It hasn’t really been a great week for boxing with Wladimir Klitschko beating David Haye by a unanimous boring decision in Germany on July 2 and Paul Williams winning a controversial majority decision over Erislandy Lara seven days later in Atlantic City.
The Klitcshcko-Haye bout, which was to unify the WBA, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles, was a monumental letdown because of all the trash talking Haye produced before the fight. If he would have fought just half as creatively in the ring as he did when coming up with insults for the Ukrainian giant we might have had a hell of a fight. Unfortunately, his tongue is sharper than his boxing skills.
As for the Williams vs Lara Jr. middleweight scrap at Boardwalk Hall, the consensus is that both of Lara’s hands should have been raised in the ring since was the victim of grand larceny. For those who watched the HBO broadcast on July 9, there was no other way to feel since the commentators Bob Papa, Max Kellerman, Roy Jones Jr., and Harold Lederman continuously told us so.
In fact, according to those four experts, Williams not only lost the fight decisively by a wide margin, but he should also retire. They have the right to their opinions and I respect that. But there were only three opinions that really mattered at ringside and they belonged to the judges who had the fight scored 114-114, 115-114, and 116-114.
I also believe Lara should have been given the nod because he landed the better shots while Williams missed the majority of his, landing just 19 per cent of them. But the real problem with the HBO commentary was the constant questioning of Williams’ place in the sport. Here we have a guy who’s just 29 years old with a 40-2 record with 27 knockouts. His two losses coming by unanimous decision to Carlos Quintana in 2008 and a brutal second-round KO loss to Sergio Martinez in his last fight in November.
But Williams has beaten some top opponents along the way, including a majority decision over Martinez in their first meeting and a first round TKO over Quintana in their rematch. He’s also beaten Winky Wright, Kermit Cintron, Verno Phillips, Antonio Margarito, Walter Matthysse, and Sharmba Mitchell, winning the WBO Welterweight crown with his win over Margarito.
Now, this isn’t a bad record at all, regardless of his gift decision win over Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs). I thought people like Williams are what the sport of boxing should be proud of, guys with a lot of heart, who are aggressive and give their best effort night in and night out. I also thought that boxing always meant hitting your opponent and getting hit back.
Obviously, boxers try to get hit as little as possible, but that’s what the sport’s about. No matter how good you are you’re going to get hit back. Williams got nailed with some solid shots by Lara, but he never appeared to be hurt or dazed once during the 12 rounds. Williams had a 10 lb. weight advantage, a five-inch height advantage, and about a 12-inch reach advantage. I’m sure if Lara’s punches were bothering him that much he would have changed his game plan to avoid getting nailed with the left hand.
But according to the HBO team, Williams was being battered from post to pillar and the honorable and smart thing for him to do after the fight would have been to retire. This is something I just don’t understand. Did they expect Williams to go 12 rounds without getting hit once and if he did suffer his third career defeat that was sufficient cause to retire?
Just because a fighter gets hit repeatedly during a bout and suffers cuts and a bloody nose it doesn’t mean he’s always in danger. Lara’s punches didn’t seem to have any effect on Williams as evidenced by his 12-round output of 1047 punches to Lara’s 530.
As I said, this isn’t about who won the fight, it’s about going too far when criticizing a boxer’s performance. I’m all for safety in the ring, but saying Williams should retire because of this fight is a little far-fetched. Just compare his heart and effort to that of Haye against Klitschko a week before and ask yourself who is a better advertisement for the sport.