A Classic Turnaround – Recalling The Mike Weaver-Carl Williams Shootout

Former WBA heavyweight champ Mike Weaver had a reputation for being able to completely and utterly turn a fight around in the blink of an eye. The stunning, out of the blue KO Weaver scored over John Tate to take the WBA belt in March of 1980 is the suff of legend. Weaver, hopelessly behind on points, uncorked a sweet left hook to the chin that left Tate flat on his face. There were just 45 seconds left on the clock.

By the time of his fight with Carl Williams, Weaver was an ex-champ who was running the risk of becoming a gatekeeper; a high-class gatekeeper for sure, but no longer a fighter with any real chance of reaching the top once again. Weaver – who had lost his title under controversial circumstances, being stopped by a trigger-happy referee, this with barely a minute gone in the December 1982 fight, with Weaver on his feet and clear-headed – had gone 3-1-1 since (the draw coming in a Dokes return, Weaver once again being hard done by). Weaver’s last fight saw him get stopped by Pinklon Thomas in a failed WBC heavyweight title challenge.

Williams, eight years the younger man, was coming off a stoppage win over Jesse Ferguson, this win following Williams’ close, somewhat controversial 15 round decision loss to heavyweight king Larry Holmes. Carl was 17-1, Weaver was 27-11-1 (although a good any of these defeats came early on in the career of the former Marine who served in Vietnam).

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Fighting in Troy, New York 35 years ago today, Weaver and Williams went at it right at the sound of the first bell. Or, to be more accurate, Williams initiated the fast pace, his swift left jab, the one that had troubled Holmes, snapping into Weaver’s face. Williams, known as “The Truth,” used his fast hands to good effect as he whipped shots into Weaver’s head. But Wiliams was showing Weaver no respect. Big mistake.

Maybe Williams, who apparently knew all about Weaver’s reputation for being a slow starter, had forgotten about the way “Hercules” could alter the direction and the outcome of a fight at any second. A good opening round for Williams was followed by the second greatest turnaround of Weaver’s up and down career.

Williams began round two by unloading more leather on Weaver, his punches and his physical strength driving Weaver to the ropes. Williams went for the stoppage, his combination punches having Weaver in a state of disarray, the stoppage win seemingly close. But then Weaver’s lethal left hook again came to his rescue. A thundering counter-left slammed into William’s exposed jaw, the shot sending him into the ropes and down.

Weaver pounced as soon as Williams got back up, sending him down on his knees for a second knockdown. Williams was totally gone yet the fight was allowed to go on. The third knockdown came mere seconds later and Weaver pulled off a celebratory move that would have made a gymnast proud. Weaver had revived his career in one big way. The Tate fight and the Williams fight kind of encapsulate Weaver’s career: he was vulnerable early, he could be outboxed, he could be hit and hurt, but he could never, ever be counted out. Not in any fight.

On the under-card in Troy, a young Mike Tyson, already a star, stopped Ferguson via DQ. Tyson and Williams would meet in 1989. Weaver never got a shot at Tyson, but what might have happened had he done so? With Weaver, we never ever knew what would happen when he fought.

Williams sadly passed away at the age of 53, this back in April of 2013. Weaver, who turns 70 this June, is still in fantastic shape, mentally and physically. The former champ has good memories of the Williams fight:

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“Yeah, that fight is a nice memory for me,” Weaver messaged me back this week. “I remember, a friend of mine was talking to him [Williams], and he [Williams] said to my friend how he was a much better boxer than me. My friend told him after the fight, ‘yeah, we saw that tonight!’ Lol.”

Who doesn’t love Mike Weaver!