“There’s only a few guys that I fight who can actually do anything. I can tell that they’re rubbish and even when I lose, it’s only because I’m totally shot. Most of these guys couldn’t have been my sparring partner back in the day. They’re so rubbish – but still they beat me.”
Perched awkwardly on the edge of a seat in a hotel in Riga, Latvia, former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Danny Williams (53-28, 40KOs) was prepared to face the unheralded Kristaps Zutis. He spoke in a gentle whisper, open and honest, unlike the sport he’d dedicated his life to.
It had been fifteen years since he challenged Vitali Klitschko for the World heavyweight title, losing valiantly in the eighth round. He was thirty-one years old then, and now, approaching his 82nd fight, claimed that he was always ready, just hoping for the phone to ring. The Arena Riga was far less grandiose than the Mandalay Bay Casino, Las Vegas and the ‘Brixton Bomber’ was only a fragment of the fighter who bludgeoned Mike Tyson to a fourth round stoppage.
Danny lost days later in Latvia – knocked out in the first round. Again.
“I’ve fought in eighteen countries, yeah”, he explained. “It’s come naturally [the travelling]. I’ve gotta keep my daughters in private school, man, so it has to be done. London, as you know, is very violent now. I don’t want my daughters around that kinda stuff. They have a private education, a good social life and that’s all that’s important.”
“I grew up in a very violent area like Brixton. People bringing guns to my house. It’s totally different now. The gentrification process has happened, it’s all trendy now in Brixton. All the gangsters are gone now – locked up in prison or dead. But it’s strange there now.”
Williams finds himself stuck between a rock a hard place. Forking out tens of thousands of pounds for his children was to be commended, though it had left him scrambling for cash, quite literally. Boxing was the only thing he could rely on, though, as is often the case. Familiarity breeds contempt. Fighting on shows in obscure locations against opponents you’ll never hear of again has covered some of his costs, with boxing washing its hands of any consequence on his health.
He doesn’t do social media. Infact, he doesn’t do much else. Pitching up to venues like the Baluan Sholak Sports Centre, in Kazakhstan, has become the norm now, filling pages in his passport and soaking swollen hands in buckets of ice. It’s easy to forget the mammoth British showdowns with Audley Harrison, Michael Sprott, Matt Skelton and Julius Francis – but Williams continues making it easier with every outing. He knows that. But what else can he do?
“I continue fighting for money, money, money… I had two daughters in private school it was like £29k plus per year, I’ve got a mortgage to pay and this is the only way of me doing it. One daughter is twenty, so she’s left and she’s at Uni now, and the other has a year left [of school].”
After Boxing News’ compassionate campaign to stop Danny boxing earlier this year, he has fought a further twice. Two knockout defeats followed a run of five victories – four by stoppage. You and I both know those fights mean nothing, but they continue breathing air into the lungs of a man approaching fifty. He doesn’t hope for world titles or widespread success. He just wants to pay his bills, the same as everybody else, yet sadly has to scrape himself off the canvas in countries far-and-wide to do so.
Boxing doesn’t have a history of care for retired fighters. Neither does it prepare them for success or educate them on the dangers of men in suits, with greasy palms. Danny has been paid handsomely for fights, but nobody helped him. He’d probably made mistakes financially along the way, but his intentions were pure now, sitting draped in an all black tracksuit and being interrupted by hotel staff, merely a shadow of his former self.
This was the man who knocked out Mike Tyson.
“I’m taking each fight as it comes. I should have retired like ten years ago, probably nineteen years ago”, admitted Williams, “But I need to take each fight as it comes. Most of the time I get last minute notice for fights. Normally I’m always training. I’ve got to train because you never know when the phone is gonna ring. I was the home fighter on those shows [in the Czech Republic]. On the fight before last, I was the away fighter, though.”
It wasn’t so much the phone ringing that concerned former fans of ‘The Brixton Bomber’, but more the uncertainty that surrounds it stopping. Aged forty-six, he’s waiting on his next fight being announced and although it’s easy to condemn those who end up sanctioning and promoting it, the former World title challenger is driven by a sense of responsibility. He needs to provide.
By his own admission, he is ‘shot’ and should have retired almost two decades ago. I couldn’t help thinking that in a year’s time, Danny would pop up again, battling a young Eastern European in a tiny leisure centre. He wasn’t the same fighter that battled on with his shoulder hanging out of its socket, infact, he wasn’t even the same man that was stopped by former lightweight, Lee McAllister.
Anybody in a position to help him financially, or with honest, safe work, should be forthcoming, because it hasn’t been easy to find. Begging a warrior to stop fighting falls on deaf ears when he finds no alternative, so let’s give him one.
For that fight with ‘Iron Mike’; For those wild bouts with his domestic rivals; For his brave challenge in Las Vegas, taking on Vitali Klitschko; Most importantly, for himself and for his family.
“I’d like to be remembered as a crazy fighter. I want people to say that I showed up with a massive heart. I want people to know I didn’t fulfil my true potential – I did really well – but I didn’t fulfil my potential. I wish I was around now… because of the money they’re earning.”
Interview written by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209