I talk about boxing a lot when there's down weeks in MMA news. Maybe it's a waste of time, but to me it's no different than talking about grappling or kickboxing. While I do push the idea that the sport is far from "dead" and that it is a lot healthier than many people realize, there are significant flaws in the sport's structure and it's only fair that on a down news day I cover some of the less than ideal stuff.
Tonight sees HBO and Showtime go head to head. While Showtime's main event sees what is likely to be a fight of the year contender between Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon, HBO will show Paul Williams in what should be a "gimmie" against Erislandy Lara. Fantastic boxing site The Cruelest Sport's Carlos Acevedo offered a brief glimpse into the contrast between the two bouts during his preview of Rios/Antillon:
...this has the makings of a rousing shootout. Contrast that to the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara bout on HBO-heads up against Showtime-another Ross Greenburg/Kery Davis lost lunar landscape production intended to advance obscure agendas. Ostensibly, narrative continuity and branding are the reasons for many of these HBO head shakers, but if no one cares, why bother perpetuating manufactured storylines? In a simpler world, boxers would be matched based on competition, compatibility of styles, and public interest. With avaricious promoters, rapacious managers, shadowy advisors, and shifty backroom athletic commissions, boxing has enough troubles without networks playing cloak and dagger as well. With Rios-Antillon, two hard-bitten lightweights, we get to see a fight put together solely because of its potential as an explosive and competitive event.
Alec Kohut of Max Boxing followed up on this idea in his fantastic look at how Paul Williams' desire to fight the best is being wasted by HBO's agenda based matchmaking:
So the questions to ask this week have little to do with the actual fight but more about the state of boxing and the business of boxing in America. Why is this obviously lopsided mismatch being carried as a main event on a premium network? Why is an exciting fighter like Paul Williams virtually unknown to the average American sports fan? Because love him or hate him, Paul Williams is an action fighter, win or lose. Wouldn't it have been great if either Wladimir Klitschko or David Haye were willing to take the risk Paul Williams does when he fights?
We are deprived seeing these "throwback" fighters more often who, if given the opportunity, would fight more and would fight on platforms that would expand boxing's popularity and bring much needed exposure to the sport, drawing more young gifted athletes toward boxing. Just minutes after suffering the knockout to Martinez, in the post-fight press conference, Peterson said of Williams, "This kid's a fighter; it's what he does."
And Williams wants to fight. When asked last week who was on his radar, he quickly responded, "Most definitely, I have Martinez back on my radar. I'd love to get another fight with him to prove to myself and my fans that he didn't deter me from fighting him because he knocked me out. I respect him for that. I feel I'll knock him out next time." Like before, Williams remains willing to go to the weight where the fights are, "If I get a top-of-the-line opponent, like a [Manny] Pacquiao or [Floyd] Mayweather and I have the time, I'll be there. I'll eat a few bread cakes or rice cakes. I walk around at '56 or '57 and have to put on weight for these fights."
Williams isn't the kind of guy looking to play it safe, despite suffering a brutal knockout to Sergio Martinez in his last fight (video of the KO after the jump) he wants to be fighting. Instead, he sat on the shelf waiting for HBO to find a slot for him. In the Max Boxing piece we see Williams' manager say that they'd have liked him to have a "stay busy" fight rather than sitting on the shelf waiting for a fight that isn't likely to represent much of a challenge.
Tonight we'll see both sides of the boxing coin. The relentless action that represents what boxing can be will be on display on Showtime while on HBO we'll see an exciting star as one of his prime career years is wasted sitting on the shelf killing time before a bout against an opponent who isn't in his class.
Guess which network earned my eyes tonight?
Paul Williams KO'ed by Sergio Martinez: