Had Liam Williams been offered a defence of his British title after his biggest win to date you would have forgiven him for being a bit disappointed.
Four days before Christmas last year, the Welshman took on and took down long-limbed American Alantez Fox in a WBO middleweight title final eliminator, a belt then and still held by Demetrius Andrade who himself fought Fox in 2017 going the full 12 rounds.
Williams (22-2-1, 17 KOs) made shorter work of the confident Fox overcoming a cut, as well as his opponent’s loftier height and reach to land some telling right hands, one of which put Fox down in the fourth round. And, towards the end of the session, another Williams attack had his man rubber-legged and sinking to the canvas, prompting referee Steve Gray to wave it off saving the away fighter from some unnecessary punishment.
Yet 10 months on and Williams’ first fight since beating Fox is, indeed, a defence of his British middleweight title. The 28-year-old picked up his second Lonsdale belt in as many divisions outclassing Mark Heffron in December 2018. An early night’s work against Joe Mullender three months later gave him the first defence of the required three to keep the belt for good. This Saturday night at the BT Sport studio in Stratford, 35-year-old Andrew Robinson will provide defence number two. It isn’t the fight Williams would have wanted after last year’s efforts but Covid-19 has been the toughest opponent for anyone, forcing fighters to take what they can get as boxing continues to adapt to the restrictions the virus has placed on it.
“I’m very excited,” Williams told Boxing Social echoing the words of many boxers who are just happy to be back to what they know best.
“Each fight represents its own dangers and hurdles put in front of me. Whether on paper it’s a hard or easy fight, everyone is a threat to me and because of that I’m fully prepared. I’m busting to go for fight night and you’re going to see a good performance without fail.”
Robinson, who has lost to the likes of Frank Buglioni, Lee Markham and got stopped in six rounds by Mark Heffron in 2018, would cause one of the upsets of this year should he topple Williams in his first shot at a British title. We will be reminded in the coming days that this is “D’Animal’s” world title shot and, without doubt, it would be the biggest victory in his eight-year career. Everything to gain for the challenger then and everything to lose for the champion and, because of that, memories of one particular fight in November 2017 have “The Machine” switched on and refusing to overlook Robinson.
“I would probably say so,” Williams answered when asked if he has ever looked past an opponent.
“And, after the first fight, I would say Liam Smith [in the rematch] probably being one of them. I probably didn’t respect him as much as I should have. But that’s all water under the bridge. Everyone is suspect of overlooking someone at some point, thinking they’re too good or whatever but there’s no danger of that with me and I think you’re going to see a very positive display [against Robinson].
“Let’s be honest, realistically I should be going out and doing a job on him,” he added. “The pressure is on me. I’m putting the pressure on myself because, if I’m as good as think I am, then Robinson ain’t gonna last very long I can tell you now. It’s all to do from my point of view and I just need to go and look good, but the main thing for me is to get a good win, look good whilst doing it and come out unmarked and uninjured.”
Ticking those three boxes will ensure Williams goes into the biggest year of his career ready to take on all-comers from 154lbs to 168lbs if the right offer comes his way. But before Williams’ fans can even consider which Charlo twin they would love their man to face or how he would fare against Canelo or Gennady Golovkin there is his first world title to win, one that Demetrius Andrade has held for two years.
Williams, the WBO’s mandatory challenger for the 32-year-old’s world title, is hoping to face the champion in the first quarter of next year. Two-weight world champion Andrade is a tricky assignment for anyone below Canelo in the 160lbs rankings and, while Williams has the utmost respect for the Rhode Island southpaw, he finds it a difficult career to judge given who the American has beat and the style of fighter that he is.
“It’s difficult because I would say he’s been disappointing but then you could say that it’s a total pile of shit and a bit of a cheek really because he’s a two-weight world champion. It’s a difficult one to answer because he’s not the most appealing of fighters. I just think he needs to fight me so I can take his belt off him!”
But even thoughts of being crowned, “And the new…” feel an eternity away. Covid-19 has put every fighter back a step or three. To be back fighting brings an immediate happiness to any man or woman who is returning to their job and passion after months and months away. Forget Andrade and forget anything else beyond that, right now Williams has a job to do on Saturday night against Andrew Robinson.
“Next year will be the biggest year of my career. It’s all to look forward to. First of all, I need to get Robinson out the way. I’m not overlooking him,” said the Welshman. “I think it could end up being an easy night, but I’m prepared for a hard one so we’re just looking forward to that and that’s all I’m concentrating on right now.”
In 2020, the cliched ‘One fight at a time’ has never been truer.