I was at home getting ready to go to work when I got news that one of my favourite boxers, Paul “The Punisher” Williams had been injured in a motorcycle accident and was paralyzed from the waist down.
I was crushed. He had been signed to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and I was more than certain that Paul was the man to stop Canelo’s rise. But it wasn’t meant to be now as doctors were saying that he would never walk again.
However what surprised me was that over the next few days and weeks, news began to surface about Paul Williams being in good spirits despite his situation. He was hitting the pads in his bed, cracking jokes and making plans to relax on his boat. This didn’t sound like the normal dialogue you’d hear from someone who had just suffered a life changing injury.
Today, one year after that horrible day, I give you a list of my top five fights from one of my favourite fighters of all time, Paul “The Punisher” Williams.
5. Williams vs Walter Matthysse
Both men were undefeated rising welterweights coming into the fight, each man hoping to use the victory as a stepping stone to larger opportunities.
While the first few rounds were close, as the fight wore on it was Williams who was looking stronger while with passing minute Matthysse seemed to be losing strength and desire. In the tenth round of the fight, Williams trapped Matthysse in the corner and began to unload with punches from all angles until the fight was stopped.
4. Williams vs Winky Wright
It’s not easy to look good against Winky Wright. But Paul Williams made it look too easy. From the opening bell we saw Williams being his usual offensive self which also brought Wright out of his shell, leading the two of them to trade from time to time in the opening stanza.
However it was just too much offensive from Paul and he walked away with the wide unamious decision, Wright’s respect and the call from fight fans for a showdown with Arthur Abraham or Kelly Pavlik.
Little known fact about this fight: A college classmate bet me five dollars that Wright would win. Easiest money I ever made.
3. Paul Williams vs Carlos Quintana II
I remember watching the first fight between these two and puzzled as to why Paul wasn’t throwing as much as he was in his previous fight against Antonio Margarito. It seemed like he had almost been sapped of some energy and couldn’t do what we were used to seeing him do.
To Paul’s credit, he made no excuses and just said it wasn’t his night, admitting the Quintana was the better man…this time. He admitted that he would have to bring more passion and energy into this rematch.
Williams took some of the same shots he did in the first fight but immediately turned things around when a straight left hand stunned Quintana. Williams began to unload with right hooks and straight lefts and dropped Quintana with just over a minute to go. Carlos was able to rise but only met more punishment as Williams began to unload with a barrage of unanswered punches, causing the referee to wave it off.
Not only did Paul Williams regain his welterweight title with this performance, but he also but himself in a category of fighters with Joe Louis and Roy Jones Jr as all three of them avenged their first losses with a first round knockout.
2. Williams vs Sergio Martinez I
We were supposed to have been watching Paul Williams challenge Kelly Pavlik for the middlweight championship of the world. But after Pavlik withdrew due to injury, junior-middleweight titlist and mostly unknown Sergio Martinez stepped into the mix.
They in the ring, exhchanged knockdowns in the first round and from then on waged war against the other, each trying to prove he had the stronger will. And it went on like that for twelve rounds.
There’s not a lot that I can say about this fight that hasn’t already been said. It brought out the best in both men and helped slowly change the landscape in the middleweight division. Yes, it was a close fight and yes, one scorecard was absurdly one sided but stop screaming that this was a robbery. No one lost that night.
1. Paul Williams vs Antonio Margarito
This was the fight that made me a fan. Margarito had a reputation of being avoided. Someone Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t mention and other welterweights dared not say his name. Except for one. Paul Williams had apparently gotten the better of Margarito two years ago in sparring and wanted to solidify his claim by taking Margarito’s welterweight title.
From the opening bell, Williams was throwing over a hundred punches a round, outworking Margarito and keeping him at bay with his long reach. While William’s punches weren’t hurting Margarito, he was landing with at a higher rate and not taking any huge shots himself.
With the first half of the fight already gone, Margarito stepped on the gas and began to take the fight to his young challenger. Knowing that victory could be slipping from his grasp, Williams came out in the final round and fought as agressively as he had in the first round.
It secured his victory and helped enhance Paul Williams reputation as one of the most feared men in boxing.
I still love to watch all those fights and enjoy them as much as I did the first time I saw them. Paul Williams was a big inspiration for me, showing that even though you were tall and rail thin, you could still be the bigger man. I wanted to throw a hundred punches a round like him, wanted to smile at danger, wanted to shrug in the face of adversity like he did and continues to do so today.
When he did an interview with Showtime last September, Paul said that if he could regain the use of his legs within a certain time, he would consider a return to the ring. There’s been little word to his recovery since then. I doubt Paul Williams is reading this but in the absurd chance that he is, I would like to say this: Don’t do it, Paul. We knew you were a warrior in the ring and that you’re an even bigger outside since your accident. You don’t need to remind us again by getting back in the ring.
Should you at any time regain the ability to walk, all I would ask is to see you at a big fight, walk into the ring, show the people your true strength and get the standing ovation you so richly deserve for all the entertainment you’ve given us throughout the years.
Long live “The Punisher“