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

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