Excitement can make or break a fighter’s career.
With plenty of it, they’ll attract fans in their droves, gaining a reputation for value, and becoming icons of snappy social media sites in the modern era. Big knockouts, unrelenting, brutal combinations, stalking and savaging their opponents, and displaying their own sense of vulnerability. Without it? Boxers can struggle to shift tickets or turn the heads of larger promotional outfits. “Him? Nobody wants to watch him!” And Darlington’s British champion, Troy Williamson (19-0, 13KOs), knows all about excitement, and its resulting pulling power.
When chatting to Boxing Social, he was lounging by the pool, soaking up the sun in Fuerteventura after a tough fight with Mason Cartwright. Despite promising himself a week off, Williamson had been out running on a few occasions, ticking over. A fighter that’s had to bide his time before landing on a big show is far more wary of letting the moment pass him by – he knows only too well how cold it is when the lights go off.
“I was waiting for years, to be honest with you,” admits Williamson. “It is frustrating, but you just gotta stay patient and trust the process, obviously. It all came together [for me] in the end. It’s professional boxing, so you’re training twice per day. The hardest part is just to stay motivated more than anything else. I was training full-time. But I’m flying at the minute if you would say that. The hard graft never stops and I’m still training like a contender. For me, it’s just a title: British champion. Until I reach world honours and can be called a world champion, it’s still a work in progress, definitely.”
“I was always focused on Mason; I always knew that fight was gonna go ahead and he wasn’t gonna pull out. We train like the underdog. We trained really hard for that fight, and it showed on the night. Obviously, I got put down in the second [round] and I had to bite down on my gumshield and dig deep, and it went the 12 rounds. You could see I was getting stronger as the rounds went on and I prepared really well, but it was hard to stay focused, you know, seeing the bookies, seeing everybody completely writing him off. It was weird.”
Williamson, aged 30, had never been dropped before. He’d never really been rocked – except maybe in split seconds of his war with Ted Cheeseman last October. You can talk about having a good chin, you can speculate how you’ll respond under that kind of pressure and bearing embarrassment, pain, and shock. But, when your legs play tricks on you and your shorts are testing the canvas, it’s sink or swim. The defending champion rose.
It was a fight he expected to be tricky, while the bookies laughed and listed the opposite: “If I got beat, people would have said, ‘Argh, you got beat off a nobody.’ I’ve never had that before. It’s all learning and you never take your eye off the ball. I could have listened to people and not trained as hard – if I did, I’d have got turned over. Simple as that. I follow Mason on social media, and I used to speak to him when he was down at welterweight, I knew how good he was and what he brought to the table – I think it was just other people [that underestimated him]. It was like me before the Ted Cheeseman fight and that’s why everyone was writing me off against Ted. Nobody had seen me box, nobody knew what I was about.”
“Most people just see Mason Cartwright, ‘Never heard of him, Troy’s gonna smash him,’ this-and-that. That’s where the pressure came from; I knew how good he was, but people didn’t – even the bookies. The bookies had me a 1/50 favourite and that’s ridiculous, to be honest with you. That’s where the pressure was, really. The next time that happens, it’ll go in one ear and out the other and I won’t listen to all the hype. I won’t believe that I’m the massive favourite and so on, and that makes me a better fighter. It makes me a 10-times better fighter. Onwards and upwards from here…”
And what of that knockdown? Just how close was he to suffering his only professional defeat? “I think it was a bit of a flash knockdown; one minute I was stood in front of him, next minute I was staring at the floor. I thought, ‘Whoa, I best get up!’ Honestly, it was weird. I didn’t see the shot coming, the first time I’d seen it was when I watched it back and it caught me flush on the chin. And yeah, I just showed my heart and determination, I took the onslaught that he fired at me. I think I still had two-and-a-half minutes of round two [left]. He threw everything at me! Everything was there, my head was clear, I survived the round and I just pushed on from there. I don’t know what the odds were like when he put me down – I hope you stuck something on?” Williamson laughs.
His exciting performance against Mason Cartwright marked just another exhibition of the super-welterweight champion’s thrills (and this time, spills). After bludgeoning Edinburgh’s Kieran Smith last April, Williamson eventually enjoyed a ‘coming out party,’ announcing himself to British boxing fans when challenging Lord Lonsdale supremo, Ted Cheeseman. Many had Cheeseman the favourite, but they didn’t know enough about the Darlington-native. In Liverpool that autumn evening, they served up a domestic classic. Williamson started with frenetic pace and Cheeseman volleyed back in return. Topsy turvy, white knuckle, and never hearing the final bell. After a brief, improved spell for Cheeseman, Williamson ended it in career-defining fashion. Excitement – guaranteed.
But what next for Troy Williamson? ‘Trojan’ knows he has a target on his back; he is the hunted, not the hunter. And in closing, he explained that his wins at British title level were special, but he knows he’s destined for more: “I don’t wanna be hanging around, waiting for mandatories or whatever. I’m not in a rush but I’d love to stay active and fight for the European title – I know that’s vacant. Hopefully, by the end of 2022, I’d love to have that European title around my waist. I welcome them all [world champions at 154lbs] – I think I’m capable of beating them all, I’m very confident. At the end of 2022, I’ll be knocking on the doors for all of these big fights. Make sure you get your popcorn and sit on the edge of your seat…”
Before venturing to hunt for (a hopeful meal of) fish and chips – the only comfort food that had evaded him at that point in the trip – he explains that securing his family’s future is at the very front of his list of priorities. He wants to be remembered as a respectful fighter, and person, and states that fame has never interested him. He wants to be “a good person – that’s it.” So far removed from his blistering knockouts and punishing recent performances, Williamson relaxes back into his sun lounger, content again. It’s only excitement between the ropes – when he is fighting for something more.