You've got to feel sorry for Carlos Quintana.
He's getting to fight Paul Williams for the WBO welterweight title on Saturday at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, Calif., in a bout televised nationally by HBO.
But he'd be at less of a disadvantage in reach than he would be if he faced any of the four men who hold a share of the heavyweight championship.
And he'd be at less of a height disadvantage against two of the heavyweight titleholders than he will be on Saturday against Williams.
According to HBO.com, IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who is 6 feet 6 and usually weighs in around 250 pounds, has an 80-inch reach. That's the longest of all the heavyweight champions.
WBC champion Oleg Maskaev, who is 6-3, has a 79-inch reach. WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev is 6-1 with a 74-inch reach. And WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov is 6-1 with a 76-inch reach.
Consider, then, that the 5-9 Quintana, who has a 72-inch reach, will have to find a way to lift the belt from a guy who is 6-2 and has a staggering 82-inch reach.
It hardly seems fair, I mentioned to Williams the other day.
"Oh, it's fair all right," Williams said, chuckling. "He's a great fighter, too."
Quintana is 24-1 and has only lost to burgeoning superstar Miguel Cotto, so Williams has a point about Quintana's ability. But facing Williams may make it seem like having Earl Boykins guard Shaquille O'Neal in the post.
"If I had a welterweight, there's no way in hell I'd want him fighting Paul Williams," said Joe Goossen, a world-class trainer who once guided Michael Nunn, a middleweight who had similar physical characteristics to Williams, to the world title.
Quintana is five inches shorter and has a 10-inch reach disadvantage he must find a way to overcome. It's clear he'll have to get inside to negate Williams' reach, but doing so against perhaps the welterweight division's busiest fighter is guaranteed to put lumps on his face.
Williams' isn't the hardest puncher, but he almost never stops throwing. It must seem like facing an octopus when in the ring against him because his arms are seemingly coming from everywhere.
"Five inches (in height) may not seem like a lot, but those punches that miss miss by millimeters, not inches," said Goossen, whose brother, Dan, promotes Williams. "So when a guy is that much taller, it really creates a lot of problems for you.
"I'll always remember a comment Gil Clancy made when he was announcing the Michael Nunn-Frank Tate fight. He said, 'If I had a fighter, I would never have him fight Michael Nunn. The guy is quicksilver and you just can't hit him.' It's almost the same thing I'm saying about Williams. He creates so many mismatches for you that it takes you six or seven rounds to figure him out and by then, most guys give up because they know they can't win."
Williams is a humble, soft-spoken sort who isn't prone to trash talk and who claims he's hungrier now that he holds a world title than he was before he won the WBO belt in July.
It would be easy for him to overlook Quintana, given that Williams is coming off a stirring title-winning effort against Antonio Margarito and Quintana isn't one of the division's biggest names.
But Williams insists there's zero chance he's taking a win over Quintana for granted. "No, sir," he says softly. "I've prepared hard for this and I've worked harder than I ever have before. I'm fighting this fight like Quintana is the champion."
A Williams' win over Quintana could set the stage for what would make 2008 become the Year of the Welterweights. Cotto, the WBA champion, is defending his belt against Alfonso S. Gomez on April 12 on a doubleheader featuring an IBF title fight between champion Kermit Cintron and Margarito.
The winners of those two fights are slated to face each other on July 26.
"Whoever comes out of that, Paul will be there for him at the end of 2008 and that could then give you the guy who is clearly the logical challenger to the winner of the fight between Oscar (De La Hoya) and Floyd (Mayweather Jr.)," Dan Goossen said.
Dan Goossen is hopeful that 2008 will become a breakout year for Williams, who has a build like former welterweight champion Thomas Hearns but lacks the explosive punching power that characterized the legendary "Hitman."
Power, though, is a sore point with Dan Goossen as it relates to Williams. He doesn't punch as hard as Hearns – "Honestly, how many guys ever have?" he asks – but Williams is definitely not a slapper.
"I scratch my head when I hear people talk about him pitty patting," Dan Goossen said. "A pitty pat puncher wouldn't have the power to keep a man like Margarito off of him.
When Paul punches, he stops guys in their tracks. Does he have one-punch knockout power? No, but very few guys have that. But nine times out of 10, he's going to knock out the guys he faces. He punches plenty hard. You can tell that by the way guys approach him."
Williams isn't particularly concerned with racking up an outrageous knockout percentage, though in going 33-0 he has stopped 24 men, including five of his last six opponents. He simply wants to be remembered as a guy who was willing to fight anyone and who usually came out on top.
"I just want to give the people what they want and what they tell me they want is a guy who gives them a lot of action and who is willing to face anybody," Williams said. "I like the big challenges. This is an important fight for me, but hopefully, I can get through this and give the people the kind of fights they really want to see."