Williamson puts a lot into his shots (pic by Neil Abramson)
By Ant Evans: After hours of settlement talks failed last Thursday, New Jersey District Court Judge Williams Martini will now decide whether DaVarryl Williamson or Wladimir Klitschko gets to challenge Chris Byrd for the International Boxing Federation world heavyweight title this summer.
Under the IBF rules, Byrd is required to face the 'highest ranked available challenger' by August of this year. With top two Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett already due fight each other, that leaves No.3 ranked Williamson as the effective mandatory challenger to Byrd.
Only, until May of this year it was Wladimir Klitschko - the former WBO champion who holds wins over not only Williamson but also Byrd - who was ranked above Williamson at No.3.
The 29-year-old Klitschko, 44-3 (40), beat Byrd out of sight in 2000 and got by Williamson on a somewhat controversial split technical decision last October.
Feeling that he'd been passed by unfairly, Klitschko filed suit in the New Jersey court, stating the IBF had broken their own rules by leap-froging Williamson above him in the May ratings. Klitschko further asked the court to pass an injunction to stop a Byrd v Williamson fight from happening.
The IBF ratings committee were reluctant to go on the record with the case still undecided but Championship Rating Committee Chairman Daryl J Peoples told SecondsOut: "Both those fighters deserve to be in the top five at heavyweight. Why we did what we did (flip-flop Klitschko and Williamson in the No.3 and No.4 positions) is a matter of public record and anyone can see our reasoning (behind this decision) on our website. Our rulebook is also available to all online and it very explicit on what can and can't be done; no rules were broken."
The IBF's website states that Williamson edged ahead of Klitschko because of his April 30 KO win over IBF No.15 ranked Derrick Jefferson (another heavyweight Klitschko had previous defeated, by the way) in New York.
An alternative theory is that the IBF, the very same organisation crippled by a ratings scandal in the 1990s, is been naughty again and is looking after the best interests of promoter Don King, who has Byrd and Williamson on his books but not Wladimir Klitschko.
"I'm so sick of hearing things like that," raged Don King Productions' Bobby Goodman. "It's in our best interests to have good relations with the sanctioning organisations. We have a duty to our fighters to have good relations with the organisations - we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't. It takes a lot of work, it means going to all the meetings, going to all the conventions and everything else. If other promoters aren't doing that and don't know (the IBF's rules inside out) that's their problem.
"The reason DaVarryl is (now) rated higher than Wladimir Klitschko is because DaVarryl Williamson has done everything the IBF rules have asked of him to do. He beat Oliver McCall, who nobody wanted to fight because he punches so hard, and then he fought and knocked out a top 15 IBF fighter in Derrick Jefferson. That's two good wins (since the October Klitschko fight) for DaVarryl while Klitschko fought a guy in Eliseo Castillo who was unranked by the IBF. It's simple."
But the issue is beginning to spiral out of control. Judge Martini warned on Thursday that he will take up to two weeks to reach a decision; he wants the parties concerned to reach an out of court settlement if at all possible.
Judge Martini fears any intervention by himself could set a dangerous precedent which could damage the sport of boxing. He said Thursday: "I see little benefit for judicial intervention in an issue like this. Everybody's opportunity to do what they claim they like to do - box - will be put on the sidelines."
The most obvious compromise is a box off or final eliminator between Klitschko and Williamson. Klitschko's people aren't keen (and neither is Byrd, who hasn't been in the ring since November and wants to get his mandatory out of the way ASAP) but Williamson relishes the chance of a second crack at the 1996 Olympic gold medallist.
Williamson, a exciting chin-or-be-chin type of fighter, has wanted the Klitschko rematch from the moment he and a tired looking Klitschko went to the scorecards after only five rounds in Las Vegas last October.
"He's so lucky that his eyes got cut by (an unintentional) head butt," Williamson lamented to SecondsOut. "Everything was going exactly how we wanted it to. You've never seen a gameplan work out so exactly in the ring. Everyone who's ever heard of the guy knows Klitschko throws too many shots early on and blows up and can be taken out late. I put a little on him early on to make sure he was aggressive and used up his energy, hung in there, and after a few rounds started to come on strong.
"No-one can tell me I wasn't going to win that fight by knockout. At the point the fight was stopped I'd already knocked him down, he'd been gasping for air from the second round. I was taking over the fight. The plan was to make it competitive early on, make him throw all those punches like he did (when he exhausted himself) against Laomon Brewster, tire him out and knock him out late on.
"You've never seen a plan work out so well but he was given a get out of jail free card and he took it and ran. He made a huge mistake fighting me and he knows it. He never even came back to me with even an offer to fight a rematch, instead he goes to Germany to fight that guy (Castillo)."
Of course, Team Klitschko see things very differently. Business manager Bernd Boente told SecondsOut: "Wladimir beat DaVarryl Williamson already only last October, Wladimir has also beaten Byrd and these two points alone should entitle him to a position higher than Williamson in the IBF rankings."
Maybe, but unless the two camps can come up with some sort of settlement, the only person whose opinion will count will be Judge Williams Martini.
Ant Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org