Saturday's match between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara embody two classic boxing story lines. The first is Veteran versus Prospect, although the 29-year-old Williams is just 21 months older than Lara and the experience gap is mitigated by Lara's deep amateur background. The second is the Crossroads Fight in which both men are confronted with win-or-else scenarios given their most recent results (KO by 2 Sergio Martinez for Williams, D 10 Carlos Molina for Lara).
The brutal truth in matches like this is that one man will revitalize his career while dealing a severe -- and perhaps irreparable -- blow to his opponent's. Which fighter will assume which role? The CompuBox figures offer the following clues:
For Williams to win, he must:
Emerge from "The Shadows" With Activity: The knockout loss he suffered eight months ago -- and the spectacular nature of it -- could dent any man's confidence. Teddy Atlas calls these bad memories "shadows" and if he wants to beat Lara he must toss them aside and focus on the task at hand.
One way to gauge whether he's done so is to look at his output, the one asset that separated the prime Williams from everyone else. He out-punched Antonio Margarito -- the all-time CompuBox record-holder for punches thrown in a 12-round fight -- 1,256-652 and averaged 89.5 punches per round in 14 CompuBox-tracked fights dating back to 2001. The quality of opposition or the style they employed didn't matter; "The Punisher" fought the same way every time out -- full steam ahead and forget the consequences.
That strategy proved effective against fellow southpaws, of which Lara is one. He out-landed Martinez 300-254 (total) and 206-183 (power) in fight one and did the same against Sharmba Mitchell (72-51 total, 62-38 power) and Winky Wright (247-116 total, 177-76 power). Plus, he emphatically avenged his first loss against Carlos Quintana with an overwhelming show of force that lasted just 135 seconds.
Activity is vital because Lara can be out-hustled. His outputs against Molina (56.6) and Danny Perez (60.4) were near the 56.9 middleweight average while those against Grady Brewer (45.9) and Luciano Perez (48.6) were markedly below it.
Brewer kept Lara busy by throwing 69.8 punches per round and landed 30.3 percent of his power shots. Unfortunately for Brewer, his jabs were woefully ineffective (2.1 percent) and his own chin highly reachable as Lara landed 40.2 percent of his power shots. The same scenario played out against Luciano Perez:
Perez threw more (53.4-48.6) but Perez's jab (2.0 percent) and defensive lapses (51.5 percent power accuracy for Lara) proved too costly.
Williams' jab isn't likely to be a major weapon either. He landed 8.3 percent in the Williams rematch, 5.3 percent against Cintron and 16.7 percent against Wright. But if he can duplicate the 27 percent accuracy he enjoyed in the first Martinez fight he'll be on his way to victory.
For Lara to win, he must:
Make Williams think: Williams would like nothing more than to engage in a firefight where sock trumps science. But Cintron found a way to short-circuit Williams' attack -- at least temporarily. Cintron used elusiveness and smart punch selection to topple volume-puncher Alfredo Angulo and he did the same against Williams, who was limited to 51.8 punches per round. That's a far cry from the supersonic outputs he unleashed against Santos Pakau (114.3), Margarito (104.7) and Walter Matthysse (103.6). The only question is whether Lara has the experience and intelligence at the pro level to employ -- and sustain -- these tactics.
Exploit Williams' more accessible chin: In his four-plus minutes against Martinez last November Williams was chugging along nicely. He was on a 79-punch-per-round pace and had out-thrown and out-landed Martinez (105-76 thrown, 33-31 total connects and 31-21 power connects) but "Maravilla" changed everything with his final punch.
Williams has tasted a higher percentage of power shots in three of his last four fights (Cintron, Martinez I and Wright) and Lara is an accurate power puncher.
Remember Past Successes: Some of the 5-9 Lara's best outings have come against taller fighters -- and at 6-2 Williams is the tallest he's faced. Three first-round KO victims -- Delray Raines, Jose Varela and Keith Cross -- stood 6-1 and one opponent, Willie Lee, is left-handed. While Williams is Lara's most talented and most experienced foe, Lara can derive encouragement from past experiences.
Prediction: If Williams can overcome the demons he has the tools to rebound strongly. The guess here is that he will by decision.
For more CompuBox statistics on Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara, go to the Inside Fight Week Blog.
Posted 12:00 AM | Jul 8, 2011
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