels the same to me.”
Williams isn’t just looking for the biggest payday. He’s eager to go back to welterweight to reclaim his WBO title belt, which he feels was wrongly taken from him after he reclaimed it last summer with a first-round knockout of Carlos Quintana, the only fighter to beat him.