The Young Americans: Previews And Predictions For Williams-Phillips, Arreola-Walker

Quality, exciting young American fighters are a scarcer breed than I’d like them to be right now, but they’re far from extinct. Of the 10 best fighters in world, there are only two Americans on my list at all, and one is a 43-year-old. But help is on the way. There are a very nice prospects on the rise, like Daniel Jacobs. There are some youngsters who are maybe a year away from making it really big, like Andre Berto. And Chad Dawson is even closer, one big win removed from everyone’s top 10.

Saturday night on HBO, two of the finest and most watchable — Chris Arreola and Paul Williams — are putting their talents on display in fights that they are expected to win, but that pose, shall we say, certain dangers. Arreola, probably in the “year away” category, is taking on Travis Walker, another talented under-30 U.S. boxer who’s not as highly regarded as his opponent, in a heavyweight title elimination fight. The headliner is Paul Williams, already sniffing the top 10 list. He’s fighting for one version of the junior middleweight (154 lbs.) title against rugged, experienced veteran Verno Phillips. I expect two good bouts that should go along pretty well with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, fights that serve as a kind of appetizer to the Christmas present of the year’s biggest fight the following weekend, Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao. (I don’t know if the present will be any good, by the way, but it’s in an awfully big box, and any present in this economy is welcome.)


I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I really think that Williams is one of the boxers people ought to be going gaga over. Last year, he beat the man many are going gaga over now, Antonio Margarito. Maybe people thought his 100 punches per round didn’t have enough cranberry sauce on ’em to impress? Fine, but you have to admit he showed some serious stuffing by surviving a late charge from Margarito, something better-known fighters, like Miguel Cotto, weren’t able to do. Maybe some didn’t like his unexpected loss to Carlos Quintana? Fine, but everyone loses sometimes, and you have to admit that he won with style in the rematch, a 1st round knockout. He scored another of them when he moved up from welterweight (147 lbs.) to middleweight (160 lbs.) and starched Andy Kolle. Two 1st round KOs — the result, he said, of learning how to put better leverage behind his shots — ought to appease fans of knockout fighters, right? And he literally wants to fight everyone. Kelly Pavlik, Berto, anyone.

It just so happens that Phillips is the one who got talked into the job. And good for him. At 38 and turning 39 Saturday, it takes some cojones to say, “For my birthday, I’d like a young, talented, 6’1″-plus southpaw that nobody else wants to fight, please.” And he gave up the title belt he just won off Cory Spinks for the honor. Sure, he’s fighting for another belt, the “interim” strap of the WBO, and sure, he’s probably going to get more money for this bout than he would defending his old belt. Which is not to say that Phillips deserved to get the win over Spinks; he landed some decent right hands, but I think the judges just favored Phillips because he was the one who never stopped coming forward, who pressed the action.

On paper, this is a mismatch. But Phillips has shown he can make his opponents wilt over time, as he did by turning up the gas on Spinks, and if Williams is daydreaming about his next opponent, then we know he’s capable of off nights like he was against Quintana. Phillips is nothing if not sturdy, too, having accumulated only one of his 10 losses via knockout, so if Williams’ lack of rounds over the last part of the year is going to come back to haunt him, it would be against a guy like Phillips. On the other hand, Williams could make yet another major statement by knocking out Phillips.

My prediction: The statement will be made — Williams by knockout, probably the technical variety. I don’t think he’ll catch Phillips as early as he caught his last two opponents, but eventually, the ref or Phillips’ corner will say, “no more.”

Confidence: 85%. I might be giving Phillips too much of a chance to pull the upset here, but Williams hasn’t fought much at this weight; I still worry about Williams’ weight gain/loss gambit. I’d still be more likely to expect Phillips to last until the final bell than win.

My allegiance: Not only do I really like Williams as a fighter, but I’ve been doing a lot of smack talk on his behalf, so I need him to bring it to make me look good, too.


Arreola’s already a top-10 heavyweight, and I wouldn’t count him out against anyone in the division except the Klitschko brothers, one of whom holds the title for whom he would become the mandatory challenger. That’s because he’s got really serious punching power, and I think he’s better technically than people realize. My worry is his size. Specifically, the size of his waistline. It is very troubling that he comes into bouts as chubby as he does sometimes, and sooner or later, I think someone’s going to catch him. Until then? I think it’ll be a hell of a ride. For that matter, even afterward it might be a hell of a ride. It’s just hard to imagine Arreola in a bad fight.

I’ve only seen Travis Walker twice, in his 1st round knockout loss to T.J. Wilson and then in the revenge knockout rematch. I would have stopped the first fight, too, but I’m in the minority — I thought Walker got caught and he slumped down dangerously. But I think class tells, and ultimately Walker was the better fighter, as he showed in the rematch. He’s got some decent boxing ability and some decent power, but I think he lacks the coordination to become a real top heavyweight.

As with the headlining bout, the question is whether the underdog has a chance of catching the betting favorite slacking off. And we know Arreola is capable of slacking off. I didn’t know who would win when Arreola fought Chazz Witherspoon, who I thought could give Arreola some real trouble. I was wrong, but that was very nearly the best version of Arreola. Is Walker an opponent who will inspire Arreola to train as hard as he should? If not, Walker’s good enough to turn an expected Arreola win into a harder-than-expected win, or maybe even a loss.

My prediction: Arreola by knockout. I’m going to say middle of the bout. Arreola’s patient without being boring, and I think he’ll wisely avoid trying to charge through Walker, who keeps his gloves up and probably won’t take too many power shots early on.

Confidence: 90%. Walker’s got talent, but I think it’s a notch or two below Arreola’s. And Arreola’s demonstrated a rock solid chin, so Walker would have to outbox Arreola, and I don’t think he can.

My allegiance: I can’t say enough how much I would be leading the bandwagon for Arreola if he would just get in optimal shape. Instead, I’m just sitting on the bandwagon, enjoying — as I said — the ride.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.