The window of opportunity in boxing can close quickly. Jimmy Williams knows this.
After his wife, Christina, gave birth to twin boys in September, the New Haven, Conn., welterweight decided it was time to make a move before his own window slammed shut.
The 31-year-old Williams, still fighting under the promotional guidance of CES Boxing, his original promoter since he turned pro in 2013, changed managers and trainers, rewiring his inner circle in an effort to move one step closer to his goal of winning a world title in 2018.
With a six-week training camp in Nevada in the books, Williams makes his West Coast debut Friday night at the Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas when he faces Houston’s Marquis Taylor (8-1) in the co-main event on the beIN Sports network, an event promoted by Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions. The show is headlined by a North American Boxing Association (NABA) bantamweight title showdown between Max Ornelas and Juan Antonio Lopez.
This is Williams’ first fight since he began training with the renowned Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and his first under the managerial guidance of Towan Butler, a Nevada native referred to Williams through a family friend.
“We just clicked from Day 1,” Williams said of Butler. “He has the same hunger as me.”
The only constant is the unwavering support of CES Boxing and president Jimmy Burchfield Sr., who remain in Williams’ corner as he embarks on a major career move.
“I just felt like I needed to get better,” Williams said. “With everything going in my life, my family, my twins, I needed a change. I needed to get better. No knock on anybody else, but I needed to improve my career.
“If I didn’t have my boys, I might not have made this decision, but the time is now. I want to give them the best life possible.”
Muhammad, a former world champion who won 50 fights before retiring in 1988, has worked with a myriad of fighters through the years. He guided fellow New Haven fighter Chad Dawson to the light heavyweight world championship, led Iran Barkley to a win over Thomas Hearns in 1992 and coached underdog Michael Bentt in a stunning victory over then-world champion Tommy Morrison in 1993. He is now training Williams out of the Mayweather Boxing Club in Vegas, which Williams says brought out the best in him during his six-week camp.
“There’s so much world-class talent there. Fighters. Trainers. Every sparring match is like a fight,” Williams said. “Everyone is going hard. The whole crowd, the press, everyone is watching you. If you want to be the best, this is how you make a name for yourself by being around the best.”
The New Jersey native Williams made Connecticut his home after playing football at Connecticut State University. Under CES Boxing’s guidance, Williams captured the World Boxing Council United States National Boxing Council (WBC USNBC) welterweight title in 2017 and has only one blemish on his record – a 2013 draw against Greg Jackson.
Nevada has become his second home. The atmosphere in Vegas is addictive. For the past four decades, Sin City has been the boxing capital of the world. It’s become to boxers what packing your belonging and traveling to Hollywood is for aspiring actors or actresses.
“It’s definitely a fight town,” Williams said. “Everybody is going hard. Everyone wants to make it. Everyone wants to be somebody. There’s a dogfight everywhere you go.”
Being away from his family hasn’t been easy – “I Facetime my wife and my boys every night,” Williams said – but his wife has been supportive as he works to build a solid foundation for their future, plus he has other family members and friends from New Jersey and New Haven flying out west to attend tomorrow’s fight. He eventually hopes to move he and his family to Nevada so he no longer has to travel for camp.
“It’s going to feel like I’m back in New Haven when the bell rings,” he said.
Taylor presents a tough challenge. The 24-year-old Houston native recently fought former world champion Kermit Cintron in February, a fight that ended in a no contest due to a cut over Cintron’s eye stemming from an accidental headbutt. Taylor also boasts wins over the previously-unbeaten Oscar Torres and Philadelphia vet Vincent Floyd.
“He’s a tall, slick boxer. Comes to fight. It’s a big challenge for me,” Williams said of Taylor. “This is a good fight for me to showcase my boxing skills. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big fight in my career.”
Williams made a lot of changes, but hopes the payoff is monumental at the end of the year, perhaps in the form of a world title shot. Moving to Vegas, the fight capital of the world, could be the lift he needs to make sure that proverbial window of opportunity doesn’t close too soon.
“I’m a dedicated, hard worker. I’m a champion. I’m going to give it my all,” he said. “This opportunity presented itself and I’m all in. You can only do this one time. I have to capitalize on every opportunity.”