By Richard Hubbard

“One step at a time, but I would definitely like to fight the winner.”

A RETURN TO the workforce was a prospect looming pretty large in the mind of Liam Williams during his enforced absence from ring-related activity due to hand injuries.

Liam Williams

The super-welterweight was forced to call time on his unbeaten progress after clinching the vacant Commonwealth title with a one-round blitz of Michael Lomax at the Hilton Hotel, Mayfair.

Although his chronic hand problems – that later required two operations – did not affect his power in London, preparations for a 14th fight simply became too painful. Thoughts of a premature end to a promising career did, he admits, enter his head.

Employment alternatives were, with hindsight thankfully, limited as options tend to be considerably reduced for men with hands bound up in plastercast. So spare time was filled pounding the streets and maintaining a solid level of fitness, which is probably why, with hands now fully fixed, he is ready to jump straight back in at the deep end with a defence of his Commonwealth and a challenge for the vacant British title against Kris Carslaw on Saturday.

“Yes, definitely, every day,” he responded to the question of harbouring doubts over being able to make a ring return. “But it is what it is and it’s all worked out good now. Fingers crossed, no more injuries and I can really push on.

“Obviously it has been a bit of a nightmare but I have handled it pretty well, to be honest. Whatever happens, happens, I can’t go back on it now, it has been a frustrating year, but I am looking ahead to better things now.

“I did a little bit of work but, the thing was, after two operations my hands were in plaster. I did bits for my old man, but for most of the time I just kept running and doing little bits of training. I never really let myself go too much.

“I am just confident and eager to get back in now. It has been about 13 months so I am excited and looking forward to it.”

Williams is in no mood to retrace his steps after the prolonged layoff and is keen to pick straight up where he left off, cracking on with a career of great promise that includes seven KOs from 12 wins over a three-year period.

Easy pickings on his return were neither asked for or wanted.

“I could’ve, but for me that would have been a step back,” he reasoned. “My last fight was for the Commonwealth title, where I had an easy win, but I don’t plan on going backwards. I’ve worked my way up to where I am now, so why would I want to start all over again?”

Williams’ pain was not confined to Park Lane and the winning of his first professional title. In a state of anguish, he was forced to concede temporary defeat to the tools of his trade in the weeks following and tell trainer Gary Lockett he was taking time out for repairs.

“I didn’t actually hurt my hand in the fight, but there was a lot in the build-up. I was supposed to fight after that but ended up having to pull out two weeks before because my hands were so bad I couldn’t even punch a bag without being in pain.

“I came home from the gym one day and my head was all over the place. I phoned Gary and said ‘f**k it, fight is off’, I couldn’t do it any more.”

The stunning Xmas Cracker card now beckons for Williams against opponent Carslaw, who was set to challenge Liam Smith for the Lonsdale Belt before opportunity knocked and the WBO world crown was duly seized by the Liverpool man.

Williams believes Smith would have overcome the domestic challenge had it come to fruition and backs himself to do likewise.

“I think Liam would’ve beat him, the same way I think I’m going to beat him. It’s no easy fight, put it that way, I think he is going to come to win, so I have got to be 100 per cent ready.”

Prior to claiming his coveted new possession, Smith was critical of both Williams and next opponent Jimmy Kelly Jnr for associating his name with a potential contest. The Welshman, who retains Smith in his sights, does not understand the angst of the new champion.

“Why should I stop mentioning him, I was his mandatory challenger? The thing is with Liam Smith, whenever anybody mentions his name and thinks they can beat him, it is like they have said something wrong and nobody should think they can beat him.

“I can’t wait to fight him. He thinks he’s above everyone and it’s like he doesn’t think anyone should think they are better than him.”

So with Smith vs Kelly co-headlining at the Manchester Arena, Williams will be able to make his way ringside after his own fight to assess two prospective opponents. He is also making eyes at the European title currently held by the Frenchman Michel Soro.

“It is definitely not a walkover or an easy fight for him. I think it will be a competitive fight for maybe six to eight rounds, then Smith will probably take over and stop him in about 10.

“I will obviously take a look at the European champion, I don’t think he has got too much to trouble me either. It would be a good fight for me.

“One step at a time, but I would definitely like to fight the winner.”

Williams is currently in transit back from Moscow, where he travelled to support and work the corner of stablemate Enzo Maccarinelli for his fight with the legendary Roy Jones Jnr. His work in the gym attracted some admiring glances and favourable comment from the four-weight former world champion.

Speaking before jetting off for Jones-Maccarinelli, Williams revealed he was due for a spot of sparring with world super-middleweight champ Fedor Chudinov but, with his weight on point, he suspects it might have been a spar too far.

“I was supposed to be, but I don’t think it’s happening. Normally I spar until the Saturday before the fight, but I am feeling good now and my weight is coming down so I don’t want to keep sparring when I’m getting really light because I’ll end up having a poor spar.

“It’s mad, it is a funny one really,” he added on his Moscow mission. “I have never been before, I will do some training out there and will be in the corner for Enzo’s fight with Gary. It will be interesting to be in the opposite corner to Roy Jones!”

Snappy nicknames have long been a part of fighting folklore, with many a ‘Bomber’, ‘Prince’ and ‘Hitman’ among many other monikers emblazoned across shorts and ring attire. The Clydach Vale clubber cannot completely explain why he is dubbed Liam ‘Dull’ Williams, other than a family inheritance.

“It was something that my father’s older brother used to be called, then it got passed to my old man and then me. I don’t even know where it came from to be honest with you – it just got passed on!”

With everything he has been through in the last year, with any luck it might just be time for a Dull moment – though it could be far from that.

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