Published: July 24, 2004
This is also a column about Mike Tyson
Take a deep breath. Danny Williams of Brixton is fighting Mike Tyson of Infamy in one of the few places that will give the bad man a licence to box, Louisville, Kentucky, the hometown of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
For added amusement, Ali’s daughter, Laila, will be throwing punches on the same bill, but that is another story.
At first glance Tyson-Williams seems something of a mismatch. Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at 20, was invincible before he became infamous alongside his diamond-encrusted entourage, his jail sentence and his ear-biting against Evander Holyfield among other chronicled episodes of misbehaviour. He is now 38 but the sledgehammer still resides in his gloves.
Williams is a decent domestic fighter whose record of under-achievement includes recent defeats by fellow Britons Michael Sprott and Julius Francis, who has tasted the Tyson leather, as well as Sinan Samil Sam, who knocked him down three times. Williams has also claimed 31 victims with 26 of them knocked out.
Williams has a chance even though the bookmakers make Tyson a 1-14 shot and have his opponent at 11-2, according to his manager Frank Warren, who stretches the imagination with the profound opinion that “Williams will shock the world where the man who shocked the world, Ali, was born”.
Optimism in the Williams camp springs from their man’s sudden obsession with fitness in body and, more importantly in his case, within his fragile mind. His own nerves have sometimes been his undoing.
He admits: “Too often I have left my fight in the gym and let the pressure get to me. This is different. I have trained 10 times harder than ever before. I am going to keep my discipline, stick to my plan. That has not always been the case. Everyone knows I have the potential. Now I must show the real Danny Williams. If I retired now I would feel like I have done nothing. My career is incomplete.
“Beating Tyson will change everything. I don’t want to go the distance. I am not interested in winning on points. I want to knock him over in five rounds. Tyson’s camp have said that I am a dirty fighter. He is the dirtiest in the world and I am ready for anything. He will not push me around.”
The spirit seems strong for this pay-per-view offering on Sky Box Office TV, but what of Tyson, the bully who was exposed by Holyfield and Lennox Lewis? Both refused to be intimidated by the mad bull’s rushes and he was forced to back off as they, especially Lennox on that memorable night in Memphis in June 2002, beat a bloody tattoo on his features.
He is millions of dollars in debt. He has not fought since dismissing Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds 18 months ago. The flashy lifestyle of jewellery, cars, houses, servants and hangers-on has evaporated.
He talks now of living modestly in a two-bedroomed house back in New York with his pigeons, which is how he was when boxing discovered him. At his training camp in Phoenix he has been entertaining under-privileged children. He has even been seen smiling with Don King, the promoter he claimed cost him millions.
Reports suggest, however, that he is not too keen on the hard work and a hint of that comes through in the words of his latest trainer, Freddie Roach.
He says: “I think Tyson hit rock bottom. It woke him up and boxing is what he really does best. If he can get back to a certain level he can beat those champions who are out there now. I would say he is 50 per cent of what he once was. When we get older we get a little slower and start cutting corners but he still has great speed and great power. He could be 60 or 70 per cent by the time of the fight.
“We need to get a fight scheduled right after this one because when you keep a fighter active, they stay sharp. He has been in boxing a long time and some days he just does not feel like it is there and I will give him a day off. Sometimes I have to push him into training. He trusts me and he trusts my judgment so that he will do as I say. He knows I am there for him.”
Expect Tyson to come out flying, throwing punches. Williams will need to withstand that barrage and not back off. If he can keep Tyson at bay, frustrating him with a jab, realising that Tyson’s legs went several fights ago, he would have a chance. But it’s a slim one.
By Mike Lewis