By: José A. Maldonado, MFA
This past Saturday, Paul “The Punisher” Williams fought Nobuhiro Ishida in what was his first fight in seven months. Of course, in the sport of boxing, this is hardly considered an extended hiatus, particularly when one considers that top fighters often fight once or twice a year. Williams’ break, however, seemed especially long since it surely included a lot of soul searching for the 30 year old.
This is because in his past four fights, Williams (41-2-27 KOs) has been involved in some bizarre and controversial outcomes. In December of 2009, Williams eked out a majority decision against then-challenger Sergio Martínez in a fight many thought he lost; six months later, his opponent, Kermit Cintron, took what some saw as a dive in the 4th Round, putting a premature stoppage to their matchup; in his highly anticipated rematch against Martínez, Williams was starched, ironed, and laid out in one of 2010’s best knockouts; then came his win against Erislandy Lara in July, a decision deemed so bad that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board suspended all three judges for their horrendous scorecards. The question on people’s minds going into this fight was: how would Williams respond after such an unusual stretch?
As a fight fan, it was great to see P-Will back in the ring. He delivered an entertaining bout in which he threw a high volume of punches and, most importantly, got back in the win column against Ishida (24-6-2-9 KOs going into the fight). Williams’ performance, nevertheless, raised more questions than it actually answered. Although he is still very fun to watch, he continues to undercut his physical advantages (the guy is 6’1″ with an 82″ reach). Williams’ best punches come from long range, but rather than jabbing to keep his opponent at a distance and preventing unnecessary punishment, he prefers to go to work on the inside. Apparently forgetting that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and with arms as long as his, this style causes Williams to have to loop his punches, opening him up to shorter blows. This was clearly evident in Round 3 when Ishida landed his best punch of the night, a hard, compact left hook on the inside which may have won him the fight had he been a better puncher.
As Showtime broadcaster Antonio Tarver pointed out, Williams is slow bringing his right hand back after throwing it, opting to keep it dangerously low and making him vulnerable to counters (a fault he paid for dearly against Martínez). He also lunges when throwing combinations, making his weight move forward and exposing his chin. If Williams were to dedicate himself to his jab more (of the 934 punches he threw in the fight, only 210 were jabs), using it to establish range and set up his combinations, he would probably still be, as Goosen put it, “the most feared fighter in the world.” Instead, he uses head movement to find the angles and set up his punches. During the fight, Tarver often commented on Williams’ need to get better, but don’t expect these mistakes to be corrected any time soon if George Peterson continues to train him. The trainer has said on numerous occasions that Williams’ best defense is his offense, adding that Williams does not need to use his jab, fight tall, nor be a boxer puncher.
Prior to the fight, Williams said he wanted to be back in the pound for pound conversation. Though he got the win, it was against a limited 36 year old fighter whose 1st Round KO over James Kirkland was most likely a flash in the pan. During the post fight interview, Williams said he wanted large paydays and expressed interest in big names like Saul “Canelo” Àlvarez and Julio César Chávez, Jr. A fight against either, even a victory, is not far-fetched; Williams is still relatively young, has name recognition, and, as Al Bernstein noted, he is “capable of a solid performance,” but in terms of pound for pound ranking, he still has a lot of work to do.
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