Thursday, May 22, 2008
Williams eager to put a hurt on Herrera
By Joe Tessitore ESPN.com
Aaron Williams' explosive power was on full display against Andre Purlett in April.
Sorry I wasn't around for last week's "Friday Night Fights." My duties hosting the network's horse racing coverage had me following yet another dominating performance by Big Brown. I'm glad to be back in the "FNF" mix this week, yet it doesn't seem like my assignment has changed all that much.
Just like Big Brown in the Derby and Preakness, this week's main event features an athlete who doesn't have a lot of experience. Much like Big Brown, he is overflowing with youthful athleticism. And most importantly, like the 3-year-old colt, the three-year pro is unbeaten.
It's "Awesome" Aaron Williams and, as his moniker boasts, he is probably strong enough to carry the 126 pounds of jockey Kent Desormeaux and a saddle. For now, we will simply ask him to carry the hopes of a cruiserweight prospect who impresses again.
Williams (17-0-1, 12 KOs) turned 22 a few weeks ago. He wants to show a new level of maturity that is beyond his years. Jose Luis Herrera is the opponent he'll be lined up against.
If things go according to plan, Herrera will be on the bad side of a "SportsCenter" highlight.
Williams has speed and power. His punches are accurate and impactful. We found out just how accurate and impactful on April 4, when Williams easily dispatched 40-win veteran Andre Purlett in Round 2.
"I was really shocked that I knocked Purlett out like that," Williams said. "I knew I was going to win, but I didn't know how I was going to win. But when I seen that I hurt him, I didn't want to let him off the hook. I just wanted to finish him because that guy's a veteran, he's been around the block. I wanted to end it as soon as possible."
And did he end it as soon as possible. It was one of those knockouts that immediately has you wanting to see him in the ring again. He put a hurt on Purlett with a focus that told you he wanted to do just that.
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, left, has been helping Williams smooth out his game.
Williams has the career plan set. He is trained by former world champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
"Aaron is a boxer-puncher. When Purlett got up, he hit him with a six-punch combination and the fight was over," Muhammad said.
Williams won a national Golden Gloves title and beat undefeated pros Joe Greene and Matt Godfrey as an amateur.
"It wasn't much of an adjustment from the amateurs -- I always had a similar style to the pros," said Williams, who lived and trained alongside Manny Steward during his late teenage years.
You may be sick of hearing me on this subject. I've been on a personal crusade in recent years for the sport -- and, more importantly, the TV networks -- to pay more attention to the cruiserweight division. The group of modern-day 200-pounders produces the kind of action that's exactly what the American public wants.
We all want to see big, strong, fast athletes who can knock each other out, and the cruiserweights don't loaf, fall in and clinch as much as this lethargic generation of heavyweights.
"I'm a boxer-puncher, a lot of jabs, movement. People compare me to Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson," Williams said. "I kind of compare myself to the boxers back in the '70s and '80s."
Williams may be getting ahead of himself, but you tell me -- which heavyweight can you say that about? The kid is just 22; he is 6-foot-2 and could pack on more weight to his already 200-pound frame. You know where I am going here.
Perhaps the future of the heavyweight division is actually incubating in the cruiserweight division. Not just Williams, but all the emerging cruisers. David Haye is going to give the bigger boys a shot. Williams likely will do so someday, as well. For now, watch him and decide for yourself.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."