Williams plays welterweight waiting game
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It may be a while before Paul Williams gets Miguel Cotto in a ring.

So, until he can begin hammering away at the incumbent WBA welterweight belt- holder's torso, the reigning WBO champion is going to do what he figures is the next best thing.

He'll chip away at Cotto's fan base.

"I love the people down here. They've been great to us," Williams said in a recent phone interview while taking a break from his Puerto Rico-based training camp prior to Saturday's defense against once-beaten southpaw Carlos Quintana in Temecula, California.

"They show us a lot of love and a lot of respect, and every day I'm here I run into a lot of people who say that I'll be the one who'll beat Cotto."

Paul Williams
Paul Williams has Miguel Cotto squarely in his sights for a possible big-money matchup down the road.
It's an unlikely olive branch to Williams, who joined trainer George Peterson on the island to prepare for last July's successful challenge of Antonio Margarito and decided to travel the same path for title defense No. 1 against Quintana.

After all, Cotto was born in Puerto Rico, represented the nation in the 2000 Olympics and is considered the heir apparent to Felix Trinidad as its preeminent boxing hero.

Williams, meanwhile, was born in South Carolina, lives in Georgia, will be fighting another Puerto Rican welterweight in Quintana and has Cotto squarely in his sights for a possible big-money matchup down the road.

"He's the biggest guy out there, really, as far as the younger welterweights go," Williams said. "He's got a belt and he's won some big fights, and with (Floyd) Mayweather (hinting at) retiring, he's the hottest guy in the division.

"To me, though, there's really not one best guy at 147. I've got a belt, Cotto's got a belt, Mayweather's got a belt and there's (Kermit) Cintron, and he's got a belt too. We're the top dogs, all of us, because we've got world championships. And when we all get together, then we'll know who's the best."

Ironically, Williams seemed on the verge of meeting still another Puerto Rico native in Cintron, who now lives in Pennsylvania, but was sidetracked after the IBF title-holder injured a hand during a defense against Jesse Feliciano and subsequently signed for his own rematch with Margarito in April.

Cotto, assuming a win against Alfonso Gomez while sharing the bill with Cintron and Margarito in Atlantic City, will reportedly meet that bout's winner in July, again leaving Williams on the outside looking in.

But Williams, who stripped Margarito of his title with a unanimous 12-round decision, doesn't sound as bitter about his position as might be expected.

"I see the big fights out there, and I know I'm going to have to get one eventually because that's what the people will want to see," he said. "There's no one undefeated out there except for me, Cotto and Mayweather. I don't think people are going to want to keep seeing champions fighting guys out of the division or guys not in the top 10.

"I'm a patient guy, and when it's my time, it's going to be my time."

Nonetheless, pointing to his freakish, 6-foot-1 frame and 82-inch reach, a high-intensity work rate and his southpaw orientation, Williams does agree with those who've dubbed him the "world's most-avoided fighter" -- a title the deposed Margarito had long carried prior to their clash last summer.

"Now he's getting fights all of a sudden, and I'm the one who's not," Williams said.

"I don't think anyone really wants to get in there with a hard fighter like me. They know I work the whole three minutes and I'll come at you because it's a fight. It won't be one minute of action and then another minute of looking at each other and moving around. And that's not what these guys want to get in there with."

The lone world title competition for Williams-Quintana this weekend comes in a preliminary bout on Saturday night's "Latin Fury" pay-per-view show from Leon, Mexico, which retails for $34.95.

Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa will risk his WBC light flyweight belt for the fourth time on a card that also features unbeaten 154-pounder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the latest "return" of heavyweight champion/medical escape artist Tommy Morrison.

Sosa, who'll face journeyman Jesus Iribe in a scheduled 12-rounder, had a busy 2007 -- winning the vacant 108-pound crown against Brian Viloria and subsequently defending it three times with two wins by TKO and another by disqualification.

Overall, he's won 18 straight bouts since beginning his career 12-5.

Iribe enters at 13-4-3 since turning pro in 2002.

He was one up, one down in 2007, losing by eighth-round TKO to unbeaten Raul Garcia in March before rebounding for a second-round stoppage of Raul Castaneda in December.

Chavez Jr. faces 34-fight veteran Jose Celaya, who's won five straight against suspect opposition since a TKO loss to James Webb in May 2005.

The combined record of the subsequent conquests -- four by decision, one by KO -- is 50-61-8.

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old son of the former multi-division champion is 34-0-1, having won all five of his 2007 bouts by stoppage against somewhat more-challenging foes.

He was last active December 1 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he stopped 20-1 Ray Sanchez in six rounds.

And then there's Morrison, who lost his license after testing positive for HIV and was away from the ring for more than 10 years before magically reappearing -- with an allegedly clean bill of health -- in Chester, West Virginia last February.

There, he stopped John Castle in two rounds but looked less than impressive doing it, according to the Niagara Falls Reporter's David Staba, who was at Mountaineer Race Track to cover another medical mystery -- Buffalo-area native Joe Mesi -- on the same card.

"At 38, Morrison didn't look much like the guy who co-starred in 'Rocky V' in 1990 or won a 12-round decision over George Foreman three years later," Staba said in a February 27, 2007 piece.

"His hairline receding and his face and muscular, if misshapen, body showing the evidence of years of very hard living, Morrison got a West Virginia license after showing officials the results of blood tests showing him to be HIV-negative, saying that either the test in 1996 was wrong or that he has somehow been cured in the interim. Whatever the case, he should think very hard about ever getting into a ring again."

This time around, Morrison faces comparative five-fight novice Matt Weishaar in a scheduled four-rounder. Weishaar, who is 3-0-2, last fought June 30 in Topeka, Kansas, where he was held to a four-round draw by 0-1-1 Topeka native Maron Jackson.

Morrison will be Weishaar's first opponent who's scored at least one pro victory.

"I decided to give it a final whirl in 2008," Morrison said. "I just started training after the holidays, but I'm at the point where I have to do it now if I'm going to do it at all. My girlfriend got tired of me sitting around the house all day and told me to start fighting again or go get a real job.

"If my hands hold up, I'd like to fight once a month. We'll take it one fight at a time and see how it goes. But it's sure a good feeling to be back in the ring again."

Lyle Fitzsimmons has been a professional sports journalist since 1988. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and is available for free- lance print, radio or TV assignments at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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