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Oscar looms over Williams, welterweights

CARSON, Calif. – The landscape in boxing's welterweight division may be about to change, which is bad news for Paul Williams.

And it's even worse news for Antonio Margarito.

Williams lifted the WBO welterweight title from Williams in a frolicking affair that often had the sellout crowd at the Home Depot Center’s tennis stadium on its feet.

With the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sugar Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto populating the 147-pound class, there are a number of delicious possibilities.

But on Saturday, Oscar De La Hoya leaked word that he is mulling a return to welterweight, a move which would have a ripple effect on what is quickly becoming the sport's deepest division.

HBO analyst Larry Merchant first reported Saturday that De La Hoya is considering a return to welterweight, where he hasn't fought since 2001, to take on super lightweight champion Ricky Hatton.

Richard Schaefer, the chief executive officer of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, said De La Hoya walks around at 152 and believes he can make welterweight's 147-pound limit.

He's had preliminary talks with Hatton's representatives, and plans to have more next week.

That can't be good news for Williams, who gutted out a victory over the hard-charging Margarito on Saturday. And it can hardly be good news for Margarito, who desperately needed a victory to push himself into the mix for a significant fight.

Margarito thought he did what he had to do to earn it, even though he was outpunched by nearly a 2-1 margin. Williams threw an astonishing 1,256 punches, of which 606 were jabs. Margarito threw 652 punches, only 61 of which were jabs.

That activity rate was enough to impress judges Marty Sammon, David Mendoza and Thomas Miller. Sammon favored Williams, seven rounds to five, or 115-113. Miller and Mendoza each had it eight rounds to four, or 116-112, for Williams.

The bout was essentially over at its midpoint. Williams swept the first six rounds on Miller's card and took five of the first six on the other two.

Margarito was left to moan about a robbery, but his problems are bigger than simply losing a title he'd held since Feb. 8, 2003.

"He threw more punches than me, but I threw the harder punches," Margarito said after falling to 34-5. "After the ninth round, in my heart, I knew I was ahead on the scorecards. Everyone in this arena knows I won this fight."

Perhaps, but that's not going to do him much good, despite a passionate and determined effort.

He couldn't get the big names into the ring when he had a world title and he's certainly not going to get them now.

His promoter, Bob Arum, felt Margarito won 116-112. But he scrapped plans for a Cotto-Margarito fight and said he plans to talk to Schaefer on Monday about a fight between Cotto and Mosley in Madison Square Garden in November.

"(Cotto's) not fighting this guy," Arum said of Williams. "He didn't win this fight. The Mosley fight is much bigger than a fight with Williams."

That much is true, but it won't be long before Williams is of the same stature as Mosley, Cotto and the other stars who reside at 147.

He's built like a 1981 vintage Thomas Hearns and has a jab that he pops from beginning to end.

He didn't sit down on his punches as much Saturday as he had earlier in his career, but a lot of that had to do with the freight train trying to roll him over for 36 minutes Saturday. Margarito was relentless, but Williams never varied and kept the piston popping.

"I have him throw so many punches a round when he's training, that when he's in a fight and I tell him I need 125 punches in a round, it seems like nothing," Williams trainer George Peterson said.

But where Williams goes with his belt is up for debate. His promoter, Dan Goossen, tried to paint him as a superstar, but few were biting on that.

Mayweather, who is widely regarded as the best fighter in the world, had been considering a fight with Hatton. Expect Hatton to forget Mayweather exists now that De La Hoya's interested in fighting him.

That decision may push Mayweather back into a retirement he announced after defeating De La Hoya on May 5. He said he'd consider fighting Hatton after hearing Hatton taunt him following his win over a shopworn Jose Luis Castillo on June 23.

With Cotto and Mosley headed toward a showdown, perhaps the most realistic scenario for both Margarito and Williams is a rematch.

"It makes sense, sure," said Arum, who hardly showed the fire and passion in making that case that has marked his Hall of Fame career.

Williams could also seek a title unification bout with Kermit Cintron, who was impressive Saturday in knocking out Walter Matthysse in the second round in Atlantic City to retain the IBF welterweight belt.

Cintron has been trying to rebuild his career since he was manhandled in a 2005 bout by Margarito. A win over Williams would erase the doubt that has engulfed Cintron since that one-sided blood letting.

Margarito, though, has to hope that Williams opts for a rematch instead of going for a unification bout.

He's sought a fight against De La Hoya for years, to no avail. That isn't going to happen even now that De La Hoya is apparently going to drop to his division. But De La Hoya's presence is going to push Margarito even further into the background.

Williams won a championship on Saturday, but with De La Hoya looming, it was hardly a golden night.