The long arms of the law return to Southern California when WBO welterweight titleholder Paul Williams brings his 82-inch reach back into a local prize ring.

He likes California.

“I got a lot of love from fans in Southern California,” said Williams, a South Carolina native.

Williams (33-0, 24 KOs) steps in the ring to defend his title against Puerto Rico’s left-handed slickster Carlos Quintana (24-1, 19 KOs on Feb. 9 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. Goossen-Tutor Promotions are staging the fight card that will be shown on HBO.

It’s bad enough that Williams stands about 6-2 in height and is left-handed, but that wingspan makes it doubly tough to get inside his constant battering attack.

“He can hit you from across the ring,” cracks George Peterson his trainer.

It was Peterson who urged Williams to trek across the country in search of sparring sessions with different styles and different weight classes.

“My trainer wants me to face all kinds of styles so he takes me every where so I don’t get surprised inside the ring,” said Williams, 26, who has sparred and trained in Washington D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles. “You can only learn a style by facing it in the ring.”

Los Angeles is the place where he took part in the infamous sparring session with Mexico’s rugged Antonio Margarito a few years back. Only a few bystanders witnessed that intense encounter in the now defunct L.A. Boxing Club.

That sparring session became the spark that led to a forest fire and an eventual meeting with Margarito.

“Everybody knows that story now,” says Williams who is training in Puerto Rico. “That’s how I got my break.”

Last year, Margarito had vanquished Joshua Clottey and won the right to meet Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden. It would have meant millions for Margarito. But he hated the words tossed in the Internet about him being afraid to face Williams. He opted for less money and took the fight that he eventually lost last July in Carson, California.

“Margarito had been avoided for years and he didn’t want to do the same thing to Paul Williams,” said Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions.

The win by Williams upset the machinations set up by Margarito’s promoters Top Rank and forced the Las Vegas company to ink Shane Mosley instead. The eventual win over the Pomona boxer has made Cotto a big name in boxing.

Williams changed the boxing landscape with his win over Margarito.

The fight between Williams and Margarito took place at the Home Depot Center last July. A packed crowd saw Williams speed ahead in rounds by using a machine gun jab that found a landing on Margarito’s head for five rounds.

Then it was Margarito’s turn.

From round six to round 11, the fighter known as the Tijuana Tornado took over the lead and landed ferocious shots to the body and head. Williams teetered a couple of times but refused to fall. The judges gave the victory to Williams who battled and won the last round on all three judges score cards.

“I started too late,” said Margarito, who admits he made a mistake in letting Williams gain too many rounds. “He won the fight.”

Williams says he learned a lot that night from Margarito.

“I learned a lot from that fight about being a champion,” said Williams by telephone from Puerto Rico where he’s training once again. “Margarito came on strong the way a champion is supposed to. I’ve got to be like him.”

The South Carolina native knows that Quintana is a former world champion and expects the same intensity that he encountered with Margarito.

“I can’t take this Carlos Quintana for granted,” said Williams. “He’s a former world champion. I know now that champions keep coming.”

Female fight card

An all female fight card takes place on Thursday Feb. 7, at Pechanga Resort and Casino.

Heading the list of fighters will be Chevelle Hallback meeting Melissa Hernandez for the vacant IFBA lightweight title.

Hallback, who holds the IBA and WIBA junior lightweight titles, had her fight with Terri Blair at Pechanga voted Fight of the Year in 2007. Three years earlier, Hallback also was involved in a Fight of the Year candidate against Layla McCarter. She’s simply an entertaining all-action boxer with tremendous skills.

Others on the card will be welterweight champion Holly Holm, featherweight champion Lisa Brown and an engaging lightweight fight between Jennifer Barber and Oxnard’s Crystal Morales.

“I’m so excited about this fight,” said Morales, who works for the city of Oxnard when she’s not training. “We’ve sparred before.”

As an amateur, Morales fought for Mexico’s junior Olympic team and competed against other countries.

Barber is also a former amateur champion who won the National P.A.L. championship and National Golden Gloves.

“I know she likes to stick and move so that’s what I’m preparing for,” said Morales.

Tickets for the fight are on sale now. (877) 711-2946.

Fast Eddie Loses

Eddie Chambers lost the heavyweight elimination bout to Russia’s Alex Povetkin in Berlin, Germany last weekend.

Povetkin walked through an early pummeling from Chambers in the first four rounds, then out-worked the faster Chambers for the remaining eight rounds in decisive fashion.

Chambers, who seemed to have the quicker hands and feet, was content to absorb punches and wait until Povetkin was finished firing. Then he would counterpunch with accurate punches. The tactic worked for a while but the Russian heavyweight found a remedy and adapted to a style of combination punches then quickly moving out of range. Chambers seemed unable to adapt to Povetkin’s changes.

It was frustrating at times to see Chambers refuse to attack. Perhaps he sustained a painful shot that made him hesitant to exchange with the beefy Povetkin. In the end the Russian fighter never stopped punching. Chambers slowed down considerably and lost the fight.

One trainer in Southern California said it might be due to Chamber’s trainer Buddy McGirt.

“You might blame it on the cooler,” said Art Carrillo, who trains heavyweights. “Buddy McGirt has built a reputation as a guy who cools off hot fighters.”

He has a point. McGirt didn’t do much good for Lamon Brewster.

Povetkin will now fight the winner between IBF titleholder Wladimir Klitschko and WBO titleholder Sultan Ibragimov that takes place on Feb. 23.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Monte Meza-Clay (26-1) vs. Eric Aiken (16-6-1).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Mario Santiago (18-1) vs. Edel Ruiz (28-18-5).

Fri. Showtime, 10 p.m., Alfredo Angulo (11-0) vs. Ricardo Cortes (22-1-1).