A former six time British amateur champion, the 22 year old from Clydach Vale in the Rhondda valley began his pro career in the middleweight division but his decision to streamline last year has taken him to the cusp of a British title challenge down at 11 stone.
The former roofer, now unbeaten in 11 (one technical draw) knows that, provided he continues to win, he’ll get a crack at domestic glory before the pending 2014-15 season is through.
Williams returns to the ring following his sensational win over Ronnie Heffron in July when he takes on Stepan Horvath over ten-rounds on the big Liverpool Echo Arena show on Saturday 25th October.
Paul Butler headlines the Magnificent Seven show, plus challenging for the Vacant WBA Continental Light-Middleweight Championship; Derry Mathews facesAdam Dingsdale for the Vacant WBA Continental Lightweight Championship; challenges European Flyweight Champion for his title, and takes on for the Vacant WBO European Light-Welterweight Championship. A quality packed undercard features undefeated talent Chris Eubank Jnr, , , , and the pro debuts of and
Remaining tickets priced at £40, £50, £75, £100 and £150 are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or www.echoarena.com
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Boxing writer Glynn Evans called up the Welsh youngster to hear his story.
The Welsh valleys have spawned some of the finest fighters in ring history. What do you recall of your early life in the Rhondda?
I had a very enjoyable childhood. I think it’s much harder growing up in the big cities.
Clydach Vale is a very close community where everybody gets along. It was an easy place to live with nice people. There’s lots of mountains and, from the age of about 13, I used to ride motocross bikes.
That said, I was always getting into fights. I was a wicked little kid, full of energy and very ‘chopsy’. I never got in trouble with the law, mind. I had a good bunch of friends and getting involved with the boxing took me down the right path and disciplined me.
You had a fabulous amateur record, winning 44 out of 49 bouts and capturing six British titles across various age groups. Yet you opted to turn professional at just 18. With retrospect, do you regret not staying on for a crack at the major international tournaments such as the Commonwealth Games or Olympics?
Not really. I’m quite happy with what I achieved as an amateur. I was actually due to attend an Olympic qualifier through the Welsh ABA but, shortly before departure, I got run over by a woman using her mobile phone.
I felt I wasn’t getting the opportunities I deserved at international level. I felt the GB set up tended to favour the English boys. To be fair, lads like Billy Joe Saunders, Anthony Ogogo and Ryan Aston were older and possibly ahead of me back then. But at the time, I didn’t feel I was getting treated fairly so decided enough’s enough and just dropped out. My decision.
You concluded your amateur career – and had your first three pro fights – coached by Vince Cleverly, father of ex WBO light-heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly. What were you able to take from that association?
Vince was excellent for fitness training and got me throwing a lot of shots. It was great experience training alongside Nathan who was world champion at the time. We did quite a bit of sparring.
But I didn’t feel I was learning a lot technically so I phoned Vince up, thanked him for all he’d done for me, but told him I felt I needed to move on. He didn’t take it too well initially but we’ve since moved on and made up. You’ve got to be selfish in this game and I believe it was the right decision.
You profited from a quality apprenticeship, fighting hardened journeymen such as Ryan Clark, Tony Randell, Nick Blackwell and Jamie Ambler, whilst campaigning mainly in the middleweight division. Clearly, it served you well.
That’s the way it should be. Young prospects shouldn’t be getting it easy. I’m very grateful that the matchmakers picked the right fights that have allowed me to develop and advance. Some (prospects) are far too looked after.
Often I’d be told that my fight was made at, say, 11.8 then the opponent would turn up at 12.2 and I’d be conceding a lot of weight. But I never struggled with any of the opponents and the size difference allowed me to get the rounds in and learn my trade. Even when I saw a weakness or an opening, I’d never steam in for the finish. I was never in a rush to score knockouts.
Why did you take the decision to drop to light-middle? What alterations did you need to make to your training schedule?
Gary had been suggesting it for a long time. I’d been fighting around 11.10 but, over time, strimmed down to 11.2, 11.3 for my fight with Tyan Booth (December 2013). I then weighed under 11 stone for my British eliminator with Ronnie Heffron. I did it correctly, through diet and nutrition and gradually got used to fighting at that weight. Now I feel very strong.
Two years back, there’s no way I’d have eaten a salad. Now I’m eating far cleaner. But it’s been hard. Making weight is never easy. It messes with your head and drives you round the bend but no one forces you to box. It’s part of the game I choose to be involved in.
Latterly, you’ve switched to manager Gary Lockett’s upwardly mobile gym in Cwmbran. What are the secrets behind its recent successes?
For a start, there’s plenty of good quality boys here with decent amateur pedigrees. There’s so many different styles that you can pick things up from.
Gary’s a very good trainer who works hard. He’s been in there and done it all himself at a high level (ex WBC middleweight title challenger) so that gets respect straight away. He’s very professional, likes everything done properly and isn’t slow to correct you. He’s really taught me to slow down and put all my weight into shots.
People take Gary the wrong way. I know he looks a miserable bastard but he’s good fun and, if we couldn’t have a laugh, I’d not be there. I need happy people around me.
In addition to Gary, you’ve got Enzo Maccarinelli and, until recently, Gavin Rees; a couple of world champions who I followed on TV as a kid and have always looked up to. Now I’m really good mates with them. I’ve learned a lot watching how they get ready for their big championship fights and that prepares me for what I’ve hopefully got to come in future.