ATLANTIC CITY – The question on the boxing public’s mind – How would Paul Williams respond to the crushing knockout loss at the hands of Sergio Martinez last November?
The answer – by escaping Atlantic City with a robbery decision victory over Erislandy Lara.
Williams, 29, dispensed with punches at will, throwing over 1,000 shots in the bout, but never landed a shot of consequence.
Lara, on the other hand, was more economical in his output, yet landed overhand lefts at will, unable to miss.
Lara, a Cuban amateur star, was coming off a lackluster draw with Carlos Molina in March and acquitted himself quite well with the performance, even though he didn’t receive the victory he deserved.
It seemed like every time Lara, 28, landed a clean, hard overhand left, Williams might topple over – and he was shaken a few times, though he never went down.
In the first round, the southpaw Williams (40-2, 27 KOs) ate left hand shots, as Lara was the aggressor and clearly took the round.
Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) stunned Williams with a seemingly-soft punch in the second, a sign Williams might be shot from the Martinez bout, but his chin held up throughout the bout, though maybe more of an indictment of Lara’s punching prowess.
Lara clearly watched tape of Williams’ first two encounters with Martinez, as the Guantanamo, Cuba native landed overhand lefts over the top with ease. Over and over.
Although Williams had at least a five-inch height advantage, he didn’t put it to use, electing to lunge forward with his head in the air, as he sought to fight on the inside. And Lara obliged him, continued to drill him with power shots.
Williams applied constant pressure, but didn’t find much success.
Around the fifth, a knot appeared on the left side of Lara’s forehead, the result of an accidental head butt – shades of Hasim Rahman in his bout with Evander Holyfield.
Williams showed a great chin –though not exactly fighting a big puncher – as he didn’t find a punch he could elude. Lara was able to land an uncanny number of overhand lefts flush on “The Punisher”.
Lara, strangely, threw nary a body shot and it showed, as Williams never really stopped pressing.
In the 12th, referee Sam Viruet had to pull Williams’s trunks up twice, as he was dangerously close to being de-robed.
RingTV.com scored it 117-111 for Lara, as he did all the damage with his shots.
One judge had it 114-114, overruled by tallies of 115-114 and 116-114 for Williams, giving Lara his first professional defeat.
Williams out-punched Lara 1057-530, which seemed to win him the fight on the judges’ cards.
However, Lara landed 178 shots to Williams’ 151, 49 percent to just 21 percent.
Where Williams goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear he needs to ditch long-time trainer George Peterson, as he still hasn’t learned how to control distance and has no sense of range.
“He was a tough customer and he motivated me,” Williams said. “He caught me with some pot shots, but I kept throwing combinations to the body. But people didn’t see that my punches were adding up.
“I outworked him. I started mixing it up and pressed the fight. I’m looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things. You fight a guy on Lara’s level and you’re not gonna rise.”
“It’s Paul’s style, he gets hit…he keeps on coming forward, that’s why fans love him,” said Dan Goosen, Williams’ promoter.
“[Lara and his team] did a good job of mimicking [Sergio] Martinez.”
Goosen, for one, was adamant that Williams doesn’t need a change in his corner, stating “he’s not going to get a new trainer, he doesn’t need a new trainer.”
As for a rubber match with world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, Goosen said “it would be something we certainly discuss, obviously it’s a fight that Paul wants.”
Lara, of course, was quite unhappy with the decision, which was decidedly unpopular on press row.
“It was a good fight ,I don’t know what the judges saw,” said Lara. “The Martinez fight was a blueprint for this fight coming in with the overhand left. That’s what we practiced in the gym. I would like to have a rematch.”
Lara shouldn’t count on it, it won’t be coming.