Which Saturday fight do you most want to watch?

SportsNation
WILLIAMS-ISHIDA
VITALI-CHISORA

Is 'The Punisher' all punched out?

Mulvaney By Kieran Mulvaney
ESPN.com
Archive

This Saturday is one of those days that, at least for American fight fans, doesn't have any one hugely compelling bout to watch but offers a whole bunch of interesting and intriguing contests that will have hard-core fans spending the bulk of their afternoon and evening staring at computer and television screens, watching action in Germany, Mexico and the U.S.

Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against Dereck Chisora is probably the bout that will catch the attention of most around the world. The always-watchable Jorge Arce takes on Lorenzo Parra in a rematch of a controversial 2010 draw, and if "Travieso" gets past his foe, he'll be in line for a mouth-watering clash with Nonito Donaire in a few months. Win or lose, Cris Arreola is rarely, if ever, boring -- either during his fights or in his inevitably profanity-laced postfight interviews. The hard-hitting Tavoris Cloud may be the future of the light heavyweight division, and he should have an opportunity to showcase his talents against Gabriel Campillo.

But in all honesty, the fight that most intrigues me on that night is one that has at times been widely excoriated: Paul Williams against Nobuhiro Ishida. When it was first proposed, on the back of Ishida's stunning first-round upset of James Kirkland this past April, media outrage hounded it off the schedule. After all, apart from the shocker against Kirkland -- which likely owed more to the American's unpreparedness and state of mind than it did to anything Ishida brought to the table -- Ishida's modest record didn't exactly scream premium cable headliner.

It is what has happened since then that, eight months later, makes the matchup more interesting. Williams, who was fresh off his own devastating knockout defeat -- to Sergio Martinez in November 2010 -- was outslicked, outhit and outfought by Erislandy Lara, the man he was matched against after the Ishida notion was stomped on. Never mind that he somehow escaped with a majority decision victory in one of the more head-scratching decisions of the year; Williams looked for all the world like a shot fighter, unable to cope in any way with Lara's southpaw stance and relatively fast hands. The man whose promoter had dubbed him, ad nauseam, "the most feared man in boxing" didn't look the least bit terrifying.

The question, therefore, arises: Was that fight a one-off? Was the result a matter of style matches? Did Williams look past Lara, or was it a sign of something more fundamental? Did that devastating knockout by Martinez take something from him permanently? Is "The Punisher" at the end of the road? Or are we, as is so often the case with boxing fans, being too quick to write off a fighter so soon after we were praising him to the skies?

No offense to Ishida, but he is almost incidental to the plot. I want to see whether Williams still has anything left to offer the middleweight and junior middleweight divisions. That's why it's the fight I'll be most focused on this weekend.

Chisora's chance is worth watching

Fletcher By Richard Fletcher
ESPN.com
Archive

I don't care who you are, you can't be human if you aren't seduced by the sweet smell of an upset.

On paper, Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight championship defense against Britain's Dereck Chisora in Munich on Saturday is a monumental mismatch.

But Chisora, who is even more bombastic than his better-known compatriot David Haye, is threatening to create one of the biggest shocks in years, even though his credentials are questionable to say the least.

I'm struggling to remember the last time a fighter challenged any heavyweight champion after losing two of his previous three fights, let alone one as dominant as the elder Klitschko. But that's exactly what Chisora is doing.

Something tells me this fight might not be as clear-cut as everyone expects it to be. Klitschko is never anything less than well prepared, but in Chisora, the 40-year-old Ukrainian is facing a much younger challenger who is unpredictable and appears genuinely fearless. When a fighter is fearless, anything can happen. It can lead him to take risks -- and risks occasionally bring huge rewards.

Something else must be factored in: Chisora, 28, is a hungry fighter. In the past 14 months, he has twice been on the wrong end of pullouts when scheduled to face Vitali's younger brother, Wladimir, who went on to fight Haye this past July after years of wrangling.

Also, most neutral observers thought Chisora got robbed against rising contender Robert Helenius of Finland this past December, when the Londoner dropped a highly debatable split decision for the European title in Helsinki.

So, make no mistake, Chisora will be coming to win. And whatever happens, I have a feeling he'll emerge with far more credit than Haye did after his safety-first performance against Wladimir. Whether Chisora can pull it off is another matter, but he might be able to cause a few ripples of excitement before Klitschko's size and experience start to tell.

It has happened before with British heavyweights. Chisora is far too young to remember the left hook Henry Cooper landed on the chin of Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) at the end of the fourth round at Wembley in 1963, when the course of history might have been changed had the punch connected a few seconds earlier.

Nearly three decades later, Frank Bruno rocked Mike Tyson with the same punch in the first round of their Las Vegas bout in 1989, but he couldn't follow it up and lost in the fifth.

In 2004, another British outsider, Danny Williams, did what Bruno couldn't do and knocked out Tyson in America, although the ex-champion was, by then, a pale shadow of his old self.

Now Chisora, flamboyant, confident and possibly in the right place at the right time, will get a chance to put his own name up in lights. It's a chance Chisora knows might never come again. That's why this fight, if nothing else, will definitely be worth watching.

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