THE BIG INTERVIEW
By Richard Hubbard
Such has been his success since sporting the gloves for the first time, Liam Williams has very little recollection of the numbing taste of defeat.
Unbeaten as a pro in 17 contests, the 24-year-old had to cast his mind back to when a vest was part of the dress code for a vision of the arm of his opponent being raised in triumph.
Digging into his memory bank, Williams reckons he was in his mid-teens when the judges last found against him, when his then more agricultural approach was found wanting against a slick and quick Colombian.
The chances of his pro card being marked this Saturday when he steps in with former world champion Liam Smith are rated by many to be in the 50-50 category, but Williams firmly believes there is much more in his boxing locker these days to prevent a repeat of the chastening experience from his schooldays.
“I haven’t lost since I was about 15 I think,” said the 16-0-1 super welterweight, who will challenge for the WBO Interim world title at the Manchester Arena. “I don’t remember what that feels like – and I don’t plan on having a reminder either.
“It was in the worlds and I lost to a Colombian, who was very good and went on to win a silver medal and I believe he lost to Joe Ward, the Irish boy, in the final.
“He was very good, he just ran away for three rounds and was a good counter puncher. At the time I wasn’t educated to fight in that way, I just used to come forward swinging bombs and knew no other way of fighting.
“I didn’t really have the answers, but now that has all changed and I’m probably the good counter-puncher he was back then.”
Williams suspects his unfamiliarity with defeat could well give him an edge against the Liverpool man, who came up a little short despite a typically gallant effort against the formidable Canelo Alvarez back in September on a Mexican holiday weekend in Texas.
“I believe that is a hard thing to beat, when somebody is on a big winning streak and hasn’t experienced a loss – or at least for a long time – which Liam Smith can’t say.
“He had a bad defeat and I believe – I may be wrong – that it is going to stay with him for a while and as soon as things start getting hard, he going to be getting flashbacks, thinking ‘f**king hell, not again’.
“We’ll see, only time is going to tell and on fight night we’ll find out, but I am just going to be in the best physical and mental shape that I can be to give myself the best chance. That is all I can do.”
Smith v Williams is a fight the boxing public wanted to see and they are getting their wish. Whether this falls into the category of a trade fight, Williams isn’t quite sure, but he is adamant it is not one where the chucking of tables is required to give it a selling point.
“No, definitely not. At the end of the day it’s a tricky question. It is a trade fight to a certain extent because he is at a good level and we are fighting for the WBO interim world belt, so it is obviously a world class fight.
“It is the kind of fight British boxing needs, it is two top fighters at the same weight. It shouldn’t be two top fighters, it should be one top fighter – so you need to narrow that down.
“The winner moves on and I don’t believe it is the end of the road for any of us, whoever loses. We are both young enough to go again, but don’t mistake that for thinking I am preparing myself for losing this fight, because I am 100 per cent confident I am going to win.
“It is the sort of fight we don’t see enough of and it is one which will take us to the next level.”
Smith, in the past, has occasionally snorted when the credentials of fellow British challengers have been put to him, with the 28-year-old considering himself ahead of the pack on the domestic front.
Williams, not surprisingly, has an alternative view on the home pecking order in the wake of Smith’s first reverse against Canelo.
“He has always played it down, making out that he is some kind of elite fighter when his last but one fight proved he is anything but an elite fighter.
“He got absolutely screwed.
“He done well, to a certain extent, just in braveness more than anything, but when it came to the crunch he didn’t have the skill to live with Alvarez.
“I am not saying I am at the Alvarez level yet, but I definitely believe I am better than Smith,” he added, also making the point that Smith’s resume up to Canelo is one he believes he himself would’ve made short work of.
“Take Canelo out the equation for a bit and I would punch holes in every one of them. Without being disrespectful, I believe I would stop most of them.
“So when he is saying he has operated at a higher level, that is a load of s**t because everybody he has beat, I also would – apart from Canelo, where he got screwed.”
Smith’s assertion that the title status Williams holds now is where he was at two years ago, the Welshman believes is simply a normal order of events given that he is four years Smith’s junior and doesn’t view it as a factor going into the fight.
“Those titles, when he had them, someone else had them two years before. It is just natural progress and, again, I don’t know what he is trying to get at by saying that.
“It doesn’t make too much sense really and he makes himself look a little bit silly. Again, he is just chatting s**t.”
Next time: Williams talks tactics and why it might not be the explosive opening everyone imagines