Junior middleweight Paul Williams claimed a decision victory in perhaps the most controversial outcome of 2011, and Nobuhiro Ishida scored a shocking knockout victory in perhaps the year's biggest upset.
Now they will fight each other.
Williams and Ishida will meet Feb. 18 in a scheduled 12-round bout that will headline an edition of "Showtime Championship Boxing" at the AmericanBank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, Dan Goossen, Williams' promoter, told ESPN.com on Monday.
The opening bout of the broadcast is slated to be light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud of Tallahassee, Fla., defending against former titleholder Gabriel Campillo of Spain. Showtime was in the process of finalizing that deal Monday.
Heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola (34-2, 29 KOs) is also scheduled to fight on the card against an opponent to be determined. Although it has not been determined if his bout will be part of Showtime's telecast, Arreola is integral to the promotion. Because he is a Mexican-American, he figures to be the gate draw in a heavily Hispanic area and will be a significant part of the card's marketing.
Williams, a former two-time welterweight titlist and former interim junior middleweight titleholder, has not fought since July 9, when he was awarded a majority decision against Erislandy Lara in an HBO main event in Atlantic City, N.J.
Although Lara landed left hands nearly at will and was the clear winner in the eyes of most media covering the fight, HBO's announcers and the crowd, judges Hilton Whitaker (115-114) and Don Givens (116-114) scored the fight for Williams, while judge Al Bennett scored it a draw, 114-114. In an unprecedented move, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board suspended all three judges indefinitely over their scoring of the bout.
Now the 30-year-old Williams (40-2, 27 KOs), of Aiken, S.C., is poised to return.
"Paul is anxious to get back in there and re-establish himself in the minds of people who don't give him credit for winning the fight with Lara," Goossen said. "People will forget real quickly with a good performance against Ishida. Whether you had Paul winning or losing (against Lara) it was an exciting fight and that's what Paul Williams is known for -- being in those types of fights. He gives as good as he gets most of the time, so I think this should be another one of those good Paul Williams fights."
Ishida (24-6-2, 9 KOs), 36, of Japan, is also a former interim junior middleweight titlist, but he had a very modest resume when he was matched with slugger James Kirkland last April on the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales HBO PPV undercard in Las Vegas. The bout was supposed to be a showcase for Kirkland, who was being considered for a fall title shot against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (who is 1-1 against Williams in two memorable fights).
However, Ishida scored a massive upset when he knocked Kirkland down three times en route to a first-round knockout victory. In his one bout since the stunner, Ishida scored a first-round knockout against Edson Espinoza, who was making his pro debut, in November.
Williams and Ishida nearly met on HBO last July, but after the network approved the fight it changed its mind, and Williams wound up fighting Lara instead.
Kirkland returned to win two low-level fights after the loss to Ishida but then hit it big again when he knocked out the favored Alfredo Angulo in the sixth round in a riveting fight in November. Goossen said he thinks that Kirkland's victory against Angulo made Ishida's victory against Kirkland that much more impressive.
"I believe Kirkland's performance against Angulo was a factor that showed that Ishida deserved the shot with Williams in another big fight," Goossen said. "To me, Ishida has earned his opportunity to fight a fighter like Paul Williams and Paul has earned the right to fight the man who knocked out James Kirkland. This is a fight that will be a barometer to see where Paul is. I believe he is still at the top of the class in the 154-pound division. Ishida is somebody you have to contend with to get back to that top level."
Williams' recent struggles have come against left-handed fighters -- Lara and in two fights with Martinez.
Williams won a debatable majority decision against Martinez in a nontitle slugfest in December 2009 and, two fights later, suffered a brutal second-round knockout loss in November 2010 (which was the widely recognized knockout of the year).
Those struggles against southpaws are another reason why Ishida got the call.
"One of the things I love about it is that he is right-handed," Goossen said.
If Williams is successful against Ishida, Goossen said the hope is that Williams will get a rubber match with Martinez and a rematch with Lara.
"That's a fight we would like to get back," Goossen said of another fight with Martinez. "They're 1-1. Paul wants to do it again with Lara, too, even though he got the victory because Paul is the kind of fighter who wants to erase any doubts."
Cloud (23-0, 19 KOs) was supposed to defend against former titleholder Zsolt Erdei on Dec. 31, but when Erdei pulled out with a hand injury, combined with the challenge of gaining publicity for a card on New Year's Eve, Showtime canceled the show.
Now the network is making it up to Cloud, who will be making his fourth title defense, by including him on the Feb. 18 card against Campillo (21-3-1, 8 KOs), who is managed by Martinez, one of his friends and sparring partners. Campillo was the leading candidate to replace Erdei on Dec. 31 had Showtime gone through with the card.
"When Campillo got call to fight on Dec. 31 he took the fight immediately," said Sampson Lewkowicz, Campillo's promoter. "When they canceled the fight I kept Campillo in training. Now we are getting the fight on Feb. 18. We have agreed on everything. I spoke with Don King (Cloud's promoter) and I am waiting for the paperwork."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.