Wednesday February 15th, 2012

When is a win not a win?

When the judges who gave it to you are suspended and admonished for incompetence.

Flashback to July 2011. Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara in Atlantic City. It was supposed to be a bounce-back fight for Williams, who was coming off a crushing -- repeat, crushing -- knockout loss to Sergio Martinez. Instead, it was Lara ricocheting that long, looping left hand off Williams' skull, on his way to what appeared to be a comfortable victory. The only one who thought Williams won that fight was Williams and, well, he didn't sound all that convinced.

In the aftermath there were calls for Williams to retire. Though young (30), Williams has been in some wars. He has stood toe-to-toe with Martinez (twice), Lara and Antonio Margarito, and several informed observers feel that his inability to see -- and defend against -- the overhand left is a dangerous sign of decline.

Williams? He says he never considered it. On Saturday he will climb back in the ring against Nobuhiro Ishida (10 p.m. ET, Showtime), the Japanese junior middleweight best known for his shocking first-round knockout of James Kirkland last year. To Williams, Ishida is a stepping stone for bigger fights.

"We always want to fight," Williams said. "It's finding the right opponent to say yes. After the Lara fight I would have liked to have been coming off a big knockout and got right back in the gym, but for me it was same old, same old.

"I'm going to show my fans that I'm not done. They will always try to write you off but I will show them that I'm not done."

And Lara?

"I have no reason to fight Lara again," Williams said. "He didn't get any fame or glory for winning that fight. All he got is me having a bad night. That's about it. If he had gone out and gotten a title, then I would definitely [have] fought him again."

On to your mail ...

I thoroughly enjoy your columns, over the course of my last two previous combat deployments. I have spent a large deal of time reading your and your colleagues' analysis of boxing and MMA. I know you probably would never publish my opinion, but as a Michigan native I would like to explain how poorly my attitude has turned towards boxing.

To begin, I am a U.S. Navy pilot, and have completed two combat deployments, with a third to begin in May, and as a Michigander I used to root for Mayweather. However, after observing his actions over the past couple of years, I feel I can rightly say that he brings great shame to the state of Michigan, and fighters in general.

Over the course of multiple deployments I know that I have a decent ability to judge the level of courage a man possesses; and I know I can say that Mayweather lacks the basic qualities that define a true warrior. He displays immense talent as a fighter, yet as long as he conspicuously ducks his greatest challenge, I will remember him as solely the most belligerent coward in the history of boxing.

Although I may sound seemingly controversial, truly educated fans would understand the reasons behind my opinions. I hope, however, that the media, including you, can exude the necessary courage to publicize these truths, and maybe goad Mayweather into actually proving his self-conceived status. In my opinion, if the bogey is there and you turn away, he gets the kill. I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter. -- Dan, Detroit

First, let me say thank you for your service, Dan. You and the men and women fighting alongside you are true heroes. As for Mayweather, I agree with much of what you said. I don't think he's a coward -- I just don't believe any fighter who steps between the ropes deserves that designation -- I don't think he wants a Pacquiao fight as much as he says he does.

Consider: Mayweather used to work with Bob Arum. He knows what Arum's response is going to be when he announces the date, location and venue of a proposed Pacquiao fight. So why did he do it? To me, Mayweather is trying to win the battle of public opinion, much the same way Arum has the last few years. The only way a deal gets done is if the two sides stop popping off to the media and start having civil discussions with each other. I'll tell you this much, too: If Mayweather and Pacquiao don't fight, I won't vote for either of them on the first ballot when they become eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Simple solution to the Floyd vs. Manny problem: Boycott every fight the two of them have until they face each other. Problem solved. They would each be offering to take 45 percent then! -- Jeff, Johnstown, Pa.

Not the worst idea in the world, Jeff.

I'm sorry Chris, but Manny isn't the people's champion. I've been one of the biggest Manny Pacquiao fans, but the real people's champ in this situation would say I'll fight Mayweather any place, any time. He would tell the world I choose my fights cause I'm the champ, not my promoter. Did you ever hear the great champions say, "I'll have to see who my promoter thinks is the best option for me." The real champ calls out his opponents. -- Jon, High Point, N.C.

I agree with everything you said, Jon.

Heavyweights used to be the best fighters in the world. Now our best is middleweights. It's not the same as two monstrous men slugging it out inside the ring. Today I was watching highlights of Ali fights, and it reminded me that I have never seen any battles like that in my lifetime. Ali was the greatest of all time. And he may have the last great fights we will ever see. Until American heavyweights make a comeback, boxing will never be the same. -- Caleb, Bardstown, Ky.

America needs a heavyweight standard bearer. Whether it was Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield, boxing was at its best when there was an American atop the glamour division. And though I think the Klitschko brothers are underrated, the patient, safe style they fight with has never attracted an American audience. Is there a solution? Not really. The list of American heavyweight prospects -- Seth Mitchell, Deontay Wilder, Chris Arreola -- is short and undistinguished. For now, it seems like we are stuck with what we have.

Why are you writers so in love with Sergio Martinez? I get that he's talented but who the hell has he beaten? A bunch of guys who have never fought in America! And if he's such a badass and everybody is ducking him, why won't he move up in weight? -- Dan, New Jersey

It's hard not to like Sergio, Dan. He's an entertaining, action fighter who is willing to fight anyone in his weight class. If he were fluent in English, he would be a major star. It's not his fault Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. doesn't want to fight him. Or that Felix Sturm won't come to the U.S. for a unification fight. Martinez is chopping down everyone put in front of him, including Matthew Macklin, Martinez's opponent on March 17, who by all rights should have a piece of the middleweight title. And can we stop with the calls for Martinez to move up in weight? He's a natural 154-pounder. He's already fighting outside his class. I'd like to see all the top dogs at 154 and 160 get in the ring with Martinez and see who is the better man.

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