It’s hard to make a case for yourself as being one of the pound for pound elite when in your last two fights, you’ve faced off with Andy Kolle and Verno Phillips. Lord knows, I intend no disrespect to either man; Phillips especially has put together a long career, and is seen in all circles as a game, durable vet who will give anyone a stern rumble.
But arguing the case for Paul Williams being among the game’s pound for pound elite would be that much easier if he had gloved up against some of the folks that his promoter Dan Goossen has tried to entice into facing off with Long Tall Paul. If Antonio (The Alleged Master of the Plaster Disaster) Margarito had decided to have another go at Williams (instead of taking $2 million less, as Goossen maintains, to fight Mosley), and Williams had beaten him conclusively, that would make Goossen’s case, that RIGHT NOW, Williams should be in the Top 3 on P4P lists, an easier sell.
Or if Oscar De La Hoya, or Shane Mosley, or Kermit Cintron (before Margarito reached down his throat and extracted his gonads in April 2008) had stepped in with Williams, and the Georgian had taken a couple of them out, then Goossen’s contention would go down more smoothly.
“You can be a Cy Young award winner on a last-place team,” is Goossen’s analogy, and he has a bit of a point. In his view, Williams should not be penalized because the sport’s elite have decided it is smarter for them, both monetarily and perhaps physically, to take less dough and fight anyone. Then again, an ace pitcher on a last-place ballclub gets the chance to stack up against other ‘A’ level teams, and pitchers over the course of 162 MLB games, so we are able to compare and contrast his skill-set.
Anyway, it can’t be denied that the lefty with the freakishly long arms has been avoided like the Madoffs at the country club. “Paul’s legacy and his status among the pound for pound best can’t be based on who won’t fight him,” Goossen maintains.
Yes, Goossen and Williams have been having a dickens of a time getting marquee names to sign on the dotted line across from the 27-year-old these last couple of years. And while I think Williams probably deserves to receive more P4P consideration, and will have that by the end of a stellar 2009, it’s a hard sell to TSS Universe. TSS U will point out, if I know them at all, that Williams’ signature win was a disputed victory, over Antonio Margarito in 2007. And his second best win comes over Carlos Quintana, whose own best win had been over Joel Julio, before he snagged a UD12 upset win over Williams in February 2008. And while TSS U gives props for the Henry Armstrong-ish division hopping that Williams has engaged in recently-—he went from welter against Carlos Quintana in June 2008 (TKO1 win) to middleweight against Andy Kolle three months later (TKO1 win)—they’d give the feat higher marks if Kolle were someone like…oh, Winky Wright.
Speaking of which……Wright, who we last saw dropping a UD12 to Bernard Hopkins in July 2007, it turns out he hasn’t transitioned into promotion full time. He still believes that at age 37, despite taking 2008 off, he can knock a young gun like Williams off.
Speaking of whom…
On April 11 in Vegas, we’ll be able to toss some of these strained analogies, and guesses masquerading as theories, because we will see what Winky has left, and what Williams can do against the trickiest foe he has yet faced.
Williams vs. Wright, young gun on the cusp of stardom, versus another of these pesky vets who have decided to neither burn out, nor fade away, and have demanded that the next generation of aspiring all-stars earn their spot by volition, rather than attrition.
Wright has a 51-4 mark, and he hasn’t been stopped in any of those defeats. Goossen thinks that Williams will be the first to stop Winky inside the distance; if Williams is able to do this, then that is a prominent scalp he can boast.
“To Winky’s credit, he’s taking up the challenge,” Goossen said. “It’s a megafight, for both fighters. And you can’t just think about the fight in terms of youth versus age, not after we saw Pavlik/Hopkins and Margarito/Mosley. And you can’t look at the inactivity of Winky, look at Leonard versus Hagler (Leonard was off for three years and beat Hagler in 1987).”
Goossen says we should all be bumping Williams up our P4P lists when Williams takes out Winky. “They’re talking pound for pound top five for Mosley, and Winky has beaten him twice,” he said.
I agree with Goossen. Two and a half years ago, before Williams had an off night against Quintana, and his bandwagon lost about 80% of its passengers, I wrote that Williams was the sort of specimen who would be the type to hand Floyd Mayweather his first loss. It would take someone with exceptional traits: absurd reach, monster cardio, Teflon chin. I still hold to that belief, and think Williams will beat, but not stop the crafty Wright on April 11. He will then advance a few notches on P4P lists, but won’t rocket upwards, because people will point to the crust of rust adhering to Wright. But the win will pretty up Williams’ resume, and force some of those folks who’ve been giving him the Heisman arm to drop the stiff arm, and glove up against Long Tall Paul. This is the most important fight of Williams’ career, because the field is open for new stars to stake their claim.
Back in 2007, Mayweather and De La Hoya’s immense shadows kept the spotlight off up ‘n comers. Now, Manny Pacquiao owns the stage as boxing’s best and brightest. But he casts a 140 pound shadow, and so in a nation which often equates size with supremacy, auditions for some beefier standard-bearers are ongoing. There is a spot on the stage for an American hitter who’s a threat from 147 to 168 pounds, a space with Paul Williams’ name on it, as far as I’m concerned.
But enough of my guesswork. Throw some of your guesses out there, TSS U. Is Williams underrated because he’s been avoided like a skunk at a backyard bbq? Can he beat Wright, or will Winky inflict a painful lesson on a not-ready-for-primetime contender? Fire away!