He was at or near the top of everyone’s Most Avoided List, back in 2006, and for good reason. Paul Williams, with freakishly long arms sewed on to a ridiculously elongated torso, presented a challenge for boxers that was easier sidestepped than solved.

It would take a genetic freak like Williams, it was said in some circles, mine included, to give Floyd Mayweather Jr. a real run for his Money. Drooling scouts saw Williams could hold a smaller man at bay, while potshotting frequently, utilizing  a far-above-average work rate.

There was nothing but upside to Paul Williams (34-1, 25 KOs) many thought. Until we saw a downside. Or thought we did, anyway.

The downside fight came on February 9, 2008. It came against Carlos Quintana, on nobody’s Most Avoided, or Budding Stars list.

Capable vet, yes.

Slick boxer, yes. But likely to upset the Genetic Freak? No dice.

But it happened. The slick vet fought like a budding star, put together a smart gameplan and executed it with precision and discipline. And Williams help Quintana along, inadvertently. At 6-2, the Georgia resident fought Quintana at welterweight. We didn’t see a problem with that, really, until it became a problem. Williams lacked energy. The work rate plummeted. He lost a decision, unanimously, and lost the WBO welterweight crown he had wrested from Antonio Margarito seven months prior. And he was removed from the Most Avoided lists, and dropped down, waaaay down, the Budding Stars list.

The pundits pounced. They—OK, we—paraded our “knowledge,” not in cruel “I told you so” fashion, but coming from a sensible place that told us: a 6-2 man, one without an eating disorder, is not meant to weigh 147 pounds. Not enough calories being taken in for someone so large, expending so much energy, we reasoned.

But no, Williams then told us. It wasn’t the weight that had me looking bad against Quintana. I just didn’t get my rhythm. I can make 147.

He could’ve used the scale as an excuse for looking crummy against Quintana, but instead he manned up, stayed at 147, and made us pundits look as fallible as we are. He whacked out Quintana (TKO1) in a rematch, in June; suddenly, as quickly as we’d bumped him off our gold star lists, we re-inserted him.

Next, the ultra-fallible punditry presumed, a high-stakes tussle would come for Williams. Maybe a rematch with Margarito, who deemed his loss to Williams controversial, as did many ringsiders who saw the bout at the Home Depot Center. Maybe Cotto, if the Puerto Rican did away with Margarito in that encounter. The name of Oscar De la Hoya was even floated, some say merely as a ploy to exert leverage on Team Pacquiao to take less to fight ODLH. So it came as a great surprise when the name of Williams’ next foe, the one that would propel him up a few more rungs on the Budding Stars list, was released.

Andy Kolle.

Not even sure how you pronounce that last name. A scan at Boxrec tells you his nickname is “Kaos,” and confirms why his name doesn’t ring an immediate bell. The 17-1 record amassed by the Minnesota boxer isn’t built on the most sturdy of foundations. Yes, he holds win over Matt Vanda, but that would’ve meant a bit more in 2004, not so much in 2008. There’s a loss to Andre Ward, too.

Nope, Williams vs. Kolle on Sept. 25 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Ca., to be televised on Versus, is not exactly a high-stakes scrap. But it does confirm one thing for us pundits, and you faithful fans of Long, Tall Paul: Williams is again high atop the Most Avoided list.

Is he bummed out? Is he depressed that he and promoter Dan Goossen couldn’t lure Margarito back for another crack? Doesn’t seem like it. Instead, Williams is taking this stay busy fight with Kolle at 160 pounds, and is announcing his intention to play weight class hopscotch.

Goossen explained on a conference call the plan for Williams moving forward.
 “Paul is now looking to add to his resume from the standpoint of simultaneously fighting within the 147?pound to 168?pound division,” the California-based promoter said. “Originally we were looking only from 147 to 160, and Paul added that he believes any good challenges that can be made for him up to 168 pounds is on the table. I want to make it perfectly clear to everyone, and to quell the rumors that Paul cannot make 147 pounds any longer is incorrect.  He and his trainer, George Peterson will confirm to everyone that Paul can and still will make 147 pounds, and that he doesn’t want to give up his WBO 147?pound title.”

Williams was asked if he was disappointed that a Margarito rematch, or another mega-match couldn’t be made.

“No, I'm not upset I'm not fighting a big name,” he said.  “Because I'm moving up in weight.  The big guys, and the big names and the big weights, they didn't want it.  So we're still looking for bigger guys. Hey, we'll take Andy.  He's a worthy opponent.  He'll get in there and get it on.  I'm still fighting 147, too.”

Goossen picked up from there.  “But you know what guys?  Bottom line is, the guys with the big names didn't want it. The reason most fighters turn down the chance to fight Paul is because he is feared.  It’s not based upon money because Paul generates money for his challengers.  If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have been able to offer Margarito a $4 million plus guarantee.  It boils down to being the most feared fighter in the world.  Paul’s time will come where no one will be able to turn down a fight with him. So we're not going to sit around and wait for them and say, okay, we'll fight them when they’re ready.  No, we're going to keep moving.”

Smart, but risky. Staying sharp is a good idea. Don’t get soft, mentally and physically. But even a journeyman with some skills and experience can pull a rabbit out of his trunks, and drain the magic out of a career with a single swat.

Goossen then shed some light on the choice to fight the unknown Kolle, and made clear that this isn’t merely an exercise in rust repellence.

“Paul understands that the pool of fighters willing to fight him is very limited,” Goossen said.  “He’s not the most feared man in boxing for nothing.  Now to get a little more specific with your question, Collazo, Judah, Mosely, Margariito, Baldomir, you name it, we asked.  It never came down to a matter of money.  It was a matter of they just didn't want to get into the ring with Paul.  Who blames them, right? So rather than sitting back and peeling off two or three HBO dates a year, we're looking to keep Paul busy and to create opportunities. The fight with Kolle will answer some questions and hopefully open up new opportunities.  People are going to see how does Paul handle a fighter that's naturally bigger such as Andy Kolle, which would have been the same questions that would have been asked if he had fought Pavlik.  We've got all the confidence in the world in Paul Williams and when you see Kolle fight, you'll be able to see he would give any middleweight a run for his money. Andy comes to fight, and doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him.  He's a real fighter and one picked for a purpose, which is to show that Paul Williams is serious moving up and down in weight for specific challenges.”

You can ask Roy Jones how skipping up and down in weight worked for him. Going to 160, then maybe 168, and then down to 147, is draining physically and mentally. Spending so much energy on the scale isn’t conducive to achieving a desired level of mental preparedness.

But apparently Goossen and Williams have determined that by increasing the size of the pond they’re fishing in, the likelihood of landing a whale like a Pavlik or maybe a Winky Wright skyrockets. You gotta do what you gotta do when you’re on top the Most Avoided list.