During Boxing After Dark's two televised bouts from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night, fight fans witnessed two of the hallmarks of boxing: A stunning knockout punch and a controversial decision.
North Carolina native Paul Williams (40-2, 27 KOs) and Cuban defector Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) both came to the ring to regain career momentum. Williams looked to expunge a spectacular knockout loss to Sergio Martinez, and Lara was walking off a disappointing draw to Carlos Molina. But Saturday night brought only more disappointment to the Cuban fighter.
For 12 rounds, Lara did an appreciable job of countering the 6'1" Williams' range, keeping his distance and then diving inside for a southpaw jab followed by a hard left - the same punch that dispatched Williams in the second round of his loss to Martinez. Williams out-threw Lara 1,047 punches to 530, but the taller man had trouble landing. Lara was more than twice as accurate in total punches thrown (42 percent to 19 percent).
The judges scored the bout: 114-114 (Al Bennett), 115-114 (Hilton Whitaker) and 116-114 (Don Givens). As Williams' name was called at the end of the fight, the crowd groaned, and reporters at ringside were baffled, asking, "Did anybody have Williams ahead?"
Williams, not surprisingly, agreed with the decision, telling HBO commentator Max Kellerman: "Of course I believe I won the fight." And if there's any doubt about a rubber match against the last man to defeat him, Williams told the crowd, "We definitely want Martinez."
Lara had also hoped this fight would lead him to a battle with Martinez, but now he's set his sights on another matchup. "I don't know what the judges saw," Lara said. "I thought we won the fight. I want a rematch. I want to show the people of the world that I'm better than Paul Williams."
In the co-featured fight between super bantamweights Akifumi Shimoda (23-3-1) and Rico Ramos (20-0), the Japanese WBA champ ruled the cards throughout the fight, his southpaw jab keeping Ramos mostly on the defensive. But at 2:46 in the seventh round, the challenger from Los Angeles landed a spectacular left hook that knocked Shimoda cold. The crowd went wild, and Ramos could barely believe the punch himself. "He was tough at first," Ramos said. "I was kind of nervous ... I didn't think the hook was going to land. I can't believe it, man."
Earlier, in a non-televised fight, heavyweight contender Chris Arreola appeared for his third fight in as many months, taking on Friday Ahunanya out of Las Vegas. At 236 pounds, Arreola looked fit and fast, a purposeful shift for a fighter who's been criticized for having more allegiance to his beer breaks than his conditioning regimen. Arreola won the fight, but was extremely disappointed he didn't get the knockout he was hunting for. "Today's one of the s***tiest f**king performances of my life," he said. "I'm very disappointed. It's my fault. ... I shoulda gotten him outta there. He's a tough fighter, but I shoulda gotten him outta there." When asked what was next for him, Arreola replied: "Back to the gym."