Paul Williams' return to the ring is set for July 9 on HBO, and Dan Rafael reports that Williams will face Nobuhiro Ishida. A venue has yet to be determined.
Williams (39-2, 27 KO) is coming off of a vicious second round knockout loss to Sergio Martinez last November, and has decided to move back down to the junior middleweight division. Ishida (23-6-2, 8 KO) is coming off of a wipeout of James Kirkland on April 9, which stunned the boxing world in just 1:52. Ishida knocked Kirkland down three times despite not being known as a puncher, and being signed up as a 35-year-old patsy for the promising Texas action fighter.
I don't think there's really any getting around the fact that this is a pretty weak comeback fight for Williams, particularly when you consider that this is an HBO main event. All respect to Ishida, who got here with a credible and shocking victory, but he was not a real contender a month ago, and even though he's had a solid career, there were better fights that could have been made.
Pawel Wolak was in the discussion, but reportedly turned down by Williams. Deandre Latimore called out Williams, and as a southpaw with some pop, seemed like a fine opponent for a Williams return.
But this is clearly about getting Paul back in the ring in a fight that isn't supposed to be too dangerous for him. It's a rehab fight, a "get well" fight, and while those happen all the time, I can't help but think that HBO agreeing to this as a main event is a first-class example of some of the problems at the network, which has been criticized for buying fights less often than buying single fighters or their management teams.
I'm not saying I'm not interested in seeing Paul Williams come back, because I am. But HBO has the ability to make great fights happen, or at least play a major hand in doing so. This is not a great fight. This fight goes one of two ways: Williams proves his predictable superiority against Ishida in a cobwebs-shaker, or Williams proves incapable of recovering from the Martinez knockout.