Williams vs Martinez: A Tale of Two Hard-luck Fighters
By Ashley Thorpe (Nov 22, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
When Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez first met in November 2009 it was through coincidence. Both men were tagged the most avoided fighters in the world despite both being the best at 154 lbs and both men had respective matches that had fallen through. What was received by all but the most passionate fans as the next best alternative quickly became one of the most memorable fights of 2009 and the most memorable middleweight fight since 2007.

It was hard not to support Williams during his campaign at welterweight. A true rarity in terms of height, reach and work-rate, his shining moment came when he wrested the WBO belt from Antonio Margarito in 2007. He was subsequently to lose it in a shocking upset to Carlos Quintana on his first HBO date. Despite avenging the loss in one round four months later, the blemish on his record unfairly acted as some justification for promoters to avoid putting their prize charges in against him. Had Williams stayed at welterweight, defended his belt, earned a bigger fan-base and got the public calling for it he may have eventually gotten the big fights he craved. Instead, he hopped between divisions without building up a solid ranking anywhere and gave the promoters (and fighters) even more excuses to avoid him.

This impatience also cost him a shot at Kelly Pavlik for the lineal middleweight crown. When Pavlik was ready to come back to the table earlier this year, the Williams camp perplexingly demanded 50-50 or no fight at all, despite Pavlik being the champ, despite Williams not being a draw, despite chasing a marquee name and a defining fight for so long. Williams blew a genuine chance to get the respect he was due. Martinez however – who I believe won their first encounter with more accurate and hurtful blows – jumped at the chance.

Like Williams, Martinez had been avoided and hard-done by (albeit at light-middleweight). The late Vernon Forrest wanted none of him and was eventually stripped of his title. Unlike Williams, Martinez had a spectacular HBO debut against Alex Bunema but was robbed twice in the same night in a return fight against Kermit Cintron. Martinez knocked Cintron out in the eighth round only for the referee to overturn the stoppage and resume the fight. When it became clear at the end of twelve rounds that Martinez had outpointed his rival, a shocking draw was scored by the judges. The fight only served to gain him new supporters despite the second ‘D’ on his record as did his classic FOTY candidate with Williams later that year.

In 2010 Martinez stands as the frontrunner for Fighter of the Year: firstly, for his inspired victory over Pavlik in which winning the middleweight championship seemed to right the wrongs of his loss to Williams. He got the shot instead of Williams and took it with both hands. A familiar sting of hard-luck would bite him again as HBO gave him no options for a first defence despite a list of more than credible opponents from 154 to 160 lbs. They demanded a rematch with Williams, clearly favouring the North Carolina fighter as more marketable, especially as he claimed he could still easily get down to welterweight. Williams’ camp had stubbornly claimed they would change weights again to 147 lbs (for yet another non-existent clash with one of the big names) but eventually came to the table when it became clear HBO would give them no other date.

Just to add insult to injury, Martinez – now the champion – had to concede a ridiculous 158 catchweight as well as a split in the purse in favour of Williams. Added to that was the fact that last night Martinez fought out of the blue corner rather than the champion’s red and was announced first by Michael Buffer as though he were the challenger. Martinez exacted his own brand of justice with a perfect counter left cross which put Williams down and out for the count in the second round. It was a genuine “Oh My God!” moment that was even more shocking considering the resilience Williams usually shows. It is rare enough these days that two fighters of such an elite status meet in the ring so easily but that one of them is taken out in such spectacular fashion strengthens the victors claim for greatness. Thus, at the age of 35, Martinez easily claims his spot at number three in the pound-for-pound ranks and, undoubtedly, number one in the resurging middleweight division. Williams will have to deal with being ignored once more but we can only hope that, in the prime of his career, Martinez’s hard-luck runs out.

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