- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

LAS VEGAS (AP) - If Paul Williams thought the world’s top boxers were scared of him before, just wait until they see the holes he punched in Winky Wright’s once-impenetrable defense.

Williams worked Wright like a heavy bag with dozens of relentless blows on the way to an emphatic victory by unanimous decision Saturday night in a meeting of two much-avoided middleweights.

Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) pounded at Wright’s famed defensive posture from the opening bell at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, relentlessly breaking down the former champion in Wright’s return from a 21-month ring absence.

With so many punches to block, Wright (51-5-1) simply didn’t have time to land enough scoring blows against his taller, longer opponent. Williams barely appeared tired by the closing bell, chasing Wright around the ring up to the final seconds.

“I felt like I did in the first round in the 12th,” Williams said. “That was because of my hard training, and running seven miles a day. It helped my breathing. … I expected Winky to throw big shots, and he did. We went 12 hard rounds. I anticipated that it was going to be a tough fight. I would have loved to knock him out.”

Judges Jerry Roth and Robert Hoyle favored Williams 119-109, while Adalaide Byrd gave every round to Williams, 120-108. The Associated Press had Williams winning 118-111.

Williams threw an astonishing 1,086 punches, connecting with 23 percent, while Wright managed just 511. Nearly two-thirds of Williams’ punches were power shots, gradually taking an inexorable toll on Wright.

In his first fight since losing a decision to Bernard Hopkins in the same ring in July 2007, Wright still had strong defenses _ but they weren’t enough. For every counterpunching shot landed by Wright, Williams constantly replied with elaborate combinations, forcing Wright to retreat again.

Wright’s left eye swelled nearly shut by the 11th round, making his corner’s pleas for a knockout pretty much pointless.

“I just couldn’t get my punches off,” Wright said. “He was very tall and awkward with really long arms. He would throw a lot of punches, and they were coming from all different directions, and I didn’t know how to dodge them. I had a long layoff, but I felt this was a great fight.”

Wright hadn’t been in the ring since his disappointing 170-pound loss to Hopkins, whose technical wizardry was more than Wright could handle. While Wright spent the next year welcoming his son’s birth and hitting the casinos on fight nights, he didn’t seem particularly eager to fight again _ an opinion underscored by rumors he had rejected several possible bouts on financial terms.

Wright insists he never considered quitting, but couldn’t get a significant fight from Kelly Pavlik, Jermain Taylor or the other big names around his weight. He finally agreed to take on Williams in an HBO fight that should pay both men more than $1 million.

Williams hasn’t had the luxury of being so choosy. His 6-foot-1 frame _ which appears much rangier in the ring _ and an almost freakish ability to slide among weight classes without losing power make him an unpleasant matchup for welterweights, middleweights or anybody in between, leaving him relegated to second-tier showcases and undercard fights until Wright accepted this bout.

Williams has lost just once, in a decision to Carlos Quintana in February 2008, and he avenged it with a first-round knockout of Quintana four months later.

Since both fighters are used to rejection, they had a healthy mutual respect for accepting the bout. They embraced at Friday’s weigh-in, both spoke reverently of each other afterward.

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