Paul Williams is the kind of boxer any fight fan should love. He throws more punches than just about anyone alive and he's always eager to fight the best the game has to offer.
You name 'em, he'll fight 'em.
Pound-for-pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao?
"Of course," Williams said. "I would love that fight."
Defensive wizard Floyd Mayweather Jr., the other man with a claim to the world's top spot?
"No doubt," Williams said. "I've let everyone know I would take that one in a heartbeat."
How about bigger guys, such as middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, super middleweight champion Lucian Bute or even light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson?
Yes, yes and yes.
"I just want to fight the best fights I can get," said Williams, who has a tough match on Saturday when he meets Sergio Martinez in a non-title middleweight bout at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall in a bout that will be televised by HBO. "I'm not really a super middleweight and I'm definitely not a light heavyweight, but if my team thought those were the best fights for me, I'd take them and just come in at a weight I'd feel comfortable at."
Williams is billed as the most avoided man in boxing and, while there is some truth to that, he must also bear some responsibility for it himself.
He jumps from division to division so much and with such frequency that he's not ranked at all by the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council or the International Boxing Federation. He's ranked No. 1 at 154 pounds by the World Boxing Organization.
Williams says his preferred weight is 147, but he fights at 154 and 160, as well, and would go even higher if he were required to. But by not campaigning regularly in one weight class, it makes it even harder to get the big names in the ring.
"I really don't want to be seesawing around like I have been," Williams said. "I'd like to get down there, preferably at welterweight, and fight the best guys there."
And given that he's 6-foot-1 with a massive 82-inch reach, there aren't a lot of guys eager to fight him as it is.
As a result, he jumps around division to division looking for a taker. And while that keeps him busy, it also helps to keep him out of the conversation for big fights because he hasn't really established himself in any one place.
"The thing is, I'd rather be at welterweight and fight there, but we couldn't get a fight at all, so I had to go somewhere else just to stay busy," said Williams, who is 37-1 and coming off a near-whitewash of the highly regarded Winky Wright in a middleweight bout in April.
Saturday's fight will mark the first time he's fought in the same weight class in back-to-back fights in more than a year. He lost, and then reclaimed, the WBO welterweight title in fights with Carlos Quintana on Feb. 9, 2008, and June 7, 2008.
Unable to land a welterweight bout after a first-round knockout of Quintana in the rematch, Williams moved up to middleweight for a stay-busy bout against Andy Kolle on Sept. 25, 2008.
On Nov. 29, 2008, he dropped down to super welterweight and won the interim WBO belt (which has since been stripped from him) by stopping veteran Verno Phillips.
After the one-sided eighth-round stoppage of Phillips, Williams jumped to middleweight again and was brilliant in taking a unanimous decision over Wright by scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 119-109.
He was to challenge Pavlik on Saturday for Pavlik's WBC-WBO middleweight titles. The fight was originally set for Oct. 3, but Pavlik postponed it to Saturday because of a staph infection. When the infection, which nearly killed him, worsened, Pavlik asked to move the bout to Dec. 19, at which point Williams and his team balked.
Instead, they agreed to fight the left-handed Martinez, a largely unknown fighter in the U.S. who is a tremendous boxer. Martinez is so good that he's had similar problems landing major fights, so it made it natural that they fight each other.
The fight is at 160 pounds since Williams had been working on putting on muscle in anticipation of facing Pavlik and didn't want to change course in the middle of camp and drop back to 154, where Martinez holds the interim WBC title.
Middleweight, though, is a bit of a stretch for Williams, who said he's never weighed more than 164 1/2 pounds at any point in his life.
"And that's like with a long time off with me not training, eating what I want and basically doing nothing," Williams said.
His normal weight between fights, he insists, is 162 and he said he's most comfortable at welterweight.
He's rarely mentioned in the mix for a bout against Pacquiao or Mayweather, the two men ranked ahead of him in the Yahoo! Sports ratings, each of whom fight at welterweight.
Pacquiao and Mayweather are expected to fight on March 13 and Williams said he'd be eager to meet the winner.
He'd seem to be a difficult match for Pacquiao, as Williams would have 6 1/2-inch edge in height and 15 inches in reach. Williams, though, has an interesting view on a fight between himself and Pacquiao.
"He's a great fighter, obviously," Williams said of Pacquiao, who is coming off a 12th-round stoppage of Miguel Cotto. "If we ever fought, of course I'm going to say I'll win and he's going to say he'll win. But I think really, it's a toss-up. His style, he throws a lot of punches and me, I definitely bring the fight to my opponent. That would be a fight where each of us would throw a lot and I think it would be very crowd-pleasing. It would be one of those fights where you'd have to see it because it would be so good and anything could happen."
Williams and Mayweather are each managed or advised by the influential Al Haymon, but Williams said he wouldn't allow that to prevent a fight between them.
Williams said he'd force Mayweather, a defensive specialist, off his game.
"I have much respect for Floyd and what he's accomplished," Williams said. "He's one of the best guys out there and he has been for a long, long time. Here's the thing, though: Against me, he's going to have to throw more than 15 punches a round. He's a good boxer and all and he knows everything there is about defense, but I'm not going to box him. I'd get out there and put my hands in his face and throw a lot of punches and I'd make him fight."
Williams, 28, is reticent to talk about the future, particularly with a dangerous opponent like Martinez in front of him.
But he's just moving into his prime and there are a slew of great fights – against the likes of Pacquiao, Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey, just to name a few – in his preferred division.
He sighs, knowing he'll be lucky if he gets get two of those men in the ring with him.
"I don't like this spot, but what can I do?" Williams said. "I can only fight the guys who want to fight me. The way I look at it, my job is to keep winning and fight whoever they put in front of me. That's why I have a manager and a promoter. I leave it up to Mister (George) Peterson, (his trainer), Al Haymon and (promoter) Dan Goossen to figure out who I should fight.
"They know who I want to fight and they don't have to worry about whether I'll take it. I have to let them do their thing and I'll keep doing mine and hopefully things will work out."
- Paul Williams
- Manny Pacquiao
- Kelly Pavlik