'Tyson doesn't have the hunger'
Maybe Danny Williams isn't the guy Mike Tyson wants for his first fight in 15 months.
"I'm not coming in there to lay down," Williams said. "A lot of fighters do when they fight Tyson. If I'm going to be knocked out, I want to be knocked out. I'm not going to lay down just because of his reputation."
In other words, the bloke from Brixton, England, isn't heading to Kentucky on July 30 to go quietly into the night with a paycheck and a loss.
Williams doesn't have a reputation in the United States. You could have inserted the name of Williams, Kevin McBride, or any other number of heavyweights into the bill against Tyson and gotten the same reaction. But things are a bit different in his native England, where the former British and Commonwealth champion has a rep as a talented heavyweight who has not yet put the entire package together to make a move onto the world stage.
Sound a bit like Buster Douglas? Well one day, the underachieving Douglas got the call to fight Tyson in Tokyo, and we all know what happened next. Last month, Williams got that same call.
"I went to jump through the roof I was so excited," Williams said. "It's a great leap into the big time."
What happens on July 30 will be open to dozens of variables. Is Tyson, as has been reported, in his best mental and physical shape in years? Even if he is, does he have enough left to compete at the higher reaches of the division? Can Williams put it all together to score the upset? And will he be able to survive not only Tyson's punches, but also his potent power of intimidation?
Williams is ready for that first staredown.
"I know that he's just a human being, and that's all he is," Williams said. "I believe that I have ability and that my ability will overcome him on that night."
That's all well and good, and like Tyson himself said, everyone has a plan until they get hit. So what does Williams have that may separate him from the rest? What he has doesn't show up in his 31-3 (26 KOs) record.
That answer may be hidden somewhere in October of 2000, when Williams, then 21-1, put his Commonwealth crown on the line in a fight for the vacant British title against Mark Potter. Dropped to the canvas and down on the scorecards, Williams rallied to beat Potter in the sixth round. Simple enough, except for the fact that Williams had dislocated his right shoulder in the third round. After popping back in, the shoulder went again in the fifth, leaving him a one-armed fighter.
"When that happened, I thought 'I can't afford to lose this fight,' " Williams said. "My whole mind was on the referee, hoping that he didn't stop the fight. I was hoping that he would give me a chance to just outpoint this guy with my jab, but praise be to God, I was able to knock him out with the one arm."
With that left arm, Williams fought on. In the sixth, a perfect uppercut sent Potter to the floor. Two more times with the left hand, Williams put Potter down and the fight was halted. It was one of the most courageous performances you would ever see in the ring, and one that Williams is rightfully proud of.
"It's one of my performances I'm really proud of," Williams said, "because if Rocky Marciano was alive -- he's one of my favorite fighters, and a hearty fighter himself -- he would have been proud of the heart I showed in that fight."
So just what happens if Williams can survive Tyson's early onslaught and take the fight into the late rounds? How will Tyson react to a fighter who is willing to take him on and not go down? Then things might get interesting.
And with most pundits already penciling the "L" on Williams' record, it's a win-win situation for the 30-year-old, especially since he knows that he wasn't chosen to fight Tyson because he was expected to win.
"I'm glad, because knowing that Tyson's camp is looking at me like that ... it's such a relief, because in most of my fights in England I've been a massive favorite and I've been expected to knock people out," said Williams, relishing the underdog role. "It's taken so much stress off me, I just feel so relaxed. I'm glad to be the underdog, and I'm going to go out there and show everyone."
Which Danny Williams is going to show up is the question though. Is it the talent-rich Williams, who was seen early on in his career to be the heir to the throne of Lennox Lewis, or the one who lost to Sinan Samil Sam in six rounds last year? We'll know soon enough.
Boxing since the age of eight, Williams turned pro in 1995, at the age of 22. Tyson was always a hero.
"I watched Tyson when I was younger and I thought he was absolutely unbelievable," Williams said. "I didn't think he could be beaten. I thought this guy was invincible. But now he's gone backwards a lot, and I think the main thing he's got for him now is the fear of the ages. People still remember the Tyson of the ages, but he's not the same fighter."
The young Williams ran off 15 straight wins as a pro, and the hype machine started touting him as the next big thing in British boxing. Then he met a future Tyson KO victim in journeyman Julius Francis, who shocked him by decisioning him over 12 rounds.
"It was really painful," Williams said of the loss to Francis. "It took me years to get over it. But the reason I lost that fight is because I put too much pressure on myself, building myself up, thinking, 'Yeah, this ain't a threat to me; I'll take him out.' I blew up that occasion so much that when I went out there I basically froze. So I've learned to enjoy occasions and not let it get me down."
Williams rebounded from the loss by going on a 12-fight, nearly four-year winning streak that ended with a loss to Sam. Included among his victories was a fifth-round stoppage of Francis in their rematch and a 32-second blowout of Kali Meehan, who will challenge for Lamon Brewster's WBO heavyweight title later this year.
But after scoring two victories after the Sam fight, Williams lost again, via a controversial decision in January of this year to Michael Sprott, a fighter he already holds two victories over (he has since won two fights in a row via TKO). So the enigma remains.
"Tyson doesn't have the hunger he used to have before, and a hungry man is a dangerous man," Williams said. "I'm hungry; I want what he's got and I'm coming for it."
He's also thought about the spoils that come with such a victory.
"Oh yeah," he said. "I'm thinking about the world titles, thinking about the money. I'm definitely thinking about that."
He'll have to walk through some heavy fire to get there, not only from the former heavyweight champ, but also from the aura of 'Iron Mike' and a likely hostile crowd of Tyson fanatics. It's the kind of pressure few have experienced, and fewer have excelled under.
"I'm just going to enjoy the whole experience," he said. "Because at the end of the day, all the pressure's on Tyson; there's no pressure on me. If I go out there and get knocked out in 10 seconds, that was expected; he's only fighting a bum from England. But if I go out there and do what I think I'm going to do, which is outpoint him or even stop him, people are going to think I'm the next big thing. So I can only gain from this fight, I believe."
You always want to cheer for the underdog, no matter what sport it is. A Danny Williams makes that desire even easier. But to gain the title as the man who knocked off the baddest man on the planet, Williams will also have to dump his nice guy reputation to the side, because you can only beat Tyson by going into his world.
"There's no choice," Williams said. "I'm fighting a complete animal so I've got to be an animal myself. This is for my family and my kids, and I've got to be vicious for that 36 minutes. I've just got to be vicious. This is going to be my golden hour; I've just got to go out there and do it."
MORE BOXING HEADLINES
- Lee told to negotiate defense vs. Saunders
- With Klitschko in sight, Fury to face Hammer
- Ali fighting off pneumonia, 'vastly improved'
- Caballero to defend vs. Guevara on Feb. 27