Sunday, February 24, 2002

Ricardo Williams budding superstar

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If Ricardo Williams Jr. beats Anthony Washington today at Cincinnati Gardens, his next fight will be April 27 against Ivan Robinson at Madison Square Garden on HBO, said Lou DiBella, Williams' matchmaker.

Enquirer's Mike Mudd gives his "Pound-for-pound boxing Top 10"
        Robinson, who hasn't fought since July 6, represents a step up for Williams. The veteran from Philadelphia is best known for his rock-solid chin and high work rate in the ring, two attributes that provide litmus tests for young pros such as Williams. Robinson is 30-6-1 and has fought for world titles, but has never won one. He is not a powerful puncher, boasting just 12 knockouts.

        “Ivan is a very serious fighter,” DiBella said. “It'd be a great opportunity to gauge where Ricky is.”

        Robinson's 1998 bout with the popular Arturo Gatti was voted fight of the year by Ring Magazine and ESPN. Robinson won that fight and a subsequent rematch with Gatti.

        Today at the Gardens, Williams (6-0, 5 KO's) faces another Philadelphia fighter, Anthony Washington, who is 15-0-1 with 3 KO's. The bout is scheduled for 10 rounds at junior welterweight (140 pounds) and will be televised by ESPN at 4 p.m. The card begins at 2 p.m.

        “He knows how to roll with punches,” Williams said of Washington. “He's very slick. He slips, bobs and weaves. It's possible that he could survive (10 rounds).”

        Williams' handlers wanted to start stretching him out, anyway; but even if not, they still didn't exactly want to put him in against a stiff, DiBella said.

        “ESPN gave us a main event and let us put it in Cincinnati, and I couldn't have gotten away with putting him in a fight that isn't a fight,” DiBella said. “If Ric isn't at his best, this is dangerous.”

        But Williams' handlers won't put him into the ring yet with anybody they think can catch him with a punch that could knock him out.

Boxers Anthony Washington (left) and Ricardo Williams Jr. pose briefly for photographers after their press conference at the Holiday Inn in Queensgate Friday afternoon.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Buddy LaRosa, Williams' co-manager, has boxing contacts coast-to-coast who know the fighters and know who has the punch that could surprise him.

        “The guys who can take you out with one lucky shot? You don't need them (right now),” LaRosa said. “You keep your fighter away from people like that, and you keep them away from guys who are coming down (in weight from welterweights to junior welter) because at fight time they're going to be welterweights.”

        DiBella said there isn't a young Olympic fighter on any team who will have fought an opponent the quality of Robinson by the time that fight occurs in two months.

        Williams appears to be on a collision course with Francisco “Panchito” Bojado (9-1), who has been getting a ton of press thanks to a Showtime TV contract and a string of quick, impressive knockouts since turning pro in 2001. Bojado, just 18, also is a bilingual Mexican, which puts him in the category that is tailor-made for the Latino population, boxing's biggest audience.

        Williams will need to be careful to avoid being stunned like Bojado was last Saturday. Bojado, fighting on Showtime, lost a unanimous decision in his first 10-round fight. The opponent was Juan Carlos Rubio, who was 26-6-2 coming in and who is similar in style to Robinson.

        “Ric isn't the (media) darling that Bojado is right now, but by the end of the year, they (the pundits) will know who is the next guy for the pound-for-pound lists,” DiBella said. “Right now, Ric has to let his fighting do his talking.”

        DiBella said a fight between Bojado and Williams is “two or three years” away, when the payday matches the hype.

        Winning his next two fights could set up Williams, nine to 12 months from now, to wade into what is a deep talent pool at 140 pounds. The division's current and budding stars include undisputed champion Kostya Tszyu, Mickey Ward, Jesse James Leija, Ben Tackie, Hector Camacho Jr., Gatti and Zab Judah, DiBella said.

        Williams enjoys watching Judah fight, partly because both are southpaws and have similar styles. Williams has had quite a bit of contact with Judah.

        “I talked to him a lot when I was an amateur,” Williams said. “He gave me a lot of advice. He told me to keep my head, not to let the publicity go to my head. ... One day, soon after the Olympics, I went to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight in Detroit. Zab was up there.

        “The president of HBO Sports told Zab, "Don't get close to Ricardo, because one day we're going to make sure y'all two fight.' Zab just laughed. He said, "Y'all are going to have to pay us.'”

        Williams loves fighting in Cincinnati — he took part of his compensation in tickets so the promoters could afford the rent at the Gardens rather than move the fight to Akron — and DiBella would love to have him fight here every six months or so.

        “I'm going to give people their money's worth,” Williams said. “I'm going to make them want to come back. That'll keep Lou coming back and keep ESPN and HBO coming back if I perform to the best of my ability and the crowd shows their appreciation.”


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