Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paul Williams Needs Emanuel Steward

Paul Williams ranks in the upper echelon of contemporary prizefighters.  He defeated Antonio Margarito who at the time was ascending pound-for-pound lists.  He beat Sergio Martinez in their first fight.  He had a dominant win overy Winky Wright.

However, Paul Williams also turned in a lackluster performance in the first fight with Carlos Quintana -- got starched by Martinez in their rematch and failed to inspire in a bizarre fight against Kermit Cintron. 

Williams' attributes -- listed as 6'1" (and probably taller) with the reach of a heavyweight -- make him a formidable opponent against anyone in his surrounding weight classes.  His style is difficult to prepare for.  He has a swarming and high-volume attack.  At times he almost resembles a pressure fighter.

Yet Williams has proven to be mortal.  He does some things really well.  He is always in shape, he has the attitude of a fighter and he features a blistering work rate.  Yet Williams' deficiencies are real: he gives up his height, he gets lazy with his jab, he smothers himself on the inside and he doesn't have knockout power. 

His trainer George Peterson has done some good things for his career.  Peterson recognized that he had a unique athletic talent and didn't try to make him a conventional fighter.  Williams’ offensive arsenal features an array of jabs, hooks, uppercuts and straight left hands.  Peterson melded a kid from the boxing-poor southeastern part of America into a titleholder. 

However it is clear that Williams isn't progressing -- at least on the elite level.  Some of this stagnation could be attributed to the inactivity that comes with being a premium network fighter.  There are only so many dates a year and their isn't the immediate economic incentive for most fighters to be more active off premium cable. 

But Williams' struggles might also result from the technical flaws that aren't getting cleaned up.  When Sergio Martinez's trainer, Gabriel Sarmiento, predicted that his fighter would knock out Williams in the second round before the rematch -- and then it happened -- obviously these flaws are becoming more pronounced and easy to counter.

It is time for Williams to correct these deficiencies.  The best person for the role, Mr. Fix-it himself, is Emanuel Steward.  Steward probably is the best trainer in the business in working with tall fighters and teaching them how to "fight tall."  In essence, "fighting tall" means working behind the jab, keeping appropriate space and not giving up the height advantage. 

Steward also excels in having his boxers really sit down on their punches, committing to the crosses and uppercuts, not just throwing them.  Emanuel likes offensive fighters and this could be a particularly interesting match.

However, this union may not be perfect.  Take a look at this list of top-class fighters trained by Steward:
You don't see too many southpaws on this list.  In addition, although Steward  may be exceptional in teaching fighters to work off the jab and fire the old 1-2, Williams is anything but conventional.

There is some risk involved but I think it is one that Williams needs to take to reach that one precipice that has eluded him so far: greatness.  He has won titles in multiple divisions but how often has he inspired?

His ho-hum knockout percentage of 66% (certainly no Punisher!) could be improved with Steward's tutelage.  He could learn how to fight with more purpose on the inside.  Most importantly, he could stop flicking out his jab and throw it with purpose.

If this union were indeed to work, Steward would have to let Williams continue some of the awkwardness (lead right hooks, triple and quadruple jabs, punches from weird angles) that makes him so formidable. 

The ball is in Williams' court.  To this point, he wants to continue with Peterson.  But the time for a new course of action is now.  With no immediate, big fight on the horizon, Williams should hire Steward and take the rematch with Cintron.  With Manny's guidance, Williams should be able to send that emotionally fragile fighter (and former Steward pupil) out of the ring the traditional way.  

Williams isn't getting any younger and there are still things to learn.  Business as usual has not been good enough.

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