Boxing's most avoided fighter steps in the ring this weekend

Updated: February 8, 2008

Robyn BeckAFP/Getty Images

It's a matter of time before one of the top-echelon fighters is forced to face Paul Williams, right.

Who wants to fight Williams?

For years, Top Rank's Bob Arum promoted then-welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito as the "most avoided fighter in boxing."

He chewed reporters' ears about how nobody wanted to face the dangerous Margarito and complained about how he couldn't get any big names into the ring with him. Arum's favorite line was about Floyd Mayweather Jr. once turning down $8 million to face Margarito. Too much risk, too little reward, Arum would say of those who ducked his client.

Meanwhile, Paul Williams, aka "The Punisher," ascended the rankings to become Margarito's mandatory challenger and, unlike so many others, anxiously looked forward to facing him.

When Williams got the chance last July, he took advantage, claiming the title on a close, exciting decision.

But besides Margarito's belt, Williams also seems to have inherited his tag of boxing's most avoided fighter, and his promoter, Dan Goossen, has dipped right into Arum's playbook.

"It's always hard to get Paul fights because people are reluctant to fight him," Goossen said.

George Peterson, Williams' trainer/manager, echoed Goossen's rhetoric.

"Whenever I read the papers or Internet, I saw all these so-called welterweight champions saying they'll fight anybody, anytime. But when it comes to fighting Paul, they get the flu or they want to take one or two warm-up fights," Peterson said. "They want to keep fighting everyone but Paul."

Goossen cited titleholder Kermit Cintron as an example. Goossen and Main Events, Cintron's promoter, struck a deal for Williams and Cintron to meet Feb. 2 in a unification fight before Cintron injured his hand in late November and withdrew.

Goossen, however, said the offer remained on the table if Cintron wanted to fight him a couple of months later. Instead, Cintron and Main Events opted for a fight with Margarito in April for half the money, but with a chance to fight Miguel Cotto in July for much more money if Cintron beats Margarito.

Goossen said that decision shows that Cintron is ducking Williams. Goossen also says other top welterweights, including Mayweather and Cotto, are also avoiding Williams.

"Certain fighters don't care how bad they look ducking Williams as long as they can avoid him," Goossen said.

Nonetheless, Williams (33-0, 24 KOs) will be back in the ring Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the Pechanga resort in Temecula, Calif., making his first defense against Puerto Rico's Carlos Quintana (24-1, 19 KOs), who obviously isn't afraid of facing a 6-foot-2, hard-punching southpaw with a good chin, skills and an 82-inch reach.

"You have to give Quintana credit," Goossen said. "He's the only man who showed the courage to get in the ring with Paul."

"I was the only one willing to step up and fight Williams because I know I can beat him," said Quintana, whose only loss came via fifth-round TKO to Cotto in a December 2006 title bout. "They are saying the same things about [Williams] as they did with [Joel] Julio, that he's the man in the welterweight division. Well we all know how I easily I beat the 'great' Julio."

Williams, 26, of Augusta, Ga., is soft-spoken and prefers to let Goossen and Peterson take up his cause. But when asked point blank if top opponents were avoiding him, Williams offered, "I don't know who would step up to the challenge besides Quintana. These guys know it will be a hard fight. I wouldn't say I am avoided. I would say I'm their last option."

Goossen said he'll continue to make fights for Williams until one of the big names is forced to face him because of public and media pressure.

"Paul just won the title, he's still a young man," Goossen said. "We've got patience and we understand that we'd rather be in this position, where people are afraid to get in the ring with you, than be in a position where people are lining up to get in the ring with you because you are an easy mark."

In the televised co-feature, welterweight Andre Berto (20-0, 17 KOs), the 2006 prospect of the year and a 2004 Olympian, faces former title challenger and former European champion Michel Trabant (43-2-1, 19 KOs) of Germany. It is the first bout of Berto's three-fight HBO deal.

Toney comeback

Former three-division champion James Toney (70-6-3, 43 KOs) will be back in the ring this spring, promoter Goossen told


The former three-division champion, who served his second steroid-related suspension last year, was eligible to return near the end of 2007. He hasn't fought since last May 24, when he outpointed Dan Batchelder in a heavyweight fight in San Jose, Calif. Both fighters tested positive for steroids afterward and were suspended.

Toney also tested positive for steroids following a heavyweight title win against John Ruiz in 2005. The result was changed to a no contest and Toney was stripped.

Goossen said Toney would return in March or April. He said he was exploring offers for fights in South Africa and Russia, but also said Toney might stay stateside and fight on a pay-per-view Goossen is considering.

Goossen declined to name the potential overseas opponents but mentioned the possibility of a rematch between Toney and Vassiliy Jirov if he fights in the U.S. Toney won the cruiserweight title from Jirov in a memorable 2003 slugfest.

Guerrero-Litzau set

Although Showtime doesn't have a "Showtime Championship Boxing" card in February, it does have a significantly beefed up "ShoBox" card Feb. 29 (11 p.m. ET), when featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero (21-1-1, 14 KOs) defends against Jason Litzau (23-1, 19 KOs) at Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, Calif.


"I can't wait to put it all on the line again," said Guerrero, who blew away Martin Honorio in 56 seconds on Showtime on Nov. 3. "I'm on a mission right now. Everyone has been talking about this fight for a while, and now its time to make it happen. Jason Litzau is a world class fighter. He's a powerful puncher and one of the best in the division. I believe fans will get their money's worth when they watch this fight, because someone's going down, that's for sure."

Guerrero entered the Honorio bout just a few days after his wife was diagnosed with leukemia. Her condition is a driving force for Guerrero.

"With my wife's condition weighing on my mind, I feel I need to be in the ring as much as possible," he said. "The intensity of my training is like no other time in my life. I have to win this fight for my family."

Litzau, who has had a string of exciting performances, is getting his first title shot.

"The most dangerous fighters are those who are fighting in their first world title fight," he said. "I know what I have to do against Guerrero to be successful."

Also on the card: heavyweights T.J. Wilson (12-1, 8 KOs) and Travis Walker (26-1-1, 20 KOs) hook up in a rematch. In their October bout, Wilson stopped Walker on his feet just 15 seconds into the fight. There was great division over whether referee Raul Caiz Sr. should have stopped the fight so quickly or allowed it to continue even though Walker had taken a few hard punches.


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• Talks between Golden Boy and Don King for a May 31 Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga fight have cooled off and former undisputed welterweight champ Zab Judah has emerged as the leading candidate to face Mosley on May 31 on HBO PPV. However, the deal isn't done, despite overzealous media reports. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told that those reports are "premature, but we are talking." Mayorga, meanwhile, could be headed to Showtime for a fight in May or June.


• The junior middleweight fight between punchers Joel "Love Child" Julio, and James Kirkland, proposed for HBO's "Boxing After Dark" in May, is off. Julio's handlers at Main Events walked away from the talks because they were unhappy with how Kirkland promoter Gary Shaw -- a former Main Events employee -- handled negotiations. Main Events wanted to be a partner in the card, not just be paid to provide Julio's services. Kirkland is still expected to headline the card (either May 17 or May 24), but the list of potential opponents being discussed -- Andrey Tsurkan, Pawel Wolak and Eromosele Albert among them -- is not exactly HBO material. Alfredo Angulo, another of Shaw's 154-pound prospects, is penciled in for the opener but also has no opponent.


• With Julio-Kirkland off, Main Events has lined up Julio, the 2005 prospect of the year, to headline "Wednesday Night Fights" (ESPN2) on April 30 in Vancouver, B.C. Julio is slated to fight first-season "Contender" participant Ishe Smith, provided Smith wins a fight Friday night in Florida. "WNF" will return for the first of 18 cards (possibly 19) on April 9 with a main event to be announced.


• Heavyweight Joe Mesi (36-0, 29 KOs), who is seven fights into a comeback after suffering a brain bleed in a win against Vassiliy Jirov in 2004 and a subsequent two-year layoff while he battled in court to win the right to pursue a boxing license, headlines the April 4 "Friday Night Fights" card (ESPN2) in Lincoln, R.I. He could face Terry Smith in the 10-rounder.


• Good news for fight fans: ESPN Classic is close to a deal with promoters Main Events and Seminole Warriors Boxing to televise the potentially explosive April 19 cruiserweight eliminator in Katowice, Poland, between former undisputed champion O'Neil Bell and ex-light heavyweight beltholder Tomasz Adamek. ESPN Classic has been dabbling in new fights, last fall airing live a portion of a "Contender" card featuring Sergio Mora and the Sultan Ibragimov-Evander Holyfield heavyweight title bout on a week's delay.


• For years, promoters have talked about staging fights in Dubai in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates because of its financial resources. Invariably, however, they didn't come off. But now, boxing in Dubai is a reality. There's a small card there Friday featuring former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer but a much bigger card on April 18 featuring four notable fights, including three world title bouts. Filipino promoter Noli Eala of Third Force, with guidance from matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, has lined up four bouts worthy of American TV coverage: flyweight titlist Nonito Donaire in his second defense against Hussein Hussein; junior flyweight titlist Ulises "Archie" Solis making his sixth defense in less that two years against Juanito Rubillar; strawweight beltholder Donnie Nietes facing ex-titlist Daniel Reyes, and former lightweight titleholder Julio Diaz, in his first bout since being hammed by Juan Diaz in an October unification fight, meeting Ranee Ganoy.


• Former undisputed junior welterweight champ Kostya Tszyu (31-2, 25 KOs) hasn't fought since losing the title to Ricky Hatton in June 2005, when he retired on his stool after the 11th round, but he's made no secret about the inner struggle he faces over whether he should fight again. Although Tszyu, 38, has kept busy in Australia with various business endeavors, appearances and work with amateur boxers, could he be considering a comeback? "I have been keeping an eye on the boxing world and really enjoyed watching Roy Jones Jr.'s performance against Felix Trinidad at Madison Square Garden," Tszyu said. "Seeing 39-year-old Roy in action and also 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins' recent performances, it seems that being 40 isn't so old anymore."


• Although light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson has important business to handle on April 12 (Showtime), when he defends against ex-champ Glen Johnson, he was paying attention to Jones' victory against Trinidad last month. He heard Jones reel off a list of potential future opponents that somehow didn't include him. "Let's see, he named middleweights Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor, super middleweight Joe Calzaghe, light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins, who has been asking for a rematch for over 10 years, and junior middleweight Oscar De La Hoya," Dawson said. "Funny how big, old 'Superman' doesn't want to pick on someone his own size, like the reigning WBC light heavyweight champion -- me. … Could it be that I'm the Kryptonite 'Superman' Jones fears more than anything else in this universe? Heck, as long as he's pretending to be Superman, doesn't he even want to pretend to want to fight me for his old belt?"


• Junior lightweight prospect Yuriorkis Gamboa (8-0, 7 KOs), a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, was supposed to make his U.S. TV debut on this week's "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2) but has withdrawn. It was supposed to be his first of two bouts in three weeks on ESPN2, but promoter Arena Box-Promotion elected to pull him off the show to preserve the Feb. 22 appearance, in which Gamboa will box for a regional title against Johnnie Edwards (13-1-1, 7 KOs). Also on the Feb. 22 card: Yan Barthelemy (4-0), also a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected to Germany with Gamboa and teammate Odlanier Solis, the heavyweight gold medalist.


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• Germany's Markus Beyer, who has three times held a piece of the super middleweight title, hasn't fought since being knocked out in the third round by Mikkel Kessler in their October 2006 unification bout. But now Beyer (34-3-1, 13 KOs) has healed from a serious left-hand injury (he's a southpaw) and surgery and is returning. He has signed with a new promoter, Arena Box-Promotion, and will face an opponent to be named March 14 in Munich. Beyer, 36, said he never planned to retire because of the injury, contrary to rumors. "I had that surgery done so I can resume my career and become world champion again," he said. "I am a three-time world champion. Now I want to go for four. I still feel the fire burning inside of me."


Mayweather Sr.

"Can't call us that. Dysfunctional families shoot the kids, drown the kids, shoot friends, take a friend out and shoot 'em in the head or run 'em off a cliff. What we do is everyday things. We have arguments and can't get along because we can't agree on things. Floyd just forgot about who put him where he is today. If the Mayweather family is dysfunctional, every family is because everyone has differences. You want to talk dysfunctional, just look at 'The Jerry Springer Show.' That's dysfunctional [stuff]." -- Floyd Mayweather Sr., who will train Oscar De La Hoya to defeat his estranged son, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. (trained by Floyd Sr.'s brother, Roger Mayweather), rejecting the notion that the Mayweathers are dysfunctional.