If you can still count yourself amongst the literally dying legion of boxing fans in the year 2011, then it probably goes without saying that somehow and to some degree you’ve learned to deal with judges’ decisions that can at times boggle the mind. I, for example have found solace in the fact that most fans, and commentators for that matter, tend to look at the overall rhythm and tone of a fight in determining a winner as opposed to actually scoring the fights themselves using the 10-point must system that judges are bound by. As a fan, I tend to score fights as they unfold, keeping in mind too which rounds were close and could’ve gone differently than the way that I saw them. As a result I find myself crying foul far less often than most. It’s also tough to understand the judges angles in watching a fight, and which action they might therefore simply not see.
With all of that said however, the debacle that took place on Saturday night around the Paul Williams / Erislandy Lara fight still seems not only incomprehensible, but potentially damaging in a number of ways to the careers of both Williams and Lara, and to the already shaky reputation of boxing in general.
As Saturday night’s fight approached, I was anxious with anticipation for a fight that was arguably under the radar, but I wasn’t personally quite sure how to feel. I am, and have professed often to be, a big fan of both fighters. Paul Williams burst onto the seen as a walking anomaly. A 6’1″, 154-pound, left hander, with occasional power from odd angles and a 100 plus punch per round output. Williams had a tough time getting big fights and for good and easy to recognize reasons.
Lara, a twice failed Cuban defector finally got to freedom and began his professional career in 2008. As promoters tend to stack Cuban fighters on cards with one another, and as the legend of Yuriorkis Gamboa grew with more and more fans tuning in to see Gamboa’s knockouts, Lara stole a couple of shows on under cards with big knockouts of his own. So as Saturday approached, I was anxious for the fight, but still unsure about whom I wanted to see win it. I surely wanted to see how Lara could bounce back from a disappointing effort against Carlos Molina in his last fight (Molina for the record looked great himself in taking apart Kermit Cintron over 10 rounds on Saturday) and interested to see what Williams chin would look like after being dropped by Sergio Martinez in one of the most memorable knockouts in recent history.
In the pre-fight build up, Williams seemed unexcited (a sign of things to come) and Max Kellerman indicated that Williams told him off camera that he was looking ahead to one more fight against Martinez after Lara, and then retirement by age 30, as he has invested his earnings wisely and looks to enjoying his life after boxing.
As the two southpaws squared off on Saturday night, it began to appear that Lara might hasten that retirement and take at least a little something out of his post career wherewithal too. And as the judges’ scorecards were read, it’s arguable that the actual outcome will probably make things even worse.
Lara dominated Williams for 12 rounds, clearly winning 8 or 9, with Williams clearly winning 1, and a few rounds up for grabs (most of which I gave to Lara). Lara shot the overhand left straight down Broadway repeatedly all night, with so little coming back Williams that Roy Jones Jr. (just a couple weeks off the canvas himself and still thinking about boxing on) was hoping for the referee or Williams corner to simply end it before the damage became too much to bear.
Williams corner urged him to fight for the KO as he had given away the cards by round 9, and Williams himself looked clearly dejected and defeated as the final bell rung. When the cards were read however, it was 114-114, & 116-114, 115-114 for Williams, stunning seemingly everyone including Williams and his camp.
Now as a result, a sport already on the ropes and taking heavy damage has another black eye on it’s record, and Lara’s career takes a giant step backward too in an already crowded 154-pound division. Worst of all though, Williams for the win will likely get another shot at Sergio Martinez, who seems to be clearly better than both Williams and Lara, and who won’t likely keep Williams around for 10 rounds if he’s able to land the overhand left like Lara did and like Martinez did the first time.
On what should have been a great night for boxing in general, as happens all too often, there are no winners to be found.