Tonight's brutal knockout ofby reigning middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City proved a few things.
- Sergio Martinez is one of the best fighters in the sport today.
- Paul Williams' defensive flaws are a serious issue in his development as a fighter.
- These guys come to brawl with each other.
So now what? Well, I'm glad I asked myself that.
Williams outpointed Martinez last December in a thrilling fight that could have been called a nail-biter if fans' arms were constantly above their heads cheering on the back-and-forth slugfest. The rematch was a second round demolition job by the Argentinean champion, who drilled Williams with a beautiful, on-the-button left hand in round number two, ending the night in short order.
Paul Williams is no ducker, but there were some complications getting this fight done, and those came from the Williams camp. Is he really going to want a third fight with Martinez? Maybe, maybe not. Would Martinez take a third fight? I'm sure he would. There's still drama there. "The first was a classic, the rematch a brutal knockout, now Paul Williams wants his revenge and Sergio Martinez wants knock him out again," and so on and so forth.
It's up to Williams more than anyone, probably. I'd imagine the money will be there and HBO would gladly televise a third fight between the two. But it's on Paul now. This was a knockout the likes of which can seriously change a fighter.
Martinez's options may seem few at first thought, but there are plenty of options out there.
Dmitry Pirog (17-0, 14 KO) had a star-making, belt-grabbing win over Daniel Jacobs in July, and was highlighted as one of the top middleweights on the HBO broadcast tonight. As we were discussing in the post-fight thread, this is the sort of fight that boxing diehards wouldn't mind HBO "overpaying" to secure.
Felix Sturm (34-2-1, 14 KO) is a long-reigning titleholder who has been near the top of the 160-pound ranks for years now, but only has one notable fight to Stateside fans in his career, his controversial loss to Oscar de la Hoya in 2004. Since losing to Javier Castillejo in 2006, Sturm has gone 9-0-1 against pretty mediocre competition, but is now promoting himself and at 31, might be ready to take the risk and go for the brass ring. He's taken very little punishment in his career and while I think he'd be a clear and heavy underdog against Martinez, he's also got to be considered the No. 1 contender now, by process of elimination if nothing else.
Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32 KO) could come calling for a remahahahaha, OK, let's move on.
Marco Antonio Rubio (48-5-1, 41 KO) and David Lemieux (24-0, 23 KO) are supposedly lined up for a WBC eliminator in 2011, so maybe late next year the winner between those two will be in line. Speaking of the WBC's ideas, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (41-0-1, 30 KO) has also been placed in line by the sanctioning body, but there is no word from his camp or Top Rank that they're taking that seriously or have any intention to match Chavez with Martinez. If Chavez beats Alfonso Gomez on December 4, Bob Arum says the plan is still to have Chavez face Miguel Cotto in March for Cotto's 154-pound trinket.
If he does not land a fight with Manny Pacquiao, don't be stunned if Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KO) comes into the picture with a 156-pound catchweight. Mosley is willing to promote himself to fight Pacquiao, but if that doesn't happen, he could shift his focus to Martinez and try to land a title -- and this time a legit championship -- in his fourth weight class (Mosley has won belts at 135, 147 and 154). Shane Mosley might be crazy these days to be this ambitious, but he probably is this ambitious.
Y'know, Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KO) has a win over Martinez, and Martinez would probably like to avenge that. But of course Top Rank mostly likes to stay in-house, and they'd hate to dent that summer or fall rematch with Margarito and Cotto if they can avoid it.
Williams' stuff isn't as interesting. Frankly he might just take a rebound fight, or he could rematch Kermit Cintron, or he could seek out Pavlik for the 50th time. There are a lot of fights out there for him, but Paul's future isn't as clear as Martinez's, and it's a lot more wide open. For one thing he could be headed back to 154, where he would have a lot of options, especially now that people might see him as damaged goods. Don't expect the perceived "ducking" of Paul Williams to continue like before. The game has changed for him, and now he's in a position he's never been in before. We'll see where he goes.