Saturday night was, without any question, a big night for boxing, one of the biggest of the year, in fact. And in the biggest fight of the night, Paul "The Punisher" Williams ended the five-year WBO welterweight title reign of Antonio Margarito with a unanimous decision victory in Carson, California, keeping his undefeated record and firmly establishing himself as a legit top-tier fighter in one of boxing's best and most competitive divisions.
The 25-year old Williams (33-0, 24 KO) used overwhelming punch output to neutralize Margarito (34-5, 24 KO) for the majority of the rough-and-tumble bout between two guys whose different styles meshed very well, resulting in a fantastic main event fight that might have even exceeded its hype.
I had a 116-112 score for Williams, and the official cards came in at 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113, interesting because Williams, who seemed to be in control, clearly won the 12th round over Margarito, who made a charge back into the fight in the middle rounds after being outworked badly in the early going.
Margarito and Williams both came in noted for their heavy punch stats, but it was Williams who kept his reputation tonight. Margarito landed a lot of good, hard, digging shots, especially good stuff to the body, and appeared to have Williams in some danger, especially in the very dramatic 11th round. But Williams threw 1,256 punches, according to Compubox, and that proved to be the difference in the end.
It does seem as though there's some contention out there among the boxing writers and bloggers about the scoring of this fight, but some of them gave Cory Spinks a win over Jermain Taylor, which was ludicrous in every way. My 116-112 card for Williams matches up with Jerry Magee (San Diego Union-Tribune), and Robert Morales (Los Angeles Daily News) and Carlos Arias (Orange County Register) gave it to Williams, 115-113.
Yahoo's Kevin Iole gave it to Margarito, 116-112, which I just don't see at all. I think Kevin is a cool guy and I like reading his articles, but jeez. MaxBoxing.com's Doug Fischer and Steve Kim both gave it to Margarito, 115-113, as did Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times. Scoring 114-114 draws were Steve Springer (L.A. Times), Tim Smith (New York Daily News), David Avila (Riverside Press Enterprise) and Francisco Salazar (Fightnews.com).
What I'm getting at, basically, is that me, Jerry Magee and official ringside judge Tom Miller have it 100%, absolutely correct.
Margarito now loses not only his title, but his December fight with Miguel Cotto. It is likely that we will now see Cotto take on Shane Mosley instead, which promises to be a fantastic fight. Williams could move on to fight Cotto if Shane winds up with a huge money fight against Mayweather instead, but more likely he'll unite titles with another of Saturday's victors, Kermit Cintron.
Cintron, with Manny Steward in his corner, looked like a totally different fighter than he was in his loss to Margarito a couple of years ago. The IBF champion stormed and destroyed Walter Matthysse, a dangerous puncher with 25 knockouts in 26 professional wins, knocking him flat out with a brutal left uppercut/overhand right combo just moments into the second round, the third time he had been able to put the Argentinian challenger on his back. It was a a class performance from Cintron, whose punching was powerful, accurate, and sharp. He just looked like a guy who was out there to knock someone out, like the way Tyson would look in his rise to heavyweight glory.
On the undercard in Carson, Andre Ward was very impressive in his win over Francisco Diaz, a third-round knockout. And Chris Arreola won again, as he very well should have given the opponent. Arreola actually took a step back in competition tonight.
In Biloxi, Mississippi, Roy Jones, Jr., won a unanimous decision over Anthony Hanshaw, making that big rumored fight with Tito Trinidad a distinct possibility. The 38-year old Jones won on scores of 118-109, 117-110 and 114-113 to secure the 51st victory of his career. On the undercard, Derrick Gainer won what must have been a blistering split decision over Carlos Navarro, and Oscar Diaz and Juan Buendia went to a no-contest. Early estimates are that seven people paid the $29.95 for the show.
In London, American Steven Luevano scored an 11th-round KO over previously-unbeaten Nicky Cook, winning the vacant WBO featherweight title. On the same card, super prospect Amir Khan took the Commonwealth lightweight title in a surprisingly competitive fight against light-punching Scotsman Willie Limond. Limond dealt Khan the first knockdown of his young pro career in the sixth round, described as a "hard" knockdown that nearly put Khan out. Khan, though, rallied to put Limond down the next round, and after the eighth, Limond's corner threw in the towel with their fighter suffering from a broken nose and jaw. It's the first title for Khan, though it now raises questions about his chin if a guy like Limond can floor him. They may or may not be legitimate questions.
Matt Skelton, who recently took time to say he wants to fight Wladimir Klitschko, took a majority decision win over Michael Sprott in the third big fight of the card at O2 Arena. It won't happen, but there are worse opponents out there for Klitschko, some of whom have been given serious discussion. I mean, shit, they made him fight Ray Austin.
In Orsilla, Ontario, Steve Molitor successfully defended his IBF super bantamweight title against Takalani Ndlovu with a ninth-round TKO, improving his record to 24-0. On the undercard, Eduardo Garcia upset Canadian prospect Sebastien Gauthier to win the vacant IBF international super flyweight title with a fourth-round TKO. Gauthier is now 11-1, Garcia 18-5.
In Hamburg, Tony Thompson may have retired Luan Krasniqi, and he definitely made himself the mandatory challenger for Sultan Ibragimov's alphabet belt. "The Tiger" dominated "The Lion" before the referee stepped in in the fifth round, with no knockdown taking place in the fight. It was that one-sided. On the undercard, Alexander Dimitrenko predictably beat craptacular American Malcolm Tann.
In Ireland, John Duddy kept his perfect record with a 10th-round TKO of Alessio Furlan. Probably not as quick as he wanted it to be, but Duddy marches on with all the promotion he can get.
And, finally, in New Town, ND, Vassily Jirov returned to the cruiserweight division with a second-round knockout of Kenny Craven.