Sunday, September 1, 2013

Requiem for a Heavyweight… Danny Williams Loses Again

 By Peter Silkov

Danny Williams lost again last Friday, August 23rd, at the Pationarul Dunarea, in Romania, when Marcin Rekowski from Poland stopped him in the 4th round. Rekowski, to be fair, was unbeaten in nine contests, with eight stoppages; he is also thirty-five years old and totally unremarkable. About 10 years ago he would probably have made a decent sparring partner for Williams, but last Friday he made ’The Brixton Bomber’ look like the sparring partner. Unremarkable though he is, Rekowski made Williams stagger with just about every solid punch that he landed. There’s nothing much too really say about the fight itself, if you could really call it that, a fight.

Williams was in a state of survival mode almost from the beginning, his main focus seemed to be to try to block the slow punches coming his way that his reflexes no longer allow him to avoid. Williams started to look like a Friday drunk by the third round, as the Polish fighter’s punches had him staggering round the ring, and eventually going down to the canvas in a disorganized heap. Through it all, Williams had a bemused, almost hurt expression on his face, as if he hadn’t been expecting this at all.  It was the expression of a man who has been let down by his body.

 The end came in the 4th round, with Williams taking an unanswered fusillade of shots in the corner, and vainly trying to defend himself, but not punching back. Finally, the referee had seen enough and belatedly waved an end to the sad spectacle, but was it the end or will it just continue to go on and on.

Danny Williams has now lost twelve of his last sixteen fights, stretching back to late 2008, but the problem with Danny now is not whether he wins or loses, but that he is still fighting at all. William’s boxing career is now in that twilight world of the shot fighter, a fighter who is removed from relevance, and is basically a ghost of the past even though he is still boxing.

It is now been five years since Williams was a relevant fighter in the heavyweight division. As the time has passed and the losses have mounted up, ’The Brixton Bomber’ has become to resemble more and more the fading heavyweight boxer played by Anthony Quinn in ‘Requiem for a heavyweight’.  

Like Quinn’s Character, Danny Williams was at one time a top-rated contender for the World Heavyweight Championship title; what’s more, he actually fought for that championship, on a one-sided and brutal night, against Vitali Klitschko. Anyone who saw Williams challenge Klitschko would never question the Brixton man’s heart, but then most people who had followed ’    The Brixton Bomber’s’ career up to then already knew that Danny Williams had a huge heart. Despite even in his prime, being an erratic, and a paradoxical fighter.

Danny Williams was once a young heavyweight with a huge talent, a talent that arguably, he never had the self-belief to truly harness into its full potential. Outside the ring, Danny Williams has always come across as a stereotypical gentle giant, and yet, underneath the surface, Williams became known as a boxing enigma. He started his career by showing that he had the size, the power, and athleticism to become a major player in the talent starved heavyweight division. It would also become clear as his career progressed that the Brixton man struggled with the demons of self-doubt regularly, and on more than one occasion admitted a dislike for boxing, a sport that he had been persuaded to take up as a youngster by his father.

This ambiguous relationship with boxing would manifest itself by giving Williams’ career a fitful and somewhat wayward nature. One fluctuating aspect of Williams’ boxing career has been his weight, which has varied variously, and increasingly, as his career has progressed.

Williams was unbeaten in fifteen contests when he fought Julius Francis for the British heavyweight title on April 4th 1999, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Even though he was the favourite to win, Williams ‘froze’ and found himself out-boxed and out-hustled, and handed his first defeat.

As would be a pattern throughout his career, Williams bounced back from his defeat to win the Commonwealth Heavyweight title by beating Harry Senior on points on December  18th1999.  Then on Oct 21st, 2000, Danny won the British Heavyweight championship with a performance, which proved that despite his inconsistent temperament, he did indeed possess the heart of a warrior. In a fight that will not be forgotten anytime soon, by those who witnessed it that night, Williams knocked out Mark Potter in the 6th round, while fighting one armed after dislocating his right arm in the 3rd round. ‘The Brixton Bombers’ display of heart and determination in this contest made him a firm favourite with the fans, and marked the beginning of his period of dominance of the domestic Heavyweight scene.   

Over the next two years, ‘The Brixton Bomber’ built up a trail of defenses of his British and Commonwealth titles, and brought the domestic heavyweights some much-needed exposure. Then on Febuary 8th 2003, Williams travelled to Germany to challenge the unbeaten Sanin Samil Sam for the European title, and looked low on conditioning and confidence, as he was floored three times, in crashing to a 6th round stoppage defeat.                                                                   

After coming back from the Samil Sam disappointment with two successful defenses of his Commonwealth and British titles, Williams produced another enigmatic performance on Jan 24th, 2004, and lost his British and Commonwealth titles, when he allowed himself to be out-pointed by Michael Sprott, whom he had already beaten in two previous fights.

Shorn of his titles and with his prospects seemingly on the wane, ‘The Brixton Bombers’ boxing career was to take one of its most unexpected and dramatic turns.
On July 30th 2004, at Louisville Kentucky, Williams took on the legendary ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Brought in as a stepping stone for yet another Tyson comeback, ‘The Brixton Bomber’ withstood an almost vintage early bombardment from the former world champion, but instead of folding, fought back, and in the 4th round pummelled a tiring Tyson to the canvas for the full count.

Danny’s victory over Tyson took his profile to another level, especially at home, for a while he became a celebrity, garnering as much publicity as if he had actually won the world championship itself.

Five heady months after beating Tyson, ‘The Brixton Bomber’ was given the chance to do just that, win the World Heavyweight Championship, when he faced Vitali Klitschko, for his WBC World title. However, Williams’ title shot in the gaudy arena that is Las Vegas, turned out to be poisoned chalice, as he seemed to freeze on his biggest of nights, and found himself taking a spiteful pounding from a peak Vitali Klitschko. Danny was floored four times and showed courage beyond the call of duty, as he repeatedly got up, only to take more punishment. Williams’ predicament was not helped by his chaotic corner, and the end finally came when the fight was mercifully  stopped in the 8th round.

This would be both the high point and low point of Williams career. He earned praise for his immense courage, but for the first time, there were some voices calling for him to consider retirement in the face of such a punishing defeat.

Although Williams came back to regain his Commonwealth and British titles with wins over Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton, he looked unimpressive in doing so, as if his previous ambiguity with boxing had grown into an overwhelming dislike. He looked like someone who would rather be somewhere else.

Losses to Harrison and Skelton in rematches in 2006 seemed to bear out the fact that Danny Williams no longer wanted to be inside a boxing ring. The spark and desire seemed to have deserted him. Once an entertaining fighter to watch, Williams’ fights were becoming exercises in long mauls, not helped by his increasing weight, which seemed only to heighten ‘The Brixton Bombers’ loss of speed and activity inside the ring.

Then once again, Williams dragged his career back on track on March 2nd, 2007, when he got himself down to his lightest weight in years at 228 pounds, and regained the British Heavyweight championship, by knocking out Scott Gammer in nine rounds.
It was a performance that left some believing that Williams had sorted out his demons and still had much to offer.  These hopes were quashed almost from their start though, as Williams talked about retirement directly after the fight, saying that he wished to end his career on a high.

However, ‘The Brixton Bomber’ ultimately decided against retirement after the Gammer victory, with hindsight though, it would probably have been the best time for Williams to retire, because his career has been in an ever deepening decline ever since. The Gammer fight would be the last time that Williams approached anything like his peak form.

Over the next twenty months, Williams ran up a string of wins over middling opposition, including a defense of his British title against John Mcdermott, but despite the wins, Williams seemed to be struggling in every fight.

The writing was on the wall on November 8th, 2008, when ‘The Brixton Bomber’ was stopped by the tough, but limited, Albert Sosnowski in 8 rounds, his punch resistance seeming more and more suspect.

Retirement is hard for fighters at any time of their career, ever more so when they still hold a title of some description. Williams was still the British champion at this point, and followed the defeat by Sosnowski by successfully defending the British title again on May 2nd, 2009, winning a controversial decision, after a 12 round struggle with John Mcdermott.

Five months later, Williams was floored and out pointed in 3rds by novice Carl Barker, in the first round of the popular Prizefighter tournament.  

By now, Danny was saying that he was a shot fighter, and in the build up to his May 15th, 2010 British title defense against the unbeaten Dereck Chisora, he talked about retirement and becoming a bodyguard.  It was no surprise when Chisora made short, but brutal work of Williams, taking his British championship by flooring him twice, and stopping him in the 2nd round. After the fight, to the relief of his many fans, Williams duly announced his retirement.

It should have ended there, and in a way, it did, because the Danny Williams entering the ring today is not the Danny Williams who beat Mark Potter and Mike Tyson, or who lost to Vitali Klitshko. He is not even the Danny Williams who out-pointed John
Mcdermott twice at the end of his last British championship reign.

Following his defeat by Dereck Chisora, ‘The Brixton Bomber’ stayed in retirement for ten months, before reappearing in Germany and winning two fights against very limited opposition. In his next fight on June 25th, 2011, Williams stepped in with undefeated prospect, Manuel Charr, and was stopped in seven rounds.

There followed a six rounds points win over former Cruiserweight world champion Alfred Cole, in Sweden; Cole was now forty-seven years old and having his first fight for two years. On December 2nd, 2011, Williams travelled to Spain and faced another ‘prospect’ in Leif Larsen, and was stopped in the 2nd round, after being floored three times.

After a nine month lay off, it started again. Since the Larsen defeat, Williams has lost seven fights in a row, being stopped three times and floored at least six times. It is interesting and a little disturbing that all Williams fights have taken place in variously obscure rings throughout Europe and Eastern Europe, for it is very unlikely that he would be granted a license at this point by the British Boxing Board of Control.
So Danny fights in various places throughout Europe, whose various commissions are not as ‘fussy’ as the British Boxing Board of Control.

There is a tragic irony in a fighter who talked so often about his mixed feelings for the sport, continuing to fight on long after he should walk away. Boxing is littered with stories of fighters who fought on past the time when their legs and punch resistance had long since gone. One more story to the collection will not make much difference, but it doesn’t make it any less sad.

It must be hard to walk away from the only occupation that you have known all your adult life, while still a relatively young man. How easy is it for an ex-boxer to find decent employment outside of boxing? While, a now retired Mike Tyson, can make a living out of telling stories about the highs and lows of his incredible life and career, many of his former opponents are all but forgotten to the public in general.
Some of Danny’s recent fights in Europe have been built up with promotional boasts about him being the man who beat Mike Tyson.  But that fighter is long gone.

Danny fights now in a kind of surreal underworld of boxing, being used to pad the records of young prospects, in makeshift rings set up in variously obscure locations.

Some would think he must be fighting for the money, but would it really be that much at this point? It must be more than just the money; it must be about holding on to something more than simply money.

When boxers retire, they are giving up part of their mortal life, in essence, a part of them dies, their athletic selves, and with it, perhaps many of the hopes, and dreams that they have held for most of their lives.

Should we then really be so surprised that a boxer will find it so hard to walk away?

With every fight now, Danny Williams promises it will be his last. He seems to be a man torn. It must be hard to stay away when the phone keeps ringing and there are more young heavyweights scattered around Europe needing to pad their records with a name, especially a name that once beat Mike Tyson.

Boxing is littered with the stories of fighters who fought on too long and paid a heavy price with their health later on. The punchy ex-fighter is a stereotype, but he is a reality too, often because of promoters and matchmakers who ring him up with offers for fights, when all he should be doing is watching at ringside.

Every time Danny Williams promises to retire now, there are many who hope he will finally be able to walk away. There are many who are tired of seeing Danny getting beaten and hurt, but then who are we to tell a man how to make a living in this world.

Danny Williams is scheduled to fight again on October 5th, 2013 in Germany.

Watch the classic Tyson Vs. Williams fight:

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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