Sometimes when boxing gets bad decisions, calls that make people throw around the word “robbery,” there’s some way I can figure out how it ended up that way. Saturday night on HBO, when the judges committed grand larceny against Erislandy Lara on the scale of “Ocean’s Eleven,” there is simply no justification or rationalization that anyone could use to plausibly argue that Paul Williams actually deserved to win that fight.
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.