WILLIAMS, ISHIDA: fan-friendly fight tonight. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Graham's Odds: 
Williams -380; Ishida +240
Over 10.5 -160; under 10.5 +140

Once what could be called a feared fighter, Paul Williams has reached the stage where he seems to be on the way down. After getting flattened in the second round by Sergio Martinez in their rematch, Williams barely scraped home on a disputed, majority decision against Cuba’s Erislandy Lara last July. Williams, then, has a lot to prove when he meets Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida in the 12-round junior middleweight main event on Showtime from Corpus Christi, TX, tonight.
Williams is only 30, but his in-your-face style has seen him involved in some tough, bloody bouts. Frankly, he looked like a burnt-out fighter in the struggling showing against Lara — it was alarming to see the two-weight world champion getting hit so easily.
Perhaps the fact that Martinez and Lara are southpaws had something to do with the way Williams looked in his last two fights. He was wide open for left hands in these fights, as he was when another southpaw, Carlos Quintana defeated him four years ago. Williams bounced back from the Quintana defeat by demolishing the Puerto Rican boxer in one round in a rematch. He won’t get Ishida out of the fight in the first round, but a clear win would go a long way to re-establishing Williams’s “Punisher” reputation.
Ishida is a tough test for Williams. The Japanese boxer is in a confident frame of mind after pulling off a shocking upset with his first-round win over James Kirkland last April. Ishida is a competent, stand-up boxer who takes a good punch and hits hard with the right hand through the middle. What Ishida does, he does well. Yet unless Williams has gone back further than we realise, he should be able to win this meeting of long and lanky fighters.
I think that Ishida was a bit flattered by the win over Kirkland. We now know that Kirkland wasn’t in the best of condition after a move to Las Vegas, away from the spartan-type training regimen of Ann Wolf.
This doesn’t mean that Williams can afford to keep taking right hands all night, however, and while I don’t expect Williams to change his style and box and move all night I do feel that he needs to be sharper, and altogether livelier, than he was against Lara.
Williams is much more experienced at the top level than tonight’s opponent. Ishida can be a bit cocky and flashy, but he isn’t an awkward type, nor is he particularly elusive — Williams should be able to figure him out. The southpaw Rigoberto Alvarez, strong but somewhat slow, was able to hit Ishida with left hands and even scored a flash knockdown, so I think that Williams, too, should be able to get through with the left hand tonight
I can see this developing into a tough, gruelling fight, with Ishida landing right hands but Williams coming back with lefts and winning rounds with his higher punch-rate. Ishida is 36, and if you throw out the win over a mentally and physically under-prepared Kirkland he has never beaten an authentic contender. Still, Williams hasn’t given a convincing performance in a long time. He had a life-and-death fight with Sergio Martinez in their first contest and had his hands full with Kermit Cintron before Kermit’s strange exit through the ropes. Ishida is now promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and he has trained in Mexico, where — with respected Los Angeles trainer Rudy Hernandez in his corner — he won his last fight with a first-round blowout.
So, we have Williams with his back to the wall, fighting to save his career, and Ishida in the form of his life and reaching for the stars (photographer Sumio Yamada tells me that if Ishida wins he will become the best-known boxer in Japan). Although the oddsmakers have made Williams a clear favourite, this, then, is a dangerous fight for him.
 “I’m going to show my fans I’m not done,” Williams avers. However, Williams looked so shaky in the fight with Lara that the HBO commentators were suggesting it was time for him to consider getting out of the game.
I believe that Williams is a better fighter than Ishida and I think he will grind out a win, most likely by decision, in a fan-friendly fight, although the days when one could confidently predict a Williams win are long gone.