Recently reports have surfaced on Ring Magazine's web-site and on-line newspaper sites that former welterweight/middleweight title holder Paul Williams 39-2 (27) is possibly looking to return to the ring in late April. It's been a little over three months since Williams fought Sergio Martinez 46-2-2 (25) and was knocked out with one punch in the second round and lost his WBC middleweight title.
The fact that Williams is anxious to get back in the ring and face a live opponent as his management suggests, is a good sign. The only speculation seems to be at what weight Williams will fight. Apparently he can still make the welterweight limit and that's where the two biggest names in boxing, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, currently campaign. No doubt a fight with Pacquiao is much more realistic than one with Mayweather is, provided Williams doesn't encounter any setbacks in his next few bouts.
Right now the biggest obstacle in front of Williams, 29, is shaking off the psychological effects of the sudden and crushing knock out he suffered at the hands of Martinez. And regardless of what Paul says, he's asking himself questions he's never had to before after a fight. One of the hardest things for an upper-tier world class fighter to shed is a crippling knockout defeat, especially the first time it happens. And before getting to that, let's be clear about one thing, it was a lottery punch landed by Martinez that put Williams away. Martinez threw the knockout punch as blindly as Paul caught it. It wasn't an intentional, well timed punch. He was looking away when he threw it. But the fight wasn't going Paul's way at all. In fact, both fighters looked reckless and sloppy, and both of them leave their heads hanging out to be nailed.
As to how much the knockout loss will effect Williams in his future fights is something that not even he'll know until he fights again. Former undisputed welterweight champ Donald Curry was one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in boxing back in 1986. Curry was an even more complete and dangerous fighter than Williams when he was stopped in the sixth round by the undefeated Lloyd Honeyghan and lost his undisputed welterweight title. Unfortunately for Curry, his career was never the same and he was stopped by almost every upper-tier fighter he faced after he was stopped by Honeyghan. In Curry's case, it became clear that he wasn't blessed with an all-world chin and once he lost his confidence on top of that, he fought with trepidation and doubt in his subsequent bouts and fought mostly in the role as a trial horse for the rest of his career. So that's one direction that Williams' career post Martinez can take.
The other direction Williams' career could go is the way in which Tommy Morrison and John Ruiz's careers went after suffering two of the most devastating knockout losses in boxing history. Morrison was destroying Ray Mercer in their WBO heavyweight title bout until he got caught and was brutally pounded along the ropes before referee Tony Perez stopped the fight. And who can forget the way the undefeated wrecking machine named David Tua blitzed future heavyweight title holder John Ruiz in 19 seconds of the first round? Ruiz was on the canvas and out without ever throwing a punch.
If ever two fighters showed more character than Morrison and Ruiz after suffering a devastating knockout defeat, I don't know their names. Both Morrison and Ruiz came right back and never once fought glove shy during any of their bouts. As it turned out, Morrison was stopped in later bouts, but that was more a case of his physical limitations and durability, not character or heart. In Ruiz's case, John fought 17 years after being demolished by Tua and wasn't stopped again until his last fight at age 38 against the hard punching David Haye. Ruiz will never be thought of as being a great fighter, but he possessed every bit the heart and character as past greats named Muhammad Ali and Marvin Hagler.
Paul Williams will be struggling within himself, especially in his next few fights, to try and convince himself that what happened against Sergio Martinez was a fluke and won't happen again. Prior to his rematch with Martinez, Williams was a go-for-broke fighter and was willing to take as good as he gave. That's just who he was. It remains to be seen if that's who he still is.
No one knows what the residue will be for Paul Williams mentally and psychologically the next time he gets into a firefight. It'll be very interesting to see if he fights measured and only looks to cut loose when he feels it's safe from this point on. It may take a fight or two for him to gain his confidence back. But one thing's for sure, it's not a given that he'll ever be the same fighter he was before he was knocked out by Sergio Martinez. My guess is he'll still be the same fighter he was, but that remains to be seen. And if he is, he's a rare breed.
I'm still not sure that even the most sophisticated boxing aficionados fully understand how hard and rare it is for fighters to come right back after suffering the type of knockout defeat Paul Williams suffered. The best example I can give is to equate it to stepping off the curb and being slammed by a car. How long would it take you to confidently cross a heavily trafficked street again?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com