This isn't the fight boxing fans and Paul Williams wanted on Saturday night. In many ways it's harder.
Instead of a title showdown with Kelly Pavlik -- who to the surprise of nobody turned and ran from Aiken's "Punisher" before ever reaching the ring -- Williams will face junior middleweight champion Sergio Gabriel Martinez in Atlantic City, N.J.
The lanky Argentine southpaw didn't sound scared of fighting the man whose promoters passed out buttons at a Wednesday press conference at The Palm restaurant in New York with Williams' face and the moniker "The most feared fighter in boxing." A video of the press conference was available online.
"I believe I'll be able to knock out Paul Williams," said Martinez, as translated by Mexican heavyweight Chris Arreola. "I'm the real deal and the whole world is going to see it. I'm the real deal."
For Williams, he is just happy to have any kind of deal. Shunned by his fellow champion welterweights and dodged by most name fighters from 147 to 168 pounds, the three-time world champion just wanted to fill his HBO slot with anyone willing to take him on.
If that meant switching preparations in midstream to meet a less mobile right-hander in Pavlik to a faster and taller lefty like Martinez, then so be it. It's an opportunity for both fighters even if they'll meet at the catch weight of 160 pounds with no titles on the line.
"Nobody on Team Martinez believed that Pavlik was going to get in the ring with Paul Williams," said Lou DiBella, the promoter for Martinez. "This is a far more difficult fight than Pavlik, but they took it anyway. That's the sign of a champion."
It's been seven months since Williams dominated his last fight against Winky Wright and five months since he started training for Saturday night. His trainer, George Peterson, said that is bad news for Martinez (44-1-2), whose only career loss came in 2000 by knockout to the same man Williams earned his first world title against, Antonio Margarito.
"He's in a helluva predicament Saturday night," Peterson said of Martinez. "This young man, Paul Williams, is coming off of five months of nothing but frustration and I hate that this young man has to be on the receiving end. This fight Saturday night is going to be a very good fight as long as it lasts. We don't expect it to last too long."
Williams -- who attended the press conference wearing a brown fur coat and a Baltimore Orioles cap -- was more blunt.
"It's gonna be a pig roast and I'm gonna put an apple in his mouth," Williams said. "He's never been in the ring with Paul Williams with all those 44 wins. I'm going to take him to school. So he better bring his books for school."
This will be a good test for Williams even if no belts are on the line. Martinez holds the WBC junior middleweight belt that was previously held by Vernon Forrest in 2008. Martinez was never able to arrange a fight with Forrest, but he promised to pay tribute in his next fight to the native Augustan who was slain in June after confronting the men who robbed him at an Atlanta gas station.
Martinez previously said he would display Forrest's nickname on his trunks in his next fight.
"For this fight I want to pay homage to Vernon 'The Viper' Forrest, who was a great champion," Martinez said Wednesday. "It's going to be a great night of fighting. I will win by knockout."
Martinez is likened to a faster and taller version of Carlos Quintana, who dealt Williams the only blemish on his 37-1 pro record. DiBella said Martinez learned from Quintana's game-plan against Williams, though Williams did avenge that one loss with a first-round knockout in the rematch.
"Quintana had the plan to beat Paul and upset Paul," admitted Peterson. "But of course he omitted that plan in the second fight. So if he's patterned himself on that, then it's going to be a shorter fight than I expect it to be."
All that matters is it will at least last longer than the Pavlik "flight." When you claim to be boxing's most feared guy, it's a step forward.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOWDOWN IN NEW JERSEY
WHO: Paul "The Punisher" Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) vs. Sergio Gabriel Martinez (44-1-2, 24)
WHAT: 12-round middleweight fight
WHERE: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Saturday (HBO)