The world middleweight championship is one of the marquee titles in professional boxing, a prize held by some of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
It's not, apparently, good enough for Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez. The two will meet on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for the World Boxing Council version of a crown, albeit with a ridiculous agreement insisted upon by Williams' team that the upper weight limit is 158 pounds and not the division limit of 160.
That's just another sign of the negotiating power wielded by Williams' adviser Al Haymon, who dictated to everyone involved – HBO, Martinez promoter Lou DiBella and Williams promoter Dan Goossen – what the terms of the fight would be.
But the middleweight belt is just a sidelight to the Williams-Martinez rematch. The real prize, if any of those would answer honestly, is a fight with the reigning pound-for-pound king, Manny Pacquiao.
Goossen has made no secret of his desire to pit Williams against either Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. DiBella hasn't been as vocal, but be very certain if Martinez prevails on Saturday, DiBella will plead the case for a Pacquiao-Martinez bout.
They're going to have to be content with the middleweight belt, however, because Pacquiao isn't going to fight either man.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, didn't dismiss the possibility at the postfight news conference Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, that Pacquiao could face the Williams-Martinez winner, but he did on Tuesday.
Pacquiao took a beating in winning the WBC super welterweight bout in a runaway over Antonio Margarito, and had to get an MRI to have his ribs checked. He was also complaining about a sore wrist.
Arum wisely realized that there's no benefit in a guy whose best weight is probably 140 in continually chasing these giants.
"At this point, I don't want to put Manny in with another big guy, a guy even bigger than Margarito," Arum said. "It's not that he couldn't beat them or that he couldn't handle, them, but it's like a great racehorse. I can't keep putting him in with bigger, stronger guys without wearing him out.
"That fight really affected him physically. He took a lot more beating in that fight than he did in his others. He got hurt. He's banged up a little bit. It's tough giving away that kind of weight and size."
The problem for Williams and Martinez is that they're both much bigger than Margarito, who was 5 feet 11 with a 73-inch reach. Williams is 6-1 with an 82-inch reach, meaning he'd have 6 ½ inches in height and 15 inches in reach on Pacquiao.
To put that into some kind of perspective, consider that an opponent who had that kind of height and reach advantage on WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko would stand 7-2 ½ and have a 95-inch reach. Williams, by the way, has a two-inch reach advantage on the 6-7 ½ Klitschko, let alone Pacquiao.
Goossen has been insisting for several years that Williams is a welterweight. The problem is, it's been about 30 months since he's actually made welterweight and would be nearly three years by the time a potential match with Pacquiao would come around.
But even if Williams could make it, it would be ridiculous to match them. Goossen speaks of Roberto Duran, for my money the greatest lightweight who ever drew breath, moving to middleweight to fight Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Duran was 5-foot-7 with a 66-inch reach. Hagler was just 5-9 ½ with a 75-inch reach, so there was nowhere near the size disparity that would exist in a Pacquiao-Williams match.
"Regardless of the type of money they generate, the bottom line is the public, the media, probably everyone but Bob [Arum] would like to have seen Pacquiao fight one of the hot young guys," Goossen said on a conference call.
The fight everyone wants to see is a Pacquiao-Mayweather match. Period. Any other match would be a letdown. That said, prepare to be let down. There are more obstacles in the way of that fight than there are for a Pittsburgh Pirates' world championship run in 2011.
Pacquiao has moved up enough. Yes, Margarito was a tailor-made opponent for him to fight a super welterweight. He is slow, he'd been inactive and he throws wide, looping punches, making him the perfect type of opponent for Pacquiao to move up successfully against. Still, Pacquiao paid a heavy price for his victory and wouldn't last very long if he were continually taking the punches of guys who outweigh him by 20 pounds or more.
Championship or not, however, Pacquiao is not a super welterweight. He couldn't campaign in the division regularly because his body couldn't handle the wear and tear and the physical demands. He's a super lightweight who has fought up in weight in order to seek out the highest-paying matches.
If a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight can't be made for May, Arum said he'll try to match Pacquiao with either Juan Manuel Marquez or Shane Mosley. Then, if a year from now Mayweather isn't ready or willing to fight, Arum said he'd consider the winner of the Jan. 29 super lightweight title unification bout between Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander as an opponent for the Filipino Congressman.
Pacquiao, though, isn't going to be the prize for the Williams-Martinez winner.
They're going to have to settle for the middleweight title.
- Paul Williams
- Manny Pacquiao