Williams is on the rise
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Aiken, S.C., may not be the boxing capital of the world, but longtime trainer George Peterson has over the years been able come up with some world-rated fighters to put his little city on the map.
Just outside of Augusta, Ga. – known for the Masters golf tournament – Aiken in the 1970s was the home training base of former junior welterweight contender Tim “Blue” Walker and Johnny Gant, who unsuccessfully challenged then-WBA welterweight champion Angel Espada and several other top fighters of his era, including Sugar Ray Leonard.
With more than 40 years of training under his belt, Peterson now has another top-ranked welterweight who’s on the cusp of bringing some more recognition to Aiken.
Paul Williams, rated No. 1 by the World Boxing Organization, is 30-0 with 22 knockouts and Peterson’s latest find.
Standing between 6-foot-1 and 6-2, Williams has the reach of an albatross – his wingspan has been measured at 79 inches – the shoulders of a middleweight and the waist of a wasp.
The 25-year-old Williams will take a calculated risk Saturday at Reno Events Center, when he takes on two-time former junior welterweight titlist Sharmba Mitchell, 57-5 (30), in an HBO-televised fight presented by Goossen Tutor Promotions.
Many trainers – and boxers – would not tempt fate so close to a title shot (if he wins, Williams could next face WBO welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito), but Peterson and Williams are both confident of the outcome.
Asked if he’s been studying any tapes on Mitchell, who hails from Washington, D.C., Peterson casted a somewhat politely annoyed stare.
“I’m from around Washington, D.C.,” Peterson said Wednesday at Reno’s Koncrete Gym, where Williams was loosening up and sparring. “I’ve known Sharmba Mitchell for years. There’s nothing for me to look at.
“We have a journey where I’m going to show (Williams) different styles, different boxers. He’s sparred with 10 world champions. I’ve got him on the road and whenever he gets in the ring, he makes the necessary adjustments.”
Asked what Mitchell should be concerned about when he faces Williams, Peterson offered a knowing smile.
“Everything,” he said. “Listen, the guy (Williams) can stand across the street and hit you. He (like Mitchell) is even a southpaw. And Sharmba has never seen a guy throw 135-150 punches a round.”
Because of his stature, Williams has evoked the names of two other freakishly proportioned welterweights in Thomas Hearns and Mark Breland, two former world champions.
Given an audition by the highly coveted HBO, Williams grabbed his share of the spotlight with an exciting 10-round TKO over Walter Matthyse in May.
“So far, it’s unbelievable,” Williams said of his recent ascension in the division. “Sometimes I think it’s a dream. A couple years ago I was in club fights, now I’m fighting on HBO. It’s a dream come true.”
Actually, it’s a dream in the making. While his 3-year-old son, Paul, and his 1-year-old daughter, Jecoria, stay at home, Williams stays in training and on the road.
“He’s been home for maybe seven weeks this year,” Peterson said. “It’s tough, but he’s on a mission. This is a job, and he’s accepted it. His dedication has got him here. He’s willing to pay the price on the front end to reap the dividends on the back end.”
Williams said he has probably been home less than seven weeks this year, visiting for maybe three days at a time.
“It’s a business,” he said. “To me, I’m on a mission. In a way, I hate it. But it will benefit me and my family in the long run.”
Peterson said the reason Williams has been able to have such success is because it’s in his nature and he respects his trainer, a hallmark of any trainer-boxer relationship.
“He’s an ideal kid,” said Peterson of Williams, whom he’s been training his entire professional career (Williams had 30 amateur bouts). “You can’t self-construct a guy like him. We’ve never had a problem. The reason why is his cooperation. I’ve never had a problem with him. I can wake him up anytime – 3 (a.m.), 4, 5 – he always says, ‘OK.'”
Williams addresses reporters as “sir,” and displays confidence, not arrogance when he speaks. He’s confident of beating Mitchell, but at the same time assertive when it comes to saying he should be mentioned when the boxing pundits toss around the top names in the division.
“I expect (Mitchell) to come to fight,” Williams said. “Everybody says he’s old (Mitchell is 35), but I’m going to treat him like everyone else – like it’s a championship fight. I know he’ll try to use his speed and maneuver and everything. But I know the training I did. I don’t worry about it.
“He’s a two-time world champion. I’m ready to get there. He’s had his day in the sun.”
Although he holds two minor regional belts, including the North American Boxing Organization strap, Williams is more concerned with owning some of the four major world titles.
Peterson said Williams has sparred Margarito and that’s the reason he’s doing what no other welterweights are doing and calling him out. The 6-foot Margarito has been labeled the most avoided boxer at 147 pounds.
“Before his fight with (former WBO welterweight and junior middleweight titlist) Daniel Santos, we had a sparring session,” Williams said. “I really got on him. I hurt him and his corner stopped it. He said he didn’t want to spar me anymore. I hurt him to the body. It boosted my confidence level up higher.
“People say he’s the most feared fighter in the division. If I beat him, then they’ll look at me as being the top in the division. I’ve called him out, but I haven’t gotten a response. He says how nobody wants to fight him and then instead of fighting me, he goes and fights the No. 10 guy (actually, Margarito will face No. 5 Joshua Clottey on Dec. 2).”
Williams makes it clear that his only focus now is Mitchell, but he does have a plan for his future.
“My ultimate goal is make enough money, retire with my health intact and start a business,” Williams said. “I want to own a boxing club and not be 40 or 50 trying to make a comeback. I want to enjoy the fights on TV.”
In addition to owning a boxing club, Williams has another kind of club in mind that he thinks would bring him a high return on his investment.
“I want to invest in real estate first, then buy a strip club,” he said. “I’d like to invest big in that.”
First he wants to raise his profile.
“I’d like to fight Oscar De La Hoya – it’s all about the money,” Williams said. “With De La Hoya, I’d get 20 million. Why fight four, five, six fights for two million? I’d like to get the big belts. If I can accomplish that, I can get the big fights.”
Williams said he doesn’t understand how ratings work. The Ring magazine rates him No. 10, while guys with losses – like Mitchell, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah and Luis Collazo – rank No. 9, No.6, No. 5, and No. 3, respectively.
“On TV it’s always, ‘This guy is the man at 147, this man, this man…” Williams said. “Zab lost. Gatti lost. Collazo lost. But in The Ring, they’re rated higher than me. Why not me? I want everybody at 147. I want them all. I want the big money belts.”
Nicknamed “The Punisher,” Williams added one more wish.
“I want to punish them on TV.”
With Peterson directing his career, Williams can have confidence the right man is in charge.
“I’ve been down this road before (with Walker and Gant),” Peterson said. “(Promoter) Don King has approached us. All (Williams) has to do is listen to me and use his height and reach. Get and keep his attention, that’s the main thing. We want Antonio Margarito. We know we have to get by Sharmba Mitchell. That will definitely take place.”