Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paul Williams Tragedy Adds to A Controversial Year in Boxing

No one likes to hear a worst-case scenario in an accident, whether it's a close loved one or simply someone that is known by their trade. Today is no different.

On Monday boxing manager George Peterson confirmed reports that one of his fighters, Paul 'Punisher' Williams, was involved in a motorcycle accident on Sunday in an Atlanta suburb. He also told Ring.tv that doctors have said that Williams in now paralyzed from the waist down and will never walk again.

Williams was scheduled to challenge rising Mexican star and WBC Junior Middleweight Champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on September 15.

The apparent end of Williams' career just adds a sad chapter to what has been a controversial year in boxing so far both inside and outside the ring.

Inside the ring two fights stand out so far this year for controversy.

The first fight was on April 14 in Las Vegas, NV as Brandon Rios fought Richard Abril in a match between two top 10 fighters in the lightweight division. Abril was a replacement fighter for Rios as he was originally scheduled to go against Yuriorkis Gamboa, who pulled out of the fight due to unhappiness about his $1.1 million purse. Rios failed to make the 135 lb. weight requirement for the second fight in a row and went into the fight at 139 lbs. Abril came into the fight as a 5/1 underdog. After a good first round by both fighters Abril began to set the tone of the fight. Rios looked sluggish as the fight progressed and didn't seem to have an answer to Abril's defense. Nearly every boxing analyst had Abril winning the fight, but the judges gave Rios a split decision victory. To say that people were not amused would be an understatement. ESPN boxing reporter Dan Rafael called the decision "absolutely disgusting." Freelance reporter Mike Rosenthal said that "No way Rios won that fight." Promoter Lou DiBella said that the decision is why 'We (boxing) suck as a legit sport."

The second fight happened three weeks earlier on March 24 in Houston, TX as James Kirkland fought Carlos Molina in a junior middleweight bout. Kirkland was making his second comeback in the division after suffering setbacks in the ring (a shocking loss to Nobuhiro Ishida) and out (two prison stints for armed robbery and weapons possession by a felon.) The fight was going Molina's way through the first nine rounds as he was hitting Kirkland more accurately throughout. Kirkland looked out of his element as he was trying to out-box Molina even though he's a natural brawler. That started to change in the tenth round as Kirkland started letting his hands go and hurt Molina. Almost exactly at the bell rang to end the round Kirkland scored a knockdown. The rules of the fight stated that a referee has to administer a ten count to a fighter even if he was knocked down at the end of a round. The ringing of the bell caused some confusion in Molina's corner as one member came into the ring thinking that the round was over as the referee was administering the ten count. That caused the referee to disqualify Molina after a short pause. While the referee's decision was technically the correct one, it was panned by analysts. The blame was mainly aimed at the Texas Boxing Commission for their corner inspectors not stopping the man in Molina's corner from stepping in the ring during the ten count. It was later revealed that Kirkland suffered a shoulder injury during the fight.

Outside the ring controversy has stopped two rematches from happening.

The first instance happened on May 9 when a title fight rematch scheduled for May 19 between junior welterweights Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson was cancelled as Peterson tested positive for a banned substance in both his 'A' and 'B' samples. That substance turned out to be synthetic testosterone. Peterson admitted that he did take the substance, but said that he is taking it for medical reasons. It was also revealed that Peterson started taking testosterone in October 2011, which was before his first bout with Khan where he won the IBF and WBA Junior Welterweight belts in a split decision. Khan's main promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, has now asked for the result of the first fight to be changed to a 'no contest' thus giving the titles Khan lost back to him.

Khan and Golden Boy Promotions have now scheduled a fight with Danny Garcia on July 14 in Las Vegas for Garcia's WBC Junior Welterweight title.

The second instance happened only nine days removed from the first. On May 18 it was revealed that Andre Berto tested positive for norandrosterone, a version of the anabolic steroid Nandrolone. That caused his June 23 welterweight fight against Victor Ortiz, a rematch of Ring Magazine's 2011 Fight of the Year, to be cancelled. That fight produced Berto's only loss in his career. While Berto has denied taking the substance, his claims are on shallow water as Victor Conte of BALCO infamy is in his training camp. Unlike the Peterson situation where it was weeks between the 'A' and 'B' sample being tested, Berto's camp informed Golden Boy Promotions (Ortiz's promoter) of the positive 'A' immediately. That allowed Golden Boy time to quickly test the 'B' sample and to find a replacement for Berto to face Ortiz without moving the date of the fight.

Ortiz is now scheduled to face Josesito Lopez on the same scheduled date as the Berto fight in Los Angeles.

Three potentially great fights set for this year lost, two by controversy and one by tragedy.

Luckily it looks like all three fighters that lost opponents to these events won't be stalled by them.
Khan has a chance to retake his spot at the top of the junior welterweight division. Ortiz will get to regain steam after losing his last fight against the world's best pound-for-pound fighter in Floyd Mayweather Jr. Alvarez is now finalizing talks to make a mandatory WBC Junior Middleweight title defense against Kirkland.

It's only been half a year and boxing has been hit hard. There is still time to turn it around though. Khan-Garcia, Ortiz-Lopez, and (potentially) Alvarez-Kirkland all can be good fights. There is also still talks that the dream fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao can still happen this year.

The sweet science can still get up to fight again.

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