image: Emily Harney

Aftermath: On Williams-Lara, Rios-Antillon, & Molina-Cintron


****

In one of the worst examples of judging in recent memory, Erislandy Lara battered Paul Williams at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, only to lose a majority decision. The bout wasn’t close, open to interpretation, or particularly competitive. The benefit-of-every-doubt score for Williams was probably 116-112 Lara, but every judge managed to bungle at least two rounds beyond that, disorienting the crowd and television audience by upchucking a 114-114 card, along with 115-114 and 116-114 cards in favor of Williams.

Williams, now 40-2 with 27 knockouts, simply looked shopworn. His defense has always been porous, but as recently as the first Sergio Martinez bout in December 2009, he would attempt small adjustments as a bout wore on, be it through head movement or raising a glove. On Saturday night, no such adjustments were made, and whether it was the first round or the last, Lara’s overhand left couldn’t miss.

But the more ostensible signs of decline resided in his uninspired attack. “The Punisher’s” offense lacked any of the steam we’re accustomed to seeing, and he constantly moved his hands without ever landing a noteworthy punch. Lara covers his head well in lieu of protecting his body; a fresher Williams would have presumably ripped hard combinations to the midsection. Instead, he offered the type of amateur, shoeshine nonsense that moved nobody except the three men at ringside whose opinions mattered most–if we’re bypassing cynicism to assume incompetent scoring rather than deliberate malfeasance.

Lara, 15-1-1 with 10 KOs, flashed a slightly improved right hand to land a handful of hard jabs and a few right hooks. But his offense again revolved around his left, which repeatedly connected flush enough to elicit a reaction from the Boardwalk Hall crowd. The former Cuban amateur standout still has the same weaknesses that Carlos Molina took advantage of in March – he did nothing of note on the inside, which allowed Williams to slap and pitter-pat to his heart’s desire – but he moves around the ring well, and he’s accurate with what he does throw. Besides a trio of judges who haven’t lost their minds, it’s hard to imagine anything different in a rematch, so it’s best that everyone treats this as what it was – an ass-whooping – and move on to bigger and better things.

Bigger and better for Williams might mean retirement. Yes, he remains durable and he still has busy hands, allowing him to still produce bloody, entertaining fights against any number of junior middleweights. But if his plan to retire at 30 after a rubber match with Sergio Martinez was sincere, it’s probably best he save himself a concussion by moving on to a new life now. It appears that any top flight fighter at 154 or 160 pounds would give him a needless beating. Unfortunately, fatuous judging has been known to fuel self-delusion.

****

Although it was shorter than many of us anticipated, the slugfest between Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, met expectations. The first two rounds featured breathtaking action before Rios, 28-0 with 21 knockouts, dropped Antillon with a short right hand early in the third, and effectively ended the fight with the same right hand a few minutes later.

While a heavy, consistent jab allowed Rios, Oxnard, California, to maintain an edge throughout a riveting two rounds, a determined Antillon ripped off a number of sharp body shots and hard right hands to keep everyone at the edge of their seats. But while Antillon, 28-3, may have had a slight speed advantage, it was evident that Rios was the bigger, stronger man from the start. He also threw the shorter punches, an advantage highlighted by the pair of right hands that eventually iced the 28-year-old Antillon.

Rios’ defense is leakier than a BP wellhead, but because he possesses the unyielding jab and deep reservoir of energy that many heavy-handed sluggers lack, he’d be a nightmare for almost all of the lightweight division, and a tough night for most of the top junior welterweights. It would take nothing short of a Herculean effort by a spoiling opponent to make anything involving Rios boring, so boxing fans will be watching his every move. Even if the next one is against a faded Marco Antonio Barrera, the name Rios and promoter Bob Arum keep conking out.

****

Out of all the fighters in action Saturday night, Carlos Molina’s stock probably surged the highest. Seen just as a tough stepping stone as recently as March, Molina, 19-4-2, established himself as one of the better fighters at 154 pounds by outclassing Kermit Cintron on the undercard of Rios-Antillon. It didn’t hurt that shortly after, the man who most observers felt Molina beat in a majority draw three and a half months ago, thrashed Paul Williams in Atlantic City.

The Mexican native resembles resurgent featherweight Orlando Salido; he is crafty and difficult to hit flush, with an attack revolving around an unfailing body attack that supplements a sneaky straight right. Cintron, 32-4, was hesitant to unholster his own right hand, only to largely whiff when he did. Molina moved forward undeterred the few times Cintron managed clean contact, which included a violent cross in the waning seconds of the bout that would have face-planted lesser men. As a result, Cintron, confounded by Molina’s defense, daunted by his durability, bothered by his body assault, and bloodied by his right hands, loss in lopsided fashion with scores of 98-92 on all three cards.

A rematch between Erislandy Lara and Carlos Molina has been set-up felicitously if the two parties are willing, this time on a bigger stage and with higher stakes.

*****

Read about the turbulent life and strange career of 1950s welterweight champion Don Jordan, who ran with street gangs as a kid, partied with mobsters, and carried a bow and arrow with him through the streets of Los Angeles. The Catastrophist: The Troubled World of Don Jordan.

Tags: Brandon Rios Carlos Molina Kermit Cintron PAUL WILLIAMS Urbano Antillon

  • HitDog

    The Lara-Williams scorecard, with its suspiciously-changed early round, and more 10-10s than any scorecard, reads like its authors weren’t sure if they were going for corruption or incompetence. I’ll go with incompetence but with a bigger suspect element–why bring three near-rookies (I believe the only fight of note any of the three had was in giving Judah-Matthysse to, yes, Judah) in on a major HBO fight?

    Atlantic City smells awful, and it’s not even the ocean this time.

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    MN,

    I haven’t watched the Williams/Lara fight yet, as I was at the Rios/Antillon fight that night. But, I’ll take everyone’s word on the scoring! I was never really big on Williams….part of the problem was that I couldn’t really stand the hype that surrounded him and all the P4P bullshit. Objectively he basically has no defense, not much of a jab and never really sits down on his punches. Always seemed like a recipe for disaster to me, especially if he was going to fight at 154 or 160. If he didn’t have any heat on his punches and dropped his hands nearly everytime he threw, his famed workrate seems like nothing more than flying noodles and was bound to work against him as he stepped up. I don’t understand why he didn’t try to get an elite trainer a long time ago….where did he meet Mr. Peterson? The rec center? He certainly seemed to throw much crisper shots vs. Margarito, where did that guy go? I’m not one of those people that think Sergio Martinez is the latest incarnation of Vishnu, but Williams better steer clear. Maybe he should look for a rubber match with Quintana, if he’s going to soldier on.

    Cintron seemed out of it from the beginning. From my seat, I thought “maybe” I could give him the 1st round. He’s obviously not the most natural or fluid boxer, it seems that the things that come instinctually to most fighters have to be “figured out” by him in real time. I suppose his recent inactivity could be a force multiplier for his flaws, and I’m also thinking Ronnie Shields doesn’t help much. But, IMO, he did seem to be fighting Williams on even terms prior to him exiting the ring.

    The Rios/Antillon fight was fun while it lasted, was great to be there in person for it. Although, I was shocked by the low attendance. I thought that fight would either sellout or come close. Either way, I’ll be able to tell my daughter that I heard Rios’ blood curdling victory cries live from ringside when she’s old enough to appreciate such significant things. Look forward to watching him fight, I don’t want to like him…but he’s growing on me.

  • dennis wise

    I agreed with the HBO booth in that the fight had a scary feel to it. It was a beating the form of a slow bleed. Williams appeared to be slightly hurt by punch after punch in the entire second half of the fight.

    anyone else thought Williams sounded not good in the post fight interview? a little like Bowe after the second Golata fight? I hope I’m wrong about that, and it was a consequence of his southern drawl and exhaustion, but this fight had a terrible feel in every way possible.

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hey Michael,

    Agree regarding the sluggish nature of Williams’ attack. Despite the volume, he just looked flat coming forward and threw very few meaningful punches. I have to wonder if moving back down to 154 was an issue, as he was forced to dry out 17 pounds to make the weight. He was cutting that much during his days at welter, but he was a younger man back then, and that kind of thing gets harder as a fighter approaches 30.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that was also a factor in Cintron’s performance too. Draining down to 149 (presumably to prove he can fight at welter in an effort to raise his profile for the Manny sweepstakes) was probably a mistake.

    Back to Williams. I have a feeling he’d have more pep back at 160lbs. That’s not to say I’d like to see a third fight with Martinez. That would be crazy. But if he does keep fighting, I think he would look somewhat rejuvenated if matched against most of the second tier middleweights that currently populate the division’s top ten. A basic straight-up 1-2 guy like Sturm, with his cover-up style D, I think would be perfect for Williams.

    That said, if Williams has saved his money – retiring is probably the wisest move.

    Rios-Barrera is nauseating to consider. This I guess is the fall-out of Morales’ performance against Maidana… now Barrera will be dredged up and fed to Rios. Don’t care to see that at all.

  • ergfacefights

    I’m a relative neophyte as a boxing spectator (just under a decade) yet despite Lederman’s scores and my own clear perception that Lara had won the fight I announced with confidence to my pals at the conclusion of the twelfth round that the judges would score the match for Williams. I could see it coming based on William’s ‘activity’. I have never sat ringside for a fight, only at a distance, but at this point it seems to me that without an established name it is very hard to overcome volume. Incompetence? Corruption? Maybe both plus an apparent systemic issue in interpreting effective aggression. That phrase seems to me a funny euphemism that contributes to these scorecards. Is actual damage inflicted one of the judging criteria? Although it sounds horrible to say so, maybe it should be…

  • Michael Nelson

    @JohnPaulFutbol Hey John,

    Glad that you had a good time. Cintron’s a pretty tough guy to figure, since he did have that two stretch against Angulo and Williams where he looked pretty good. But beyond that, I never thought much of him, and wasn’t shocked that Molina beat him up. Molina’s pretty good in close and Cintron still doesn’t know what to do when he’s not keeping range.

    Admittedly, I rated Williams a little higher than you did. I think in the past he at least occasionally sat down on his shots, to alright effect. Here, it was all Ramen. I’m not impressed with Mr. Peterson either, but HBO had a feature before the fight in which Williams tried to explain that losses aren’t a trainer’s fault. Whatever floats his boat.

    I’m becoming a fan of Rios. Miguel Vazquez would be an interesting opponent, one of the few at lightweight with the tools to handle him, I think.

  • Michael Nelson

    @HitDog Good point HitDog, the card looked like a mess and inexperience might’ve played a role. Although the group I was watching with included my friend’s sister in law, who may have seen five fights in her life, and she offered more veracious round-by-round judgement than these jokers.

    I’m fine with giving new blood a chance, but to have all three be unknown quantities definitely smells funny.

  • Michael Nelson

    @Andrew Fruman Hey Andrew,

    Good point on the weight issues. Cintron looked like crap, but since I’ve never been impressed with him, I didn’t think anything of it other than rust and Molina being tricky.

    Williams’ performance was definitely a surprise though. You’re right, if he’s going to continue with his career, it’s best he do as little draining as possible. The middleweight landscape (besides Martinez) is a fine vacationing spot for rehabilitation anyways.

    Barrera’s name being dropped was the low point of the telecast.

  • Michael Nelson

    @dennis wise Hey Dennis,

    I’d have to run back the dvr, but I was thinking southern drawl and exhaustion on first take. I was with you in feeling uneasy during some of the late rounds though. Immediately after the fight, I was hoping he’d call it a day. Still kind of do.

  • Michael Nelson

    @ergfacefights I feel you, for the reasons you illustrated, the judges getting Williams’ first bout with Quintana right was a little surprising at the time. Of course, that same ‘activity’ is what got Martinez the short end of the stick a year and a half ago.

    But in both those bouts, Williams got some real work in, I think. Against Lara, he scarcely landed anything eye-catching or memorable, largely making contact within the confines of a clinch. It’s fine for a judge to value inside work if, like you said, it at least appears like it’s doing damage. Pitter-pats and shoeshines need only apply if the other guy hasn’t done anything of note, and Lara was the only one landing aesthetically pleasing blows.

    I don’t think judges should be scoring blood, bumps, and swollen eyes, but they should be able to distinguish a clean, hard punch from the bullshit Williams (and Devon Alexander a few weeks ago) offered.

  • PhilS

    Michael–thank you for pointing out the effort of Carlos Molina. I keep telling people he was the story of the weekend and it is too bad the decision overshadows his great night. We are talking about an “opponent” who EARNED his shot on Showtime through years of hard work, and turned in a dominant performance. What a great story and I was very happy for him. To me, he was the story of the weekend, and I think you are the first person to acknowledge that. Thank you.

    Also—did you or anyone else here think that the count on Shimida was extremely fast? Maybe it might not have made a difference, but if he was getting up 3 seconds sooner than he really had to, I think it does. I don’t know, just seemed fast to me.

    Also, I found it humorous that Marlon B Wright did not notice that Bute roamed from the neutral corner while he counted out Mendy. I thought he was strict about staying two inches from the neutral turnbuckle!?

  • JasonTO

    Good stuff, Michael.

  • Michael Nelson

    @PhilS Thanks Phils. I’m a fan of hard hat, crafty, body punchers and Molina’s no exception. There’s nothing flashy about him, just know-how and professionalism. Glad to see him in the mix.

    I didn’t notice if the count was fast for Shimida, but he was in pretty bad shape. Good on Ramos for showing the necessary urgency. Beyond that, he wasn’t all that impressive.

    Which is more selective, Bute’s management or Marlon’s spidey-sense?

  • Michael Nelson

    @JasonTO Thank you sir.