It’s been talked about for a while, and appears to be oozing towards reality at least insofar as HBO has stuck a price tag to it. Now, negotiations are negotiations and I’ve got no idea what’s on the table beyond what Dan Rafael writes about in his blog, but…if I’m Paul Williams I take the fight. Bargain hard, get the biggest check you can, but take the fight because you’re going to win. Williams is a godawful stylistic matchup for anyone with the normal compliment of arms and legs, but if possible he’s even worse for Pavlik than for most fighters. He can move and jab and throw so fast that his punchstat goes up like the deficit clock, or he can sit down on his shots and whack guys; he’s a southpaw where Pavlik hasn’t faced one of those since a used-up Bronco McKart in ’06; he’s able and willing to smother on the inside; he’s got high-level experience against good to great fighters; he’s got an excellent chin and good durability judging from the Margarito and first Quintana fights; and despite listing about 2 inches shorter than Pavlik, he’s got a seven inch reach advantage.
Now, Pavlik could win; he’s big and tough and has an excellent punch, and he’ll keep going for all 12. But he’s trained now by the same people who couldn’t teach him how to touch Bernard Hopkins at any point prior to the post-fight hug, and he’s given zero indication since that wipeout of having learned how to deal with quicker fighters who can use control of distance and good foot movement to keep him lumbering vainly after them. If he even catches Williams I’m not sure he can hurt him consistently enough to win rounds, if he hurts him I doubt whether he can finish him given the Punisher’s strong survival instincts, and if he can’t do either of those things he’s pretty much proven that he doesn’t have a plan B as a fighter at this point in his career. It’s hard for me to see this fight as anything other than Williams popping a jab, giving angles, digging to the body as Pavlik comes in and then holding, pushing off and repeating along with the occasional timed hard left cross upstairs. it’s just not a good matchup for Youngstown’s finest; to the extent that anyone has ever solved Williams it was Quintana in their first fight and he basically did it with timing and counterpunching making Williams come to him and out-slicking the slickster, and A) Williams sure solved that problem the second time through and B) the day Kelly Pavlik wins a fight with that gameplan is the day I join Dana White in base-jumping from the MGM Grand’s roof.
If I’m Pavlik I’m running from this fight. Yes, it’s the most short-term money, but there are other options and in the future there’s noise and cash to be made at 168, provided the still-only-27 Pavlik actually learns more about his craft. If I’m Pavlik’s handlers I’m hiring an actual trainer to at least add nuances to the Ghost’s game and spending the learning period fighting the guys Rafael mentions: Winky Wright and Sergio…ugh…Mora. Those aren’t exactly legacy fights but they’ll keep the bills paid on the way to bigger things. Fighting Williams here is a 10-20% proposition of a big win and big money vs. an 80- 90% chance of an ugly, humiliating loss which takes Pavlik’s title- his major negotiating leverage- away and confirms him in the public mind as a fighter who can’t deal with a given style at all. Even worse, if Jermain Taylor gets whacked quickly in the concurrent 168 tournament there will be people, rightly or wrongly, saying that Pavlik just barely won his title from a guy who was never really that good to begin with and that when he’s stepped up to the top level against Williams and Hopkins he’s been destroyed. If that scenario transpires you end up with a 28 year old fighter with a damaged reputation, no major bargaining chips other than some residual drawing power, and no obvious opponents other than throwing himself into the mix at 168- and even then he’ll be waiting for the tournament to end most likely, and won’t be viewed as much more than just another guy in the division. In essence, a fight against Williams risks letting Williams do to Pavlik what Pavlik did to Taylor, except that Taylor had to take the risk as Pavlik was his mandatory while Williams holds no such claim over Pavlik. The risk/reward on this one does not add up for Kelly Pavlik.
Today’s stupid fight idea: since no one wants to fight either of them, Paul Williams vs. Bernard Hopkins, 168 pounds.
How dearly I wish I’d written my round predictions here before the fights, because as my roommate Sean might tell you, I actually got them both right on the night for the first time ever. The Williams fight was, a cut to the Punisher aside, almost exactly what I thought it would be; a bit more entertaining and slugfest-y perhaps, but ultimately a clear domination by the younger, stronger, bigger man. The Arreola fight however….
Embarrassing as it is to admit, this was my first time seeing Arreola in more than clips. Lemme tell ya: not impressed. He did a good job keeping his head and finishing, seems to have ok power, and his post-match promo was excellent. Beyond that- yikes. He called out the Klitschkos after his bout, and let’s be clear: either of them would axe-murder him if that were to be his next fight. Think Lewis-Tua, but worse. He’s slow, chubby, has an iffy jab, very little movement (head or otherwise), an “ehh” chin, and he’s criminally hittable. If he weren’t American, he’d be Some Guy; compare where he’s at and where Alexander Povetkin is at, and their relative HBO “push”, and see my point. it is possible that with intensive training in a year or two he might be able to give either K a contest, but I wouldn’t put much money on it.
As for the main event, I thought that was pretty much the best of Paul Williams. He was sitting down on his punches all night, seemed more focused on the body attack than ever before especially with a right hook, wasn’t rattled by the cut and fought in a measured, intelligent way all night. It’s anyone’s guess if that will help him land a serious money fight next time out, but on the basis of this performance you’d be a fool to say there’s anyone out there between 147 and 168 against whom he’d have no chance.
Next major card is DLH-Pacquiao, about which I’ll have much more to say as we get closer to fight time. Suffice to say, I’m one of the people very excited about this fight.
Only two notable televised fights this weekend, as HBO brings a slightly off double bill of Chris “Fighting Nipple” Arreola vs. someone or something called Travis Walker, backed with Verno Phillips vs. Paul Williams.
It’s a fairly uninspiring card. Walker is unknown to me, but ESPN’s Dan Rafael has him as essentially a can for Arreola to crush and look good on TV by so doing, and I see no reason to dispute that. Williams-Phillips is a step and a half up from there as Phillips has had a fairly distinguished career just below the mainstream (for boxing) radar- fighting since 1988, he’s faced men like Kassim Ouma, Corey Spinks, Bronco McKart, Ike Quartey, Julian Jackson, and beat Spinks in his last fight. What exactly he has left though is a mystery; he’s 38, and while he’s won 4 in a row, the Spinks fight was very close and somewhat controversial and two of the other wins came over the ultra-shot Teddy Reid and JC Candelo. He’s a clever old pro and you don’t count him out until he’s counted out, but it’s hard to put too much stock in his chances.
Williams, meanwhile, is a very odd and yet potentially fantastic fighter. Some fights, he looks dominant and powerful, a dangerous and skilled puncher; others, he looks like a slapper who can be confused and thrown off by basic use of angles and distance- and that’s just in his two fights with Carlos Quintana. In the first of those he was badly outboxed and lost a decision; in the second scored a first round KO. In the past he’s struggled with glorified jobber Walter Mathysse, but also has a win over Antonio Margarito- but fought as a slapper in the latter fight, failing to land anything of significance and winning entirely on activity. His last two fights were at middleweight and welterweight, and this one is halfway between at junior middle. He’s all over the map. That said, his last two wins were by 1st round KO, and he seems to finally be developing a style and not relying so much on the set of physical tools (great height and reach for a 147-154 pounder, great stamina, lefthanded) he’s been given to confuse people. He’ll have 5 inches of height, 13 (!) of reach, and 11 years on Phillips, and apears to be entering his prime.
He should win, and win easily; the more interesting thing may be how he fights in doing so, and what effect that has on his chances of landing a next major bout.
EDIT: I had forgotten, this weekend also brings the return of one of the best young fighters in the game, Jorge Linares, to the ring following a long injury layoff. He faces the fantastically named Whyber Garcia in Panama for an alphabet trinket at 130 lbs. Sadly, it’s not on US TV, but good to see him back in the ring regardless.