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A Night At The Paul Williams Fight

Boxing has something special in Paul Williams. This man will fight the very best from 147-160. You tell me when that’s ever been done in boxing history? Williams will risk it all again tonight against well-respected Sergio Martinez, who hasn’t lost a fight in 9 1/2 years, and declared at Wednesday’s press conference that he will knock out “The Punisher.’

After Kelly Pavlik pulled out, Dan Goossen and Ken Condon of Caesars came within days of scrapping this show, but Martinez saved it and moved it to the smaller historic Ballroom which has showcased some major talent over the years, including Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, Riddick Bowe and Antonio Margarito.

Goossen loaded the card with four interesting matches which all turned out to be quite competitive in their own way. After Jorge Diaz (11-0) and Jeremiah Wiggins (7-0-1) maintained their unbeaten slates with solid wins, then former WBO Welterweight champ Carlos Quintana showed he is still a very credible figure at 147 or 154. The Puerto Rican was sharp in dismantling tough Jesse Feliciano but did get caught careless in round two with a left hook. Quintana got up though and corrected the mistake and finished Feliciano in the next round via a cut over right eye. Quintana now 27-2 (21), El Rayo is 15-8-3.

Between fights a very loud guy in the crowd behind us began shouting to Max Kellerman who was at ringside prepping with Emanuel Steward and Jim Lampley to go on the air in about an hour. This fan, who had a large head and an even larger set of vocal chords, demanded Kellerman’s attention, blaring, Hey Max, FLOYD WINS EASY! FLOYD WINS EASY! Over and over. Kellerman and Steward both acknowledged the character, Max looking slightly bewildered with a smile, but then nodded affirmation with the heckler that Floyd would win easy. But you got the idea that if Max didn’t agree or acknowledge, this guy would have even raised the decibel levels until he got the response he was demanding.

Tony Thompson and Chazz Witherspoon came out and put on a very entertaining tactical match. Tiger started out slowly – or as one scribe put it “lethargically’ – But The Tiger is like a real tiger, methodical and patient, and when it’s the right time to pounce, only then will he pounce with full intensity. Witherspoon came to win and was competitive but is not quite strong enough for the former WBO/IBF Heavyweight challenger from Washington DC. Southpaw Thompson switched it up in round nine and landed three big overhand rights which provoked a standing-eight count from Ref Benji Esteves. Four more from Tiger finished it and we saw how much this win meant for Thompson, who, as he said later, very much believes he is still a force to be reckoned with at heavyweight and strongly believes he can improve upon the very good showing he gave Wladimir in Germany last summer, especially as he is healthy now after surgery on his knee and thumb,

My old friend Kassim Ouma stops by to say hello. The Dream is back in training in New York and has come down to Atlantic City to support the show. Ouma looks in shape, his smile and spirits are as happy as ever, and he says he will return and make some noise in 2010.

Also get a chance to do a one-on-one with Eddie Chambers and former ref Frank Cappuccino, who did over 90 world title fights including Mike Tyson-Mike Spinks, Marvin Hagler-Wilford Scypion and many more including Nigel Benn, Nino Larocca and Bernard Hopkins. The two Philadelphias were gentlemen and you will enjoy those interviews in the coming weeks.

Saw a funny sight which was of a fan asking Lou DiBella for a photo. Lou DiBella was walking down the aisle towards the dressing rooms. Who did the fan ask to take the photo? Well, Al Haymon of course, who was accompanying Lou. Little did the fan know that it was the advisor or Arreola, Mayweather, Taylor, Dirrell, Williams, who snapped the picture.

Chris Arreola weighs in at a career high 263 but he still displays sharp quick moves but you wonder, How good would he look, how much would his excellent skills and tenacity benefit
– without being bogged down by 20-30 extra pounds of luggage – if he weighed in at 243 or 233?

The Nightmare KO’s Brian Minto in four but The Beast wins over the crowd and some powers-that-be with his classic Rocky Balboa blood & guts effort. Everyone knew the end was near in round four as Arreola was landing his big shots and Minto had a huge welt under his left eye, but suddenly Minto stood his ground and launched back, landing a few himself which awed the crowd. Minto was overmatched but he heroically gave it his all.

Lou DiBella spoke for everyone when he said: “I want to see a guy go out on his shield. He fought his ass off. All you can do is respect that. I’d like to see him with someone smaller, like David Haye.” Sean Sullivan of Boxing Digest suggested Jean-Marc Mormeck, Travis Kauffman, Tony Grano and Devinn Vargas as other possible future opponents for Minto which could be good value for HBO or Showtime.

Arreola was his usual happy self with the win but admitted to Max Kellerman, “My biggest problem is when it comes late at night, I get hungry.” Replacing those midnight Oreos with an apple or orange could be the difference between top 10 heavyweight and “World Heavyweight champion.” Arreola is a leading candidate to succeed the Klitschko World Domination Tour when it ends in 3-4-5 years if he REALLY wants it.

Arreola vs. Minto was a tough act to follow but Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez managed. From the get-go this was a four-star war. In round one, El Maravilla is dropped by an apparent overhand left (but DiBella says later video replays revealed it was actually a push on the shoulder) but then gets up and drops Williams with a right hook just before the bell. Paul appears hurt and unsteady as he makes eye contact with Martinez as they return to their corners at the bell. Whatever message he sent there, was no bluff as Williams never once showed any signs of hesitation or fear of being hurt again the rest of the fight. He just continued fighting the way he always fights, throwing a constant barrage of various punches from all angles. Martinez rose to the awesome challenge and gave everything he had. And it was a back and forth the whole way, neither giving and inch or showing any signs of submitting. Two classic courageous talented and intelligent warriors fighting as if their careers were on the line. It doens’t get much better than that. “A modern classic of a fight,” Kellerman would call it after.

Most of us at ringside saw it very close all the way. Williams was cut again – over both eyes – but he never lost focus or changed tactics. Williams – and Martinez – are both very classy and professional world champions. The crowd honored the Atlanta man with spirited chants of PAUL, PAUL, PAUL in rounds eleven and twelve. Martinez gained nothing but respect with his performance also. I thought Williams edged it by slightly outworking Martinez for stretches in the fight’s second half but a split either way or draw would not have been an injustice. It was just one of those kinds of fights where there really was no decisive, convincing winner. After Jimmy Lennon read the majority decision scores for Williams (115-113, 114-114, 119-110), a segment of the audience booed. But that was likely for Pierre Benoist’s 119-110. Some ringsiders were appalled at Benoist’s score and calls for his suspension, and dismissal form judging, were verbalized. Williams threw 978 punches and landed 299, compared to 638 and 254 from Martinez.

I was able to speak with New Jersey State Commissioner Aaron Davis an hour later and he said he did not see Benoist’s scoring as flagrantly inaccurate and that he had no plans to suspend the judge. Davis expressed respect for the scorecard and mentioned that while a lot of the rounds were close he could understand how one judge could interpret that Williams was winning them all by a narrow margin. Benoist scored ten consecutive rounds – three to 12 – all for Williams by 10-9.

Overall, it was an excellent though not dominating performance by Paul Williams (38-1, 27), against another top-notch opponent. Though it was a close fight, Williams was quite impressive again and you have to think that a tough, challenging, hard-fought victory like this over an inspired Martinez is an experience that will enhance and improve Williams as a fighter, unlike a routine win over a basic handpicked set-up. Martinez’s (44-2, 24) stock also went up, despite the narrow loss.

Williams was unable to attend the press conference after because he needed plastic surgery for his cuts above both eyes but Martinez all class: “I hope everyone enjoyed this spectacular fight. Paul Williams is a great, great fighter. I hope in the rematch I will do even better, take the title, and bring it back to my country. I promise you I will do even better in the rematch for you, for the WBC 154 pound title. I’m very proud of myself as a fighter, an Argintinean and Latino. I’m very proud of myself.”

Kery Davis of HBO stated that, “We look forward to seeing Sergio Martinez on the network again soon.”

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