Danny Williams – a career in review

20.09.05 - By Alex Iles: Danny Williams has been described in some quarters as a boxing enigma, a talented boxer with abundant heart, grit, and determination who is surely destined for greatness. In other quarters, a prolific underachiever whose mental fragility has denied him to fulfil what he is physically capable of. While racking up some useful wins early on his career, Danny always had his sights set firmly on taking over the mantle from Lennox Lewis as not only the best heavyweight in Britain, but also one of the world’s finest heavyweight boxers..

The first time I saw Williams was at the Nynex Arena in Manchester where he faced limited but capable journeyman, Michael Murray. Williams was expected to be given a stern test but instead obliterated Murray in the first round.

It was evident the man possessed talent but it was his mental state that was yet to be addressed.

Frustrations arose when his British heavyweight title fight with current champion Julius Francis was postponed and Williams was left to face a Paul Gascoigne look-alike named Antoine Palatis. Williams, obviously deflated at the change of opponent, performed dismally on route to picking up a points victory.

He finally got the Francis fight he so desperately wanted but he came in with no discernable game plan, was old-manned out of the fight, and at times made to look raw. Williams re-grouped and racked up seven straight victories, six inside the distance against some reasonable British standard opposition.

He was then matched up against then little known but undefeated Kali Meehan, who would later take world champion Lamon Brewster to the limits and put a brave display against former Lennox Lewis’ conqueror, Hasim Rahman. With thirty two seconds on the clock, Meehan found himself on the canvass twice and stopped under the furious Williams onslaught.

He finally gained revenge on Francis and won the British heavyweight championship in the process. Williams boxed a more mature fight, sticking to his predefined strategy, and reversed his then only career defeat. After travelling to America for the second time and outclassing journeyman Shawn Robinson, Williams worked his way through two British title challengers in the form of Michael Sprott and the gutsy Keith Long.

Williams now felt the time was right to step up the level of competition and challenged Sinan Samil Sam for the European title in Germany. Despite a fast start Williams was found wanting and was repeatedly floored by the podgy but sturdy champion. Williams’ career had taken a blow although he later attributed that loss to shingles.

A sleeker Williams was now on the comeback trail and after stopping the enormous Bob Mirovic in four rounds, he was handed a rematch with the much improved Sprott. The fight finished in controversy as Williams strayed low with punches and then knocked cold a defenceless Sprott with one of the meanest left hooks he has ever thrown. He was dubbed ‘Dirty Dan’ and Sprott demanded a rematch.

Williams granted Sprott the rematch in and then promised to move on to greater things once he secured the victory. He talked a very good fight but disappointed on fight night and seemingly collapsed mentally as he threw the fight away losing a controversial points decision.

Williams’ career was going backwards and he needed something that would project him back into the heavyweight picture. He got that chance when Kevin McBride priced himself out of a fight with Iron Mike Tyson and Williams was handed the opportunity.

What a difference one fight makes. By upsetting the odds, Danny Williams was transformed from an underachiever to a contender, and one to be reckoned with. Williams survived an early Tyson onslaught and with the help of a Tyson knee injury, Danny unleashed a twenty plus punch salvo that left the Baddest Man on the Planet draped across the ropes. The win transformed him. This was a new Danny Williams. The days of British title underachiever and European failure were behind him and he could now set his sights on Vitali Klitschko.

The fairly tale ended when Klitschko served up a tremendous beating, dropping a courageous Williams four times on the way to defending his heavyweight title. Danny was again found wanting at this rarefied level. Williams’ promoter Frank Warren called for Danny to retire after suffering at the hands of Klitschko. Williams had other ideas and planned to regain his British title held by Matt Skelton.

The day before the fight, Williams mysteriously pulled out citing flu and has faded into insignificance ever since.

Williams had shown the heart of a lion in many of his fights both winning and losing. Getting up of the floor when being hammered by Sam and Klitschko, beating Mark Potter with one arm, reversing his first career defeat and overcoming the odds to shock Tyson. Yet he failed to secure fights at British level against Harrison, Hide and Skelton and failed miserably when stepped up in class.

One wonders where Danny goes from here. One thing is for sure, as much as he has done to help his career, he has equally hindered it. It seems as if retirement is beckoning. I wish him the best of luck.

Article posted on 20.09.2005

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