By Frank Warren
A MATCHMAKING DILEMMA in the run up to a major show on December 22, 2018 turned out to be the making of Liam Williams, who will do battle for the WBO world middleweight title in Miami on Saturday against the champion Demetrius Andrade.
We were putting together the card for the big Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton collision at the Manchester Arena, with the show to be broadcast via BT Sport Box Office, who were up against Sky Box Office, running from London on the same night.
So a tasty card was called for and, originally, the plan was to proceed with Liam taking on the unbeaten super welterweight JJ Metcalf and Mark Heffron to challenge for the British middleweight title held by Jason Welborn.
Ultimately, neither fight would take place. First off, Welborn relinquished his title, leaving Mark without an opponent for his British title fight. Mark was a particularly hot ticket at the time and literally nobody was interested in stepping up to take him on for the title.
All the eligible middleweights around at the time were asked and declined.
In the meantime, word reached us that Metcalf had suffered an injury and was a major doubt to be ready on the night, which left Liam in limbo.
It was my son Francis who came up with the suggestion of putting Liam in with Mark and solving two problems at a stroke.
For Liam, who insisted super welter would remain his priority, it was the chance to become a two-weight British champion, but a real gamble against a big puncher who was on a roll.
The willingness of both fighters to accept the new challenge impressed me because it represented, undoubtedly, a much tougher fight for both. Many a pundit fancied Mark strongly and believed he would punch too hard for someone coming up from light middle.
The rest, as they say, is history. Liam looked made for the weight right from the off and delivered a stunning performance of precision and power to stop Mark in the 10th round of an excellent fight.
It struck me right away that middleweight was the place for Liam to be and that he should continue to campaign in the marquee division. For a little while he kept his options open, but the opportunity was there to propel Liam into world title contention at a second weight following his earlier defeats to Liam Smith.
He just looked a different animal with the additional eight pounds and the old spite and venom returned to his work. He proceeded to blast out Joe Mullender in a title defence before doing likewise to the previously unstopped Karim Achour.
People were really starting to sit up and take notice of the ‘Angry Man’ from the Rhondda Valley with a snarl on his face, even though he is a charming individual outside of the fighting environment. He became compulsive viewing and fireworks were never far away when he stepped into the ring.
His moment of truth came at the end of 2019 when we secured him a fight against the WBO No.1 ranked Alantez Fox, who had previously only lost on points to Andrade.
This was the fight where we would discover if Liam was the Real McCoy as a middleweight.
It was never in doubt. Liam set about the American – having verbally softened him up across fight week – and never gave the tall, lean Fox a look in at the Copper Box Arena. With one second left of the fifth round, referee Steve Gray spared Fox from further assaults and Liam’s world title dream was on.
The next job was to convert his No.1 ranking into a mandatory position and get the WBO to call the fight. Going up against our Welsh warrior has never seemed to carry particular appeal for Andrade, who became champion after Billy Joe Saunders vacated in 2018.
There never really seemed to be an acknowledgment of the looming threat, which is why nailing the fight down became such a priority, while Andrade continued to talk up alternatives, such as a fight with Saunders at super middle.
There is no hiding place now and Liam will be front and centre at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel seeking to gain a psychological edge during the fight week formalities.
Andrade is a slick and skilful operator, no doubt about that, but you would have to say there is nobody on his record I wouldn’t strongly fancy Liam to beat.
Since pairing up with Dominic Ingle, Liam has come on leaps and bounds and added so much to his game. He is much, much more than a crash, bang, wallop merchant. The way he executes his footwork and distance is second to very few and, indeed, he carries enormous power in both hands.
This is his big opportunity to follow in the footsteps of countrymen such as Howard Winstone, Steve Robinson, Barry Jones, Joe Calzaghe and Enzo Maccarinelli and punch himself into Welsh boxing folklore.
I am convinced he has got what it takes to part Andrade from his belt and open all sorts of doors to massive fights in the future.
Good luck Liam, we look forward to welcoming you home as a world middleweight champion.