By Alan Hubbard
The days are long gone when British boxers travelling across the Atlantic were sniffily seen as fall-over fodder for Uncle Sam’s finest – or even not so finest. More recent successes by a battalion of Brits in acquiring, regaining or defending world titles in America has brought refreshing respect for fighters from these shores and no longer are their chances of prospering in USA rings regarded as slim – or none.
So it is with rather more than hope in his Lionheart that Liam Williams goes to Hollywood – the the resort just outside Miami, not that in La La Land across on the west coast – that the Welshman with fire in his fists challenges for the WBO middleweight belt held by Demetrius Andrade this Saturday night.
The list of Britons who have been victorious over home or other foreign opposition in America these past 40 years or so Is as long as Tyson Fury’s left arm.
It includes not only the Gypsy King himself but Alan Minter, Lloyd Honeyghan, Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, Ken Buchanan, Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed, Billy Joe Saunders and Denis Andries.
Actually before Minter defeated Italian-American Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas in 1980 you virtually had to go back to the pre-war era of Ted Kid Lewis before significant British successes.
In what is the biggest fight of his career, Williams competes in the United States for the first time. Since losing back-to-back tilts to former world champion Liam Smith, Williams has reeled off seven consecutive wins, six of them coming via stoppage, including in his most recent outing in October when he knocked out Andrew Robinson.
“The Machine” from the Valleys has made it clear that he plans on taking care of Andrade and winning his first major world title.
“I’ve been quite vocal saying I’ll smash him, and I actually am going to,” Williams declares. “I’ve waited for this for too long now. I’m not going to let it slip through my fingers. I’ll grab the opportunity with both hands. I just think he’s a complete weirdo, a very strange man. I’ve watched him for some time. I used to be a bit of a fan of him back then. Now I get the chance to share a ring with him and punch his face in, and I can’t wait to do it. I’m going to punch lumps out of him nonstop.
“The first couple of rounds could be tricky, but I believe that I will get on top of him and start beating him up. I think he might overlook me, possibly. To be honest, maybe he has deserved to get a fight with Canelo or GGG. He’s been world champion for a long time, a two-weight and three-time champion, so he’s probably deserved those fights. But his time is up now, and once I deal with him, I’ll get those big fights.”
Andrade, 33, is looking to capitalise on his dominant ninth-round stoppage win over Luke Keeler in January last year to successfully defend his belt for the third time. He wanted the marquee names at either middleweight or super-middleweight, including Canelo Alvarez, Gennadiy Golovkin, Billy Joe Saunders, or Jermell Charlo. The COVID-19 pandemic ruined those plans.
With Alvarez facing Saunders on May 8 and the uncertainty of when Golovkin and Charlo will get back to action, Andrade decided to take his mandatory challenger so he can attempt to secure a huge fight later on in the year. But while he sounds super-confident he might just come unstuck.
“Liam Williams, you got what you wanted,” Andrade, from Rhode Island, said when the fight was first announced. “You ran your mouth, got your rating up, and here we go. April 17, your career ends. Or maybe you go back to headlining small club shows in the UK. I don’t know. What I do know is that you’re getting beaten badly, and then I’m on to much bigger fights and bigger nights in my career.
“It’s no secret, this isn’t the fight I wanted, but now it’s here, and I will be taking care of business, taking care of Liam Williams in spectacular fashion… I’m here. Undefeated. Two-division world champion. Current middleweight champion of the world.”
A 6ft 1in rangy southpaw, Andrade has a three inch height advantage but Williams has a style that is reminiscent of another former British world middleweight champion, the “crashing bashing dashing“ Terry Downes, who spent some time in the US Marines,
However he has a better boxing brain and the all-round equipment needed to overcome an opponent who is unbeaten in 26 bouts. But he needs to convince judges who can be uncomfortably partisan (as they can be here on occasion too).
His innate resilience has been sharpened by large doses of Sheffield steel administered in the Wincobank gym of the Ingle brothers.
It should be an intriguing contest and Williams is unlikely to be fazed by Andrade’s reputation or by being away from home. But he will need luck as well as good judgement, in the ring and out.