It's sad that on a night when Showtime delivered a card with a Fight of the Year candidate and another inspirational upset in a year filled with them, and on a night where HBO aired a "holy cow" comeback one-punch knockout by Rico Ramos, that the takeaway from Saturday will be a decision that can only be described with one word: obscene.
PAUL WILLIAMS-ERISLANDY LARA
I had Lara winning nine rounds. I gave Williams the 4th through the 6th, with the 6th a close one that HBO's Harold Lederman didn't give to Paul. I marked the 12th as close, but didn't score it for Williams, the way Lederman did. In almost every round, even in some of them I scored for Williams, Lara was the one landing the more damaging, flush, head-snapping shots, mostly with a southpaw overhand left that simply couldn't miss and that has been a nightmare for Williams his entire career.
Williams, flatly, got his ass kicked. You can and should praise the man for staying on his feet through all that, and you can and should praise the man for never giving up. It's a quality that has made Williams one of my favorite fighters. But he didn't win that fight, and it wasn't even close. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix is the only noteworthy soul -- outside of the three horrible judges in this fight -- who scored it as a toss-up. He offered this: "Lara hit EVERY heavy shot, no doubt. But Williams threw a hell of a lot more punches. Was even on my card."
And really, all that did was confirm that Mannix is the worst big-time boxing writer in the business. Although maybe it also explained how a judge could arrive at such an awful conclusion. Williams did throw nearly double the punches Lara did. Good for him. But Lara landed more, and better. If boxing was a competition of how many punches you could throw, what would keep boxers from standing in a corner and shadow-boxing at super high speed?
It's natural to want to try and understand how this happened. The usual suspects offered Williams' manager, Al Haymon, as somehow to blame. He's an easy scapegoat. But among all the bad decisions in boxing over, say, 2011 and 2010, I can't think of any where Haymon was the manager. Williams got a decision over Sergio Martinez in their first fight that some thought was a robbery -- and it was marked by one exceptionally bad scorecard -- but most reasonable people consider that a close contest with a majority viewing it as a narrow Martinez win. Last I checked, the most popular target of anger over winning undeserved decisions was Devon Alexander, who's got nothing to do with Al.
Another plausible explanation is inexperienced judges. Al Bennett (114-114), Hilton Whitaker (115-114) and Donald Givens (116-114) all had relatively few meaningful bouts on their resume. And I'm loath to lob allegations like this without evidence, but if somebody's mind wondered to the possibility of some kind of corruption, well, I couldn't blame 'em.
The bad decision overshadowed how we would be thinking about this fight if it had been scored correctly. We'd be talking about Lara having redeemed himself somewhat from his draw against Carlos Molina, who was once thought of as a capable, tough journeyman but shouldn't be anymore after beating Kermit Cintron Saturday on Showtime. Lara was sharp and accurate with his punches, albeit against an opponent who was gaudily easy to hit, and slick on defense. He looks like a real contender in the junior middleweight division.
We'd be talking about a second consecutive loss for Williams, who until his rematch knockout loss against Martinez had been considered one of the best fighters in the world. Some were still willing to consider him just that, evidenced by the strange view from some that this fight was a mismatch on paper. But those people didn't know then what they know now: Williams is a shadow of his former self, one whose complete lack of defense has finally caught up with him. He looked slow, his punches lacked snap and his usual inability to avoid big power shots was more pronounced than ever. A move down from middleweight to junior middleweight didn't seem to matter as much as I hoped it might.
Williams had talked prior to the fight of retiring soon. After such a debilitating beating, that's one decision I can support.
RICO RAMOS-AKIFUMI SHIMODA
At least the HBO card featured this. Ramos, stepping up in a big way at junior featherweight to take on the division's #2 man according to Ring Magazine, scored a Knockout of the Year-style KO in the 7th round of a bout he was losing by wide margins.
I'm not sure if, as Max Kellerman said, "all sins are forgiven." Ramos had fought very tentatively for five and a half rounds, and his reluctance to throw punches was frustrating. Shimoda was bringing all the heat, and Ramos either couldn't get into his rhythm or was nervous about the big moment or something.
But HBO's commentators and Ramos both saw Shimoda begin to tire, and Ramos seized the moment. He started pressing harder in the 6th. Then, toward the end of the 7th, he caught Shimoda backing up and tagged him with a short, quick left hook that landed directly on Shimoda's jaw and sent him down for the count, despite a brave attempt to rise.
Ramos is clearly talented, but from fight to fight, and this time even from round to round, he shows a serious proclivity to stink out the joint then be totally sensational then vice versa. In the shallow 122-pound weight class, a flawed fighter like Ramos with upside might be able to stick around near or at the top.
Those Judges were suspended!!!
For me all sins were forgiven with Rico when he pulled out that enormous gem: "i had to send this dude back to...wherever he came from!"
Couple thoughts on P.Will...yes, he clearly lost the fight. Miguel Cotto's taken several beatings a lot worse. It was surreal to hear Roy Jones, a guy I loved as a fighter and actually really like as a broadcaster, talking about Williams needed to retire and suggesting the fight should be stopped. The gash over Paul's eye came from the same headbutt that caused a small planet to emerge on Lara's head (great job by the cutman keeping that down). I wouldn't characterize this a beating, rather a clinic.
That said, I don't know where Williams should go from here because I'd rather not see one of my favorite guys in the sport continue to take punishment on a downward career trajectory. If he hadn't declared that he wants to retire, I might even suggest that a more technically gifted trainer could mold him into a boxer-puncher, finally teach him to use his height and create distance, protect himself better...but since he said only one or two more fights, I'm not sure what the point would be. I have no interest in seeing Sergio beat him to a pulp. I could stomach a rematch with Lara and thats about it at this juncture. And that ain't gonna happen.
Here are the scorecards, y'all. The ridiculousness is rather obvious. http://www.fightnews.com/Boxing/williams-lara-update-89500
Has anyone else detected a slightly slurring williams speech pattern? His action style has caught up with him already. Ironically jones is the messenger.
When you were talking about Mannix all I could think of is this man's credibly should be severely tarnished with that remark. An intelligent, competent, trustworthy human being would not score that fight for Williams watching from any angle. I gave 10 rounds to Lara and I thought I was being generous giving Paul 2.
@edub I think there were as many as four rounds one could give to Paul. But you'd have to be generous to give him all four.
I found amusing that around the latter rounds, Roy was on a monologue about how Williams should retire because his body might ultimately suffer if he continues his career as a punching bag---which is exactly the advice he should be taking heed of LOL
Peterson was hilarious. "We need to take away the left!" but didn't tell Paul how to. "We must continue going forward because the guy is running and doesn't want to fight!" despite Lara's constant lethal lefts.
But I was disappointed when Williams said when he was interviewed that, despite his defeated look by the 12th, he believed he had won. I suddenly regretted feeling bad for him throughout the course of the fight. I mean, even the boisterous Arreola compares himself to Shrek and Haye after his fights, but this is mild-mannered Punishee!
@caguioaness Paul would have won a lot of points with me if he'd been honest. It's a lot to expect, but when Arreola is talking about how shitty his effort was that same night, after a near-shutout...well, let's say it doesn't seem impossible.
@caguioaness I like Peterson's attitude about some things, but as a trainer, his limitations have become exceedingly clear.
Williams’ face and the commentary of Roy Jones told the true story last night. Williams WAS in danger of being severely injured last night. He was hit clean over and over. Lara won this fight and the fact that judges decided this in favor of Williams is one of the myriad of reasons boxing is a dying sport. Williams will go fight Martinez again and get KOed, again. By “winning” all Williams earned was another payday versus Martinez and loss of more brain cells. He should retire. No one wants to see him get pummeled like that again. It was hard to watch.
@jmcguirk152 I thought last night was one of Roy's best nights as an HBO commentator. His vocal fear for Williams' safety, immediate quip about how the decision was "Seoul all over again" and his criticism of the decision after the post-fight interviews were spot-on.
Roy was really passionate last night, a dimension I hadn't seen or heard before in his commentary. He always seems to try to be the "cool, former athlete" contrast to Kellerman's passionate, non-jock analysis.
Last night was different. I liked this Roy.
@PaulKelly @jmcguirk152 I thought last night's commentary was both bizarre and horrible in equal measures. I don't need to ever see that team call a fight together again. Papa and Kellerman just don't have a breeze. Jones, who I think has his moments, was just rambling nonsense for most of the night.
Boxing, ultimately, is Tragedy-- only the how, the who and the when remain to be resolved. Answers came last night for Paul Williams.
Painful to watch, and perhaps even more painful in that Williams was given a victory in what was clearly a loss-- at what should be the end of a career marked by skill, bravery, and great fortitude. What then does a victory mean? This "win" diminishes the career of Paul Williams, sitting like an acrid pimple on his record and on boxing itself, casting a dubious shadow on other wins. It laughs at the great sacrifices boxers make-- and to see the pummeling Williams took is to have seen such sacrifice, the Tragedy-- in a classical sense-- of boxing unfold. The decision robbed not only Lara and its witnesses-- the boxing public-- but it robbed Williams as well. He gave his all in a great but flawed effort, answerless to the left hand destroying him, he soldiered on choosing to go out on his shield. Vanquished, he was still heroic. As Victor, he's both a party to a fraud and an impostor.
I would suggest the demand for a rematch-- except I really don't want to see Williams fight again-- far too much damage for me. But as I posted over at the HBO site, HBO has to do something about this. They hold the heavy (monied) hand in this game and it would not be inappropriate for them to contractually demand good experienced judges. The failure to do so diminishes boxing-- and their brand.
@Mike Ricciardelli Well said. I'm pretty sad about how P-Will looked Saturday. It's too bad a pretty bad-ass career of a true fighter is going to be affiliated with this.
I seem to vaguely recall a situation where a promoter lobbied for a specific judge configuration and a state commission or sanctioning organization balked that this somehow impinged on their sovereignty; it might have been Malignaggi-Diaz. I wish I could recall. But I wonder what leverage HBO would have over this kind of thing, even if we got past the egos.
Tim's analysis of Chris Mannix is spot-on. He has no clue.
Someone needs to remind Mannix this isn't amateur boxing, in which EFFECTIVE punches are just as important as landed punches. And the topography of both fighters' faces after the bout showed who landed the most effective punches, especially since a head butt, not a punch, created the continent-like contusion on the side of Lara's head.
@PaulKelly I wish I understood how that guy had a job at SI covering boxing when he absolutely has no idea how fights should be scored.
@tstarks Just look at Mannix's background on SI.com. He has followed one of the two typical road maps for an SI writer.
He majored in English -- not journalism -- and then got a job writing at a paper. Left that paper probably because he was frustrated by the "shackles" of daily reporting on the high school beat -- where you could and SHOULD hone your chops as a young reporter -- after being a locker room attendant for the Celtics as a kid, and climbed to the "big time" at SI where he could wax poetic and brilliant prose and ignore the nuts and bolts of the sport.
SI has a bunch of "artists" like Mannix, and it also has former newspaper columnists and legitimate journalists like Posnanski. I think you can guess which I respect more. :)
Say what you will about Rafael, and I don't always agree with him, but that dude knows the sport and is plugged in to sources everywhere. He's a reporter first.
Guys like Mannix are "stylists" who put their writing ahead of accuracy and knowledge of the sport. They're more concerned about turning out a clever phrase or being a contrarian than knowing the ins and outs of the sport and its people.
Sadly, Paul Zimmerman has suffered multiple strokes since late 2008 and cannot speak. He was a great writer and was really plugged in to NFL sources.
Peter King has succeeded Dr. Z as the NFL dean at SI, and he's also very good.
@tstarks I didn't mean to crucify pure writers so much. I guess the former journalist in me raised my hackles.
I like a well-written piece as much as anyone. For example, I think some of the stories on Simmons' new "Grantland" site are excellent.
But it pisses me off when SI puts someone with no reporting chops on a beat as its lead reporter. Shows immediately that boxing is an irrelevant beat to the magazine and website.
At least ESPN.com has Rafael as its hardcore, nuts-and-bolts insider and Mulvaney to offer more "artistic" pieces and his stylish Heavy Hitting podcast, which I enjoy.
@PaulKelly I'm a fan of both artists and journalists. I know a lot of people in the journalism field who didn't major in it. But there's no doubt in my mind it's good to have some training in the craft.
Rafael is a good reporter. He really is.
Abominable. I sat in front of the TV, mouth agape, for about 30 seconds after the decision after it was announced. One of the worst I've seen in 35 years of watching boxing. Williams won three rounds, tops. I had it 9-3, Lara.
But as Max Kellerman said, there's simply no excuse for the New Jersey commission allowing such inexperienced judges to score a big fight.
Part of me says a fix could have been in since Williams is an HBO pet and Lara has zero public appeal in the U.S. But the optimist in me says three judges simply choked on the big stage.
Inexperienced judges often err by giving the busier fighter more credit than the fighter landing fewer, but much more effective, punches. But this isn't amateur boxing, in which rapid-fire, pitty-pat combinations score points. This is professional prize fighting, in which the fighter landing the most punishing punches should win the round.
The judges last night in Atlantic City gave Williams credit for being busy and penalized Lara for being effective. A travesty. The decision was even more appalling considering Lara was uncharacteristically aggressive and executed a smart strategic plan brilliantly.
Body language at the final bell spoke the truth. Lara celebrated with vigor, and Williams -- whose face was battered and swollen -- raised his arm meekly. Williams MUST know deep-down that he lost this fight.
There's no way Williams will give Lara a rematch, either. I'm sure he wants nothing to do with him after the beating he received last night.
The most galling thing is that Lara would have won even under amateur boxing rules - he landed more punches overall than Williams.
I had it 8-4 Lara and thought I was being mighty generous to my my P-Will. I think the decision was more inexperience than corruption though, for the simple reason that there isn't a big money reason to ensure a Williams win through nefarious means. A rubber match with Martinez would be a big fight but not a huge financial windfall for anybody involved. If, say, Marquez gets a gift decision in his tuneup fight for Pacquiao, I would worry about corruption. But I think this was just exceptional incompetence. I thought Lederman nailed it when he pointed out the inexperience of the judges and the need to have experienced judges in high profile fights. This was a shame.
I don't think it will hurt Lara though. Sergio had his struggles with weird scorecards but kept getting significant fights because everyone realized who had "really" won. I'm thinking (and hoping) that the same happens for Lara.
@Scott_KrausCorruption is often a far-fetched explanation. I'm with you. Especially when you look at the scorecards -- it's like they literally didn't know how to score fights, this trio.
Lara should get another fight off this. Paired with the Molina win, he's one of the night's big winners.
I have watched and loved boxing for many years, but Williams-Lara is among the worst, possibly THE worst, judging decision I've ever seen and it has me seriously considering if I want to follow the sport any longer. If a guy like Lara (not exactly a nobody) can't get anything approaching a fair shake in a big fight, then what's the point of watching boxing anymore? If these fights are just physical and dramatic exhibitions where the bigger name is assured of a victory if they manage to stay on their feet, then why not just watch pro wrestling? They do that kind of predetermined stuff better anyway.
I'm sure I'll stop being so indignant in a few days and will want to take back most of the last paragraph, but as of now I'm PISSED. Like Tim said, it's sad that such a brilliant night of boxing had to be completely overshadowed by the Lara-Williams bullshit/travesty/corruption.
@TG For me, Casamayor-Santa Cruz was worse.
I feel you on your disgust. Couldn't blame anyone for turning away over this kind of thing. But boxing always has had, and always will have, bad decisions. There are very few ways to improve this situation, and any viable ideas are unlikely to come to fruition.
you are on to something but the promoters don't assign the judges...it's actually even worse...they PAY them. Dibella made a reference to this on his twitter feed, calling it "institutionalized" cheating. Judges make more money when they work high profile fights. Perhaps it is human nature to favor the fighter represented by the lead promoter, Goossen in this case. After all, promoters have long memories, and the system allows them to object to the appointment of certain officials. Happens often enough in big-time fights. I would think that, as a judge, you wouldn't want to jeopardize future high-profile gigs. The system is f'ed in that regard.
@Duan Could be one of the most boring fights of the year. A title bout between two guys reluctant to punch. Count me as overjoyed and stimulated (SARCASM ALERT!).