Williams 'punishes' in new division, still hopes for lucrative payday

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I'm beginning to understand Paul Williams' game plan: mop the floor with fighters from as many weight classes as possible until an opponent who carries a big payday agrees to a fight.

The welterweights? World champions Antonio Margarito and Carlos Quintana have already been on the wrong side of decisions with Williams.

Middleweights? Andy Kolle will never be confused with Kelly Pavlik, but after Williams pummeled the journeyman in a first-round knockout Thursday night, leaving a stunned Kolle pancaked on the canvas, it's safe to assume that Williams has officially established himself as a presence at 160 pounds.

In a brief-but-spectacular display of boxing acumen and raw power, the rangy Williams (35-1) claimed his first victory as a middleweight, a division the reigning WBO welterweight champion never really wanted to move up to but was left without much other choice after failing to land a high-profile fight with Margarito, Oscar De La Hoya or Shane Mosley.

While it's a popular refrain for a fighter to claim he is being avoided, in Williams case the chorus rings true. In 2007, he dispelled the myth that Margarito was an unstoppable force when Williams, throwing a staggering number of punches, defeated Margarito to claim the WBO belt. A disappointing loss to the unheralded Quintana seven months later slowed Williams' momentum, but only until he avenged the loss to Quintana in June with an emphatic first-round knockout.

Now, Williams faces a difficult decision: press on at middleweight or return to welterweight with the hope that his division-hopping has made him marketable enough to secure a lucrative fight with Margarito, Mosley or Miguel Cotto.

According to Williams, the decision is an easy one.

"I'm going back to 147," said Williams, who plans to fight again Nov. 29 against a still-to-be-determined opponent. "I'm very comfortable there."

Who can blame him? Besides Pavlik, who is scheduled to face BernardHopkins in a light-heavyweight matchup in October and is eyeballing a middleweight unification fight with IBF champion Arthur Abraham next year, the 160-pound division isn't rich in talent. WBA champ Felix Sturm has turned, avoiding serious competition into an art form, and the popular John Duddy is still unproven.

The welterweight division, however, remains stacked, which is why Team Williams is going to do everything it can to force a fight. "The pressure [on the top welterweights] is going to be applied," said Williams' trainer, GeorgePeterson. "After a while they are going to have to break down or join the Girl Scouts."

With Cotto-Margarito II rumored to be in the works for early next year, the most logical opponent for Williams would be Mosley, should the former three-division champion defeat Ricardo Mayorga on Saturday. Mosley has consistently said he is looking for the biggest fights out there and a fight with Williams certainly qualifies.

Whatever division he chooses to fight in, Williams' future is a bright one. At 27, Williams can wait out Margarito and Cotto and still make a potential mega fight with Pavlik down the road. Sooner or later, no one will be able to afford to duck him.

Heavyweight prospect Chris "The Nightmare" Arreola scored an impressive third-round knockout over Israel Garcia on the undercard Thursday night. While the heavy handed Arreola (25-0) showcased his impressive power against Garcia, questions remain as to whether Arreola, a former sparring partner of Hasim Rahman, is a legitimate heavyweight contender.

Arreola weighed in at 258 pounds, the heaviest of his career and about 20 pounds more than his corner would have preferred. While the heavyweight division is starving for new prospects, Arreola will have to improve his conditioning significantly to battle with the cream of the heavyweight crop.