Hardcore fans familiar with Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo expected the two light heavyweights to make for an exciting fight and the fighters delivered, although most observers disagreed with the official verdict of the 12-round barnburner.
Those same fans were not sure what to expect from Paul Williams, who took on Nobuhiro Ishida in the main event of the Showtime-televised card from Corpus Christi, Texas. The former two-time welterweight titleholder looked like a fading fighter in his last bout, a controversial majority decision over Erislandy Lara last July. Prior to that bout Williams was knocked out cold by RING middleweight champ Sergio Martinez.
What did he have left after those two tough outings? He had enough to shutout Ishida over 12 rounds of their rather uneventful junior middleweight bout, but not enough to quell the skepticism of hardcore fans and boxing writers.
Williams (41-2, 2, 27 knockouts), who won by unanimous scores of 120-108, out-worked and out-landed Ishida in every round. According to punch stats, he landed 225 of the 724 power punches he threw – which included solid uppercuts, left crosses and rights to the body – but he also missed a lot and was often caught by Ishida’s return shots.
Despite his shocking first-round TKO of James Kirkland last April, Ishida (24-7-2, 9 KOs) lacked the power and physical strength to hurt or move Williams when he was able to connect.
“I’m pleased,” Williams said of the victory before acknowledging that he still needs to improve his defense. “I tried not to get hit too much but when you in that ring, you go with what you know.”
What Williams has always known was that a good offense was his best defense, and that worked pretty well when the 6-foot-2 southpaw was in his early-to-mid 20s and fought at 147 pounds. It’s become a dangerous gamble now that he’s 30 and fighting in heavier weight classes.
It was hard for knowledgeable observers not to wonder how Williams would have stood up to a stronger, harder-punching fighter.
They may not have to wonder for much longer. When asked who he would like to face next, Williams said he wanted a third match with Martinez, who he outpointed in 2009, or showdown with popular Mexican stars Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Those bouts would likely answer any lingering questions about Williams and make for much better fights than what fans got with Ishida.
Cloud-Campillo, the co-featured bout of the Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast, more than made up for the lack of drama and intensity of the Williams-Ishida main event.
The light heavyweight matchup, which Cloud won by split decision, was everything fans love and hate about boxing. It provided the thrill of two knockdowns, which Cloud scored in the opening round, the drama of the fallen fighter battling his way back into contention, which Campillo did with surprising quickness and efficiency, and the excitement of two world-class fighters with contrasting styles giving it their all until the final bell. However, it also delivered the letdown of a bad decision.
Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) remained undefeated and retained his IBF title by scores of 114-112 and an awful tally of 116-110, but it was Campillo who was in control for most of the fight and who deserved to win in the opinion of the fans inside the American Bank Center and most of the Twitterverse observers, who exploded with outrage when the decision was announced.
After the near-disastrous first round, Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KOs), who won by a 115-111 tally on one scorecard, quickly established his southpaw jab and neutralized Cloud’s forward-marching attack with slick lateral movement. However, the 33-year-old veteran from Spain did more than outbox the 30-year-old American titleholder. He consistently beat Cloud to the punch with accurate combinations often punctuated with head-snapping uppercuts. He also worked Cloud’s body with both hands.
But Cloud, of Tallahassee, Fla., is as tenacious as they come. The IBF beltholder continued to press the talented challenger and had some success in the middle rounds. He landed clean power shots and even made Campillo miss in the sixth round. However, the Spaniard resumed control in rounds seven, eight and nine by attacking Cloud with frenetic body-head combinations. Campillo did a terrific job of slipping most of Cloud’s return fire or blocking the incoming shots with his arms and gloves.
Cloud pressed hard in the final rounds and let it all hang in the 11thand 12th, while Campillo took his foot off the gas pedal a little bit in the final round.
In his mind, and in the view of two judges, he had done enough to keep his title.
“I feel that I won it,” Cloud said during his post-fight interview. “He’s a good fighter but I was the aggressor throughout the fight. He didn’t do enough to take my title.”
Campillo disagreed, of course, but the former WBA titleholder has been robbed on foreign soil twice before – against Beibut Shumenov, who was awarded a horrible split decision in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas in January of 2010, and against Karo Murat, who got a draw in his adopted home country, Germany, last October. Campillo knows that the often rotten business side of boxing can sometimes interfere with the sport.
“The home-grown talent has the advantage,” he said as the fans in Corpus Christi, most of whom had never heard of him prior to watching him fight Cloud, chanted “Cam-pi-llo!”
Hopefully, more than just hardcore fans are now aware of this Spain-grown talent and they demand a return bout against Cloud.
Campillo has fought both Shumenov and Murat twice. He deserves another shot at Cloud and a major title.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Email Doug Fischer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer