The stench of Saturday night's Erislandy Lara-Paul Williams decision has not gone away. And by the way, I will refer to the fight as Lara-Williams in protest of a fight that Lara is almost universally regarded to have won, despite what the judges said.
To refresh your memory: Lara beat Williams to the punch all night long. He landed left hands almost at will. He busted Williams up. He was -- in the view of HBO's announcers, media row, the vocal crowd at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City, N.J., and virtually everyone else who saw the fight -- the rightful winner by a good margin.
Yet judges Hilton Whitaker (115-114) and Don Givens (116-114) absurdly scored it for Williams, while Al Bennett was almost as bad in scoring it 114-114.
Simply put, this decision has been derided as one of the worst boxing has seen in years. It was incomprehensible. This was not just one of those close fights that could have gone either way. No, this was a clear-as-day win for Lara. Even if you gave every possible benefit of the doubt to Williams, maybe you could score it 115-113 for Lara. Not a draw. And certainly there is no reasonable way to actually have Williams winning.
Even Williams didn't appear to genuinely think he won, no matter what he said during his postfight interview with HBO analyst Max Kellerman. Fighters know in their hearts whether they won or lost a fight. Look at the video. Williams, with a half-hearted fist pump when the fight was over, sure didn't act like a guy who thought he won.
There was a reason why trainer George Peterson was telling Williams he needed a knockout to win long before the 12th round.
A few hours after the fight, I ran into Williams in Caesars Atlantic City. He was all by himself. He had on dark glasses, a white bandage over his eye where he had gotten stitched up, and was sipping on a soda. We talked for a couple of minutes. He certainly did not look or sound like a guy who really thought he had won, or like a guy who had just made about $1.5 million compared to the $135,000 chump change Lara received.
What really bugs me -- and HBO's Harold Lederman did a great job of pointing this out -- is that none of the judges for the fight were experienced at the top level of boxing or are considered among New Jersey's best judges. I can see a commission giving a shot to a less-seasoned judge in a high-profile fight -- but not an entire panel of judges with minimal experience scoring main events under such a microscope. That's not acceptable, especially when there are several qualified judges who work regularly in the state.
And it doesn't help that each judge worked several fights on the card, so their concentration might have been tapped by the time the main event rolled around. Each of the judges had worked five previous bouts on the card.
Furthermore, if you examine the scorecards, Whitaker and Givens actually scored the 12th and final round 10-10. Even rounds are not all that common. But to score the final round of a major fight even is ridiculous. The judges are paid to make that tough call. So make it.
Keep in mind, in no way do I blame Williams for the decision. I have nothing but respect for the man. He has been a tremendous fighter for several years. He has a big heart and usually makes entertaining fights. Saturday was no different.
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Lara's promoter, was livid about the result, which should come as no surprise.
"When you see a young, undefeated star convincingly win almost every round against one of the best fighters in the world and then have the judges take the fight away from him, it's very disturbing, not only as his promoter, but also as a boxing fan," Schaefer said.
Naturally, Lara asked for a rematch following the fight, and Williams should give him one. Schaefer also hoped to get his fighter a second fight with Williams.
"We hope that Williams and his promoter, Dan Goossen, will give Lara a much-deserved rematch to settle the controversy that has erupted since Saturday night's decision," Schaefer said. "If Williams chooses not to fight Lara again, Erislandy is ready to fight anyone, anywhere and at any time, and we will make sure that he gets the opportunities he deserves in the wake of his spectacular performance in Atlantic City."
But don't count on a rematch unless HBO, which has televised Williams' fights for years, puts the pressure on the fighter, Goossen and Al Haymon, Williams' adviser.
At this point, the Williams camp has no intention of making a rematch. Goossen knows Williams has a hard time dealing with southpaws.
Williams couldn't handle Lara. Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez, also a left-hander, gave Williams an exceptionally tough fight in their 2009 first meeting and lost a controversial decision. Of course, in November, Martinez knocked Williams cold in the second round. And there is also lefty Carlos Quintana, who hung the first loss on Williams before getting knocked out in the first round in their rematch.
The Williams camp doesn't want to see Lara again, nor any other lefty, because Williams simply can't avoid a straight left hand or an overhand left. Peterson has never been able to correct that flaw in Williams' game.
Immediately after Lara-Williams, Goossen was already looking for a way to avoid Lara again. He called a representative for Carlos Molina, who had easily dominated Kermit Cintron on Showtime in a big upset on Saturday night's other major televised card. Goossen wanted to gauge the interest in Molina next facing Williams. The reason he figured it made sense: Molina and Lara fought to a controversial draw in March. But Williams facing Molina will just be a reminder that he and his team are running from a tough sequel.
How times have changed, considering that for so long Goossen pitched Williams as boxing's "most feared fighter."
Besides getting saddled with an undeserved loss, Lara suffered a small facial fracture due to an accidental head-butt. Trainer/cutman Miguel Diaz did a tremendous job of keeping the swelling down. But when the fracture was diagnosed at the hospital after the fight, Lara's night continued to get worse.
Lara was told by the doctor that because of the fracture, he should not fly for about six weeks.
That left Golden Boy's Dave Itskowitch to change Lara's travel plans.
Lara had to drive a rental car all the way back to Florida.
The "loss" was bad enough, but talk about adding insult to injury.