RingTV.com caught up with Paul Williams last week at the Club One Gym in Millersville, Md., where the southpaw was in training for his Showtime-televised middleweight clash with Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida on Saturday.
Williams was once at the top of the game as an unbeaten WBO welterweight titleholder after having dethroned hard-hitting Antonio Margarito in 2007. Now, Williams, 30, is considered by some to be near the end of what has become an up-and-down career.
The 6-foot-2 Williams (40-2, 27 knockouts) is coming off a decision over Erislandy Lara that many ringsiders thought should’ve gone Lara’s way and is just three bouts removed from his devastating second-round knockout loss to RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in November 2010, which avenged a disputed majority-decision loss in 2009.
Now comes the match up with the 6-foot-1 Ishida (24-6-2, 9 KOs), who is coming off first-round knockouts of power-punching southpaw James Kirkland in April and Edson Espinoza in November.
Williams and manager/trainer George Peterson are hoping a victory over Ishida will help him regain enough stature to stir interest in a rematch with Martinez, if not position the fighter for long-coveted bouts against the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto or even Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Such high-profile matchups would allow the two-time welterweight titleholder the opportunity to prove that he is as good as we thought he was.
RingTV.com: Can you tell us what your training situation is?
Paul Williams: Well, I have a home in South Carolina, and I have a home in Augusta, Ga. So I live in both places. I’ve been coming up here to the Washington, D.C., area since my career started.
Since I was like 17, I’ve been coming up here. Now I’m 30, and basically, I get a good vibe up here, you know? Most of the people that I meet on the street say, “Well you’re from the down-south area, but you’re also from D.C.” So I accept that.
RingTV.com: How long have you been coming to Club One, and what is it about this venue do you like?
PW: I’ve been coming here for about four training camps now. The people here are real nice. Nobody gets in your way or messes with what you’re doing and stuff. They just let do your own thing, and it’s very clean here. I like it. I don’t have any distractions.
RingTV.com: To your knowledge, is there any other big-name fighter that comes here?
PW: This is my place. I’m the only top fighter that’s been on HBO who comes here. You see in the ring that there are a lot of young, up-and-coming fighters.
But I kind of like being in the gym with the up-and-coming fighters and stuff. Because you don’t know nothing about them and they’re very raw. They remind me of when I first started out.
RingTV.com: Your style is appreciated by old-school fighters such as Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. How do you feel about your contribution to the sport as a fighter?
PW: I think that the fans enjoy it. You’re going to have some people who are going to talk negatively about you, but that’s like it is always. I might be doing something good or bad, and they’re still going to be negative or whatever.
But I think that my contribution to the sport is good. A lot of fighters respect the way that I fight. Especially a lot of the older guys like the Hall of Famers like the Marvin Haglers, who is a cool dude. You remind people of them.
Because they came to fight and they didn’t pick and choose who they fought, and they didn’t take all day to get a fight started in the ring. They handled their business, and the fans enjoy that.
RingTV.com: What challenge does Ishida pose?
PW: Basically, I don’t know until I get into the ring, but there’s a first time for everything. Just like I got knocked out. So there’s always a first time for everything. He could get knocked out, or he could get dropped.
There’s always a first time for everything when you get in there. But I’m the one with a game plan that has been laid out there for him. I’m going to try my best to implement that the night of the fight. I’m going to try to come out there and be victorious with a very impressive win.
RingTV.com: Are his stature, his range, his height new to you or is there anyone on your resume who compares favorably to Ishida?
PW: New to me? I wouldn’t say that because when I first started out, Mr. Peterson took me around to different gyms and sparring different types of guys. There were guys that are tall and short and sluggers and boxers that prepared me for whatever I would face in the ring so that I would be able to adapt to it myself.
So with all of that, I’m not worried. I really look at him as a very dangerous fighter because you don’t know nothing about him. That keeps me more on my P’s and Q’s. You know what I’m saying? It keeps me alert and stuff.
RingTV.com: What sort of sparring are you getting — righthanders, lefthanders?
PW: Anybody I can get. I’m doing what I always do.
RingTV.com: Is it a fair assessment given that some of your toughest fights were against lefthanders to say that you have had difficulty with southpaws?
PW: To me, I wouldn’t say that I have problems with southpaws. When I get in there, I go to get mine in. Of course there are some people who land good shots.
But I say that that’s basically been me who was being lazy and allowing them to do that. That’s the way that I feel about that.
RingTV.com: What is your assessment of the Lara fight, where you said that you felt that you were not getting credit for the body shots, and many ringsiders felt that you lost?
PW: All that he did was, he pot-shotted one or two or three times out of the round and ran. I was coming forward to make a fight, you know what I’m saying?
I was touching him to the body and couldn’t land a good head shot like I wanted to but I just tried to work.
RingTV.com: Do you see a third fight with Martinez coming to fruition?
PW: I mean, with me, I’m game for whatever. I would love to fight Martinez again, but if we can’t get him back in the ring, then I’ll move on to bigger and better things. I’m pretty sure that the fans would like to see it.
I know that I would like to get back into the ring with him again if the opportunity presents itself, and Mr. Peterson feels like it’s OK, and (my promoter) Dan (Goossen) and (my advisor) Al (Haymon) do, then, OK. Let’s go.
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwireimages.com
Photos by Emily Harney, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org