Williams Batters Phillips, Arreola Wastes Walker

WILLIAMS STOPS STURDY PHILLIPS

Sometimes welterweight, sometimes junior middleweight and sometimes middleweight Paul Williams fought through a nasty cut from a headbutt and scored an impressive ninth round knockout over battle-tested Verno Phillips to claim the vacant WBO Junior Middleweight Championship.

When even the “most feared man in the sport” Antonio Margarito turns down a career high payday of $4 million to rematch you and accepts half as much to fight the fading Shane Mosley, you become the most feared man in the sport yourself. This is the case for Williams, who has had to fluctuate between three different weight classes just to find opponents and keep himself busy. In 2008 alone, he has fought twice at welterweight, once at middleweight and was now moving to junior middleweight. Only Verno Phillips, on his 39th birthday, was willing to relinquish his IBF title to step up and accept the challenge, and the result was a one-sided smashing.

The event was billed as “At Last” due to the shortage of quality opponents for Williams, but Phillips, despite his championship status and extensive experience, hardly proved any different than Williams’ recent foes. Within the first fifteen seconds, Williams landed a big left hand on Phillips against the ropes. Phillips fought back well but looked uncomfortable with the taller man bearing down on him.

The fighters banged heads halfway through the first round, and Williams got the worst of it, suffering a horrid cut over his right eye that only got worse as the night progressed. Phillips seemed to pick up the round after landing good counter left hooks as Williams lunged in rather sloppily, probably in response to the cut.

Phillips got caught exchanging with a sharp left from Williams in round two. A left to the body and one to the head appeared to shake Phillips momentarily. Then, Phillips launched a brief assault, landing a good left hook on Williams. Phillips jumped in with a right hand and another left hook as the two elected to brawl. Phillips launched a big left hook, followed by a right that shook Williams. A body shot and overhand left hook followed as Phillips began taking control of the fight. Phillips turned and cracked Williams with another hard right hand to snap the taller man’s head back. Two more right hands landed before Williams answered back, battering Phillips’ body against the ropes. Williams stuffed in some left hands to the head, but Phillips beat him back with a wild right hand to take another round.

Round three was where everything turned for good. Williams knocked a covering Phillips into the ropes with an uppercut through the guard and landed a body shot. Phillips landed a right in return but staggered away, already showing that the pace Williams was setting was wearing him down. Williams banged a combination through Phillips’ gloves against the ropes and finished with a right hook to the body. A left hand to the head knocked Phillips back into the ropes, and two more body shots followed, then another hard left to the head. At this point, Williams stopped to wipe his face as Phillips clutched him. So much blood was coming out of Williams’ eye that glove smeared it all across Phillips’ back. Phillips jumped in to attack the eye but ate a pair of left hands instead. Williams followed with an impressive one-two to the body, a right hook to the body and a hard right-left upstairs as Phillips could do nothing but cover up against the ropes. Williams continued to relentlessly hammer away at Phillips with left hands and right hooks to the head and right hooks to the body, establishing as early as the third round that there was no way Phillips was going twelve rounds. A combination to the body and a left hand to the head all found Phillips against the ropes.

A scary moment came at the end of the third as Schorle had Williams examined by the ringside doctor, which could have taken the fight to a no decision if the bout was stopped. Fortunately, the doctor decided Williams could continue and allowed him to go back out and catch Phillips with a big left before the bell.

The combinations to the body and head picked up in round four where they left off in round three as Phillips constantly found himself in a corner, firing back desperation punches. Phillips grabbed on and ripped Williams with an uppercut, earning a warning from Referee Tom Schorle for holding and hitting. Williams showed his power when, hitting Phillips on the shoulder with a right hook, he knocked the smaller man sideways and almost through the ropes. A hard straight left and right hook snapped Phillips’ head about against the ropes. After going for a wild counter right hand, Phillips spun about and crash landed on his hands and knees, showing the signs of exhaustion but rightfully so. He was 39-years-old and in with a non-stop punching machine.

Phillips got off to a good start in round five, sneaking in and out with combination punching and landing more punches, though Williams landed the better ones during these exchanges. Williams dug in with a punishing right hook to the body and a nasty left uppercut that nearly took Phillips’ head off on the ropes. Williams got in another body shot, though Phillips was able to answer with a few counter left hooks. Still, Williams was more than willing to trade shot for shot as he ripped the body almost exclusively, knowing that was the best way to go about stopping the wily veteran who was last stopped twenty years ago. The attack came upstairs before round’s end, however, and Williams rattled Phillips’ head with a jarring left hand.

The blood still surrounded Williams’ eye going into the sixth round, though it wasn’t deterring him from issuing out punishing shots. Williams rattled off a dozen unanswered power shots in combination as Phillips covered up on the ropes. A left to the head and an uppercut followed suit. Williams banged a right hook to the body and another left to the head, followed by a straight left to the body, and lifted Phillips’ head with a right uppercut. Finally, s short left to the side of the head caught Phillips ducking and visibly hurt him. Phillips went into full defensive mode, covering up and absorbing a body shot, an uppercut and a left-right to the head. Phillips went for broke, hitting Williams with a right but catching a right hook to the chest at the same time.

Early in round seven, Phillips stepped on Williams’ foot and took a hard left-right to the head from the tall southpaw. The off-balance Williams went for another left hand, but Phillips’ stepping on his foot sent him tumbling backwards as Phillips came forward, and the two of them hit the canvas. Thankfully, neither man landed awkwardly and injured themselves as both were quick to return to their feet. Mishap number two did little to unseat Williams, and he went to work, trapping Phillips against the ropes for longer periods of time now, pounding in leather. At one point, Williams rattled off over 25 unanswered punches, about half of them landing. With Williams likely spent from the onslaught, Phillips saw his chance to start opening up but only got caught with more combinations when trading. Then, Phillips hammered home a big right-left that sent blood flying off Williams’ oozing red face, and it did nothing to dissuade Williams, who opened up with some of his best punches of the fight as he beat Phillips into a corner.

Phillips looked spent in round eight as he was knocked into the ropes by a right hook, where he took one to the body and another to the head. Unlike other rounds, Phillips didn’t have anything to offer back at the end of the round as Williams beat on him with a ten-punch combination, ending with a right hook that knocked him away. Phillips grinned as he headed to his corner, but he hadn’t won a round since the second, and Williams seemed to be getting better each time out.

The ringside doctor must have agreed because he decided to stop the bout after consulting with Phillips after the round, resulting in a stoppage victory for Williams. Phillips showed a terrific amount of will and heart given how outmatched he appeared from the start, but, after 21 years of professional boxing, he ran into his toughest opponent yet and was finally beaten up in the ring.

If there can be any room for criticism, it’s that Williams still gets hit way too much for an elite fighter. Then again, Margarito is a walking punching bag compared to Williams and is earning recognition as the best welterweight, despite losing clearly to Williams last year. Like Margarito, Williams probably knows when he can take a guy like Phillips’ punch and opts to walk through them to get the knockout rather than play it safe, and that can only be good when trying to market yourself to fans.

Williams is undoubtedly the most feared fighter in the game today and will continue to have trouble finding big fights, though it wouldn’t be surprising if Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik, who turned Williams down this summer, suddenly wanted a piece of him following his humiliating loss to Bernard Hopkins. The fight to make, obviously, is a rematch with Margarito, but Margarito seems to want no part of it whatsoever, preferring to take on the faded Mosley and rematch Miguel Cotto, who he destroyed this summer. Maybe next, Margarito will opt to fight Kermit Cintron a third time.

In the meantime, Williams will continue to dominate two or three weight classes simultaneously until someone – anyone – steps up to fight him.

ARREOLA WINS SHOOTOUT WITH WALKER

On the undercard, unbeaten heavyweight Chris Arreola came back from a second round knockdown to drop Travis Walker three times en route to a stoppage victory.

Walker came into the bout with only one defeat and 28 wins, 22 of them by knockout, making him a good test for Arreola, who has only gone the distance three times in 25 fights. With over 20 first round knockouts between them, even the network didn’t expect this fight to go to a decision; Michael Buffer didn’t even introduce the judges.

A right-left combination from Walker knocked Arreola back immediately into round one. Walker then went after Arreola against the ropes, landing a left hook, but Arreola countered with a right hand. Walker kept Arreola on the ropes with jabs to the body as Arreola appeared to be baiting him. Walker didn’t give in, forcing Arreola to come off the ropes, at which point Arreola walked into an uppercut and a big left-right combination that stunned the Mexican-American. Walker caught Arreola with another hard right as Arreola couldn’t move out of the way. Walker continued to stand in front of Arreola and box him with jabs and straight rights to the gloves. When Arreola tried to jab, he got nailed with a counter right hand from Walker. Walker followed up with a body shot and a left-right to the head of Arreola, who looked completely befuddled by his opponent.

In round two, Walker landed a one-two to the body, followed by a pair of straight right hands to the head that forced Arreola back onto a knee. With a cut on his nose, Arreola wisely took an eight count before getting back to his feet.

Walker kept the hands moving with straight combinations into and around Arreola’s gloves. He landed a straight right to the body of Arreola before coming with a combination to the head. Arreola finally answered with a right of his own. Walker got in an uppercut but took another right to the head. Walker stopped to motion to Referee Jack Reiss that he lost his mouthpiece, at which point Reiss stopped the action and fetched it for him. Then, the fight took a drastic turn.

As Walker walked back into action, Arreola met him with a big right to the side of the head. Walker tried to fire back but got nailed with a huge right-left combination from Arreola that knocked his head up, forcing Walker to hold on. Walker kept firing bombs and got tagged with a left hook from Arreola that buckled his knees and had him slumping forward. Arreola didn’t let up, banging in a right-left, and, suddenly, Walker was a dead man walking as he looked out on his feet. Hands down, he turned to face Arreola and ate a right-left that sent him crumpling onto his back on the canvas.

A woozy Walker stood at four and walked away, assuring Reiss he was good to go. He foolishly threw a right hand and ate a bigger one from Arreola. Arreola kept punching, landing two more rights, until Walker held on. Walker missed with a big uppercut and suffered a right-left combination. Arreola turned and pushed a left hook over the side of Walker’s head, and it was enough to send him to the canvas again, rolling over and into the ropes. Walker again stood before the count of four, looking exhausted but intent to continue. A big left-right from Arreola stood Walker up, but he stayed on his feet, walking into an uppercut as well. Two left hooks and a right hand followed as Walker still wanted to slug it out. One more left hook punctuated a huge round from Arreola and one of the best rounds of the year in all of boxing.

Walker came out for round three and walked into a big right hand. Arreola followed up with a good one-two on Walker, who was a sitting duck at this point. Arreola sensed it and stepped in with a body shot and a clean-up left hook right to the nose that sent Walker slumping into a corner of the ring. Reiss immediately waved the fight off without counting, ordering a protesting Walker to stay down. It was a bit of an unfair stoppage but probably wouldn’t have mattered given the way the bout was progressing. Still, Walker deserved a count.

Arreola is not the heavyweight savior; in fact, he’s nowhere close. He’s always out of shape and has poor defense. But he keeps punching, and that’s all that matters in a heavyweight division as bad as the current one.

As strange as it sounds, Arreola could become a heavyweight titlist. His exciting style is going to get him some title opportunities, but he probably shouldn’t win any of them. Then again, Sultan Ibragimov, Shannon Briggs, Sergei Liakhovich, Oleg Maskaev and Lamon Brewster shouldn’t have won titles either. This is the current state of heavyweight boxing – a landscape in which anybody can win on any given night since there are no truly great heavyweights today. Arreola certainly deserves a chance to put his name up there with the rest of them, and props to him if he makes the most of that opportunity should it come in 2009 or 2010.

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