Verno Phillips' 'birthday present' might turn a-Paul-ing

Nov 25, 2008 5:03 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

Verno Phillips, who’s been boxing seemingly since man left caves, will actually celebrate ‘only’ his 39th birthday on Saturday. He says the fight with Paul (Punisher) Williams is "a good birthday present."

Williams probably looks at the 154-pound "interim title" bout as a belated Thanksgiving gift.

Yes, Thanksgiving is coming up this week and for all the things we have to be thankful, maybe none is bigger than the fact that there have been no odds posted for this apparent mismatch.

We could be thankful for another year of scintillating fights – especially anything with the Marquez brothers, Rafael losing again to Israel Vazquez, Juan Manuel losing to Manny Pacquiao. We could be thankful that next month’s heavyweight "title" fight in Zurich between Nikolai Valuev and 46-year-old Evander Holyfield will not be televised in the States.

But I am most thankful that there is no way I can lose another bet next weekend. I’ve been so cold lately as to belie any such thing as global warming. I mean, I picked Obama to win, but I gave eight points.

This fight looks as easy as Kelly Pavlik beating old man Bernard Hopkins. Verno Phillips isn’t quite as ancient, but he’s been fighting as a pro since 1988 and it’s not that he’s lost much. He won a split decision in March against heavily favored Cory Spinks to win the IBF 154-pound title, which he had to give up in order to take on the erstwhile welterweight champion.

Williams simply is one of the best fighters around at any weight, especially from 147 to 160. Last year he defeated the acknowledged welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, taking a big early lead and holding on against Tijuana Tornado’s usual second-half rally. He blew the belt last February by ‘sleepwalking’ in a 12-rounder to Carlos Quintana – his only loss against 35 wins.

Williams came back in June to score a first-round knockout of Quintana. He then moved up to middleweight and scored another first-round KO of a decent journeyman named Andy Kolle.

Williams is a huge welterweight, or junior middleweight, standing 6-foot-1 and with a heavyweight’s 82-inch reach. He has big physical advantages over Phillips, 5-7½ with only a 69-inch wing span.

Phillips has only 21 knockouts on his 42-10-1 ledger, which means he is doubtful to stop Williams, who showed a magnificent chin against Margarito.

Williams would prefer to be fighting Margarito again – but the so-called most feared boxer in the world not only did not wish a rematch against his last conqueror, but he ducked out of a $2 million payday against ancient Sugar Shane Mosley, who wasn’t that anxious to fight Williams, either.

Phillips is no slouch. He is a professional with victories over such former champions as Spinks, Julian Jackson, Gianfranco Rosi, Lupe Aquino and Santos Cardona. If a line does appear in time for this HBO bout from Ontario, CA, please do not be tempted by the generous odds on the underdog.

Also on the card next Saturday Chris Arreola, whom I have been touting as America’s finest heavyweight prospect, was listed offshore around 20-1 against once-beaten Travis Walker, with the buyback rate of from 9-1 to 10-1.

The undefeated Arreola has 24 stoppages in 25 pro fights with the biggest opponent being his appetite. Arreola should be taken seriously if he trains like a contender should.