Boxing
Williams-Martinez II: Replaying an Instant Jersey Classic
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?"

Those encouraging words, made popular by former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy during his team's runs toward would-be football dominance in the 1990s, aren't quite so often used about New Jersey.

Not that the Garden State isn't a little slice of Valhalla in the summer months, but, when late autumn and winter creep closer, it's not usually among the first choices for weekend getaways.

But that all changes on Saturday night.


Paul Williams has also fought just once since last year, defeating former welterweight claimant Kermit Cintron via bizarre technical decision.
Alongside the chilly oceanfront in Atlantic City, a pair of middleweights will meet in a reprise of the memorable battle they pitched in the same venue on a snowy night last December.

When they met in the 160-pound ranks 11? months ago, Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams were battling for a top-shelf spot in a division then ruled by champion Kelly Pavlik.

Martinez lost a razor-thin decision to Williams in that first go-round, but returned to the seashore in April to score an upset unanimous verdict over Pavlik and capture the WBC/WBO the Youngstown franchise had defended three times since beating Jermain Taylor in 2007.

Williams has also fought just once since last year, defeating former welterweight claimant Kermit Cintron via bizarre technical decision in May, when Cintron tumbled to the floor after a mid-ring scrum and was declared unfit to continue by the attending ringside physician.

And when neither man was able to hook a Pacquiao/Mayweather fish in the interim, a return bout made sense.

"I am just excited that the fight is here," Williams said. "There has been a lot of trash talk, and that is just hype for the fight. I really don't have a lot to say. I do all my talking in the ring. If you know me, you know that, and if you don't know me, you'll find that out on Saturday night.

"I've been in there with him and he's been in there with me, so we both know what to expect. It is going to be something to see, so you should come out Saturday night to watch it."

The long, lean southpaw is unbeaten in six fights since his lone career loss, a surprise 12-round decision to Carlos Quintana in 2008. He avenged the defeat in an immediate rematch four months later - halting the tricky Puerto Rican in just 2 minutes, 15 seconds at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Williams has fought at both 154 and 160 since, ending two fights inside the distance and once again cementing the "most avoided fighter" status he inherited from Antonio Margarito after toppling the Mexican on the scorecards for the WBO welterweight title in 2007.

He insists he can still shrink down to 147 with no problem if the situation dictated.

"I feel very comfortable fighting at this weight. I don't know what the big deal is," he said. "When I win this belt back, of course I would go back down there to 147 to fight Pacquiao because he is the best out there. I beat all the other guys and of course I would want to get it on with him."

Martinez, who held the IBO crown at 154 pounds in 2003-04, had won 28 fights in a row before a disputed draw with the aforementioned Cintron in February 2009 - which was followed by the Williams fight later in the year and the career-defining Pavlik win in 2010.

Now 35 years old, the 5-foot-10 Buenos Aires native is 45-2-2 in a career that began in 1997.

"The moment of truth will be on Saturday and I will prove why I am the champion," Martinez said. "I would like to thank HBO because every time I am on HBO it makes my career bigger. I want to thank my trainer for working with me every day. This time after the fight I expect there will be no excuses from Paul Williams like the ones I have been hearing in the past few months.

"I will fight him, I will attack him and I will box him. I have prepared for a war and on Saturday night, we are going to get one."

Williams weighed in at 156 pounds on Friday, while Martinez was 157?.

The HBO broadcast is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. and will lead with a replay of last weekend?s Pacquiao-Margarito fight, which Pacquiao won by a dominant unanimous decision.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.