British and super-welter king Liam Williams is promising to exhibit the full extent of his incontestable talent when he returns to duty before his raucous Welsh faithful and mandatory challenger Ahmet Patterson at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on November 26, writes Glynn Evans.
Recently honoured as the 2016 Young Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers, the 23 year old from Clydach Vale in the Rhondda Valley re-iterated both his power and toughness to outlast Wembley antagonist Gary Corcoran in a fractious first defence of his domestic belt at a bouncing Ice Arena in the Welsh capital last July.
But the disturbingly rugged valley commando insists we’ll witness a far smarter and slicker version when he squares off with unbeaten London hot stepper Patterson.
‘Last time I had to force it but Patterson will set me a completely different set of challenges,’ claims the 5ft 10 in former roofer.
‘But I welcome that. It keeps me fresh, forces me to master new strategies and makes training enjoyable. The sparring for Patterson will need to be completely different to that required for Corcoran. While the physical demands will probably be less, I’m expecting more of a technical test.
‘Look, this won’t be easy. Ahmet brings excellent footwork and plenty of head and lateral movement. He throws hard shots from awkward angles and can fight if need be. He brings it all, really.
‘I’ll need to stay ‘switched on’. The calmer I remain, the easier it’ll be for me. But his fight will allow me to showcase different qualities. Whenever I’ve been confronted by a technical counter puncher who makes me think, I’ve upped my game.’
If his 11th round demolition of the teak tough and previously unbeaten Corcoran sent show-starved Welsh fight fans berserk, plain-speaking Williams concedes he was rather less content with what he delivered in his long overdue homecoming.
‘I’m a lot better than that and definitely could’ve made the fight easier for myself,’ acknowledges the Gary Lockett coached champion.
‘If I’d boxed how we’d planned, I’d have had Corcoran out of there in six rounds. But I’m a fiery guy and after all the sh** he’d put out on social media, I badly wanted to show my crowd that I could beat him up. Unfortunately, I allowed it to get messy and scrappy. Still, it’s all experience.’
For once, uncharacteristic to our sport, the animosity between the protagonists continued even after they’d clumped lumps out of each other for 32 minutes.
‘I’ve not spoken to Gary since the fight and I don’t see much value in a rematch,’ says Williams.
‘In addition to taking his unbeaten record, it appears I took his Twitter password too. He’s been very silent since!
‘I stopped him on a bad performance so I’d destroy him much quicker on a good one. I’ve proved I’m the better man. He can basically eff off!’
Aesthetically and commercially, the promotion proved an unmitigated success, hence the swift return to the Principality, albeit at a different setting in three weeks time. A string of aspiring Welsh princes profited from crucial local exposure on the undercard but Williams, unquestionably, has been anointed as standard bearer.
He says: ‘I felt a bit of pressure to lead this Welsh revival but it was all positive. It was nice to see my face on the billboards around town and just made me train even harder so I could deliver on the night. Thankfully, the fans turned up in full voice and gave me an amazing ovation afterwards.
‘It’s the first time I’d headlined plus the first time I’d experienced real ‘bad blood with my opponent. It possibly did get to me but I’m glad it happened because I’ll be better prepared to cope with it next time. Boxes ticked, move on.’
Now that Liverpool rival Liam Smith has conceded his WBO title to ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the Welshman is stepping up to stake his claim for domestic hegemony.
‘No doubt people will start talking about a Smith fight again,’ says Williams.
‘I thought Liam was doing pretty well but once Alvarez stepped up a gear, he showed he was a different level; too big and too strong.
‘We’ll meet, no doubt, but it’ll be for a bigger title than the British and when the money makes sense for both of us. Right now, I’m coming up and he’s coming off a loss, titleless.
‘But I definitely feel I’m ready for him. I believe I can adapt and overcome any style. I can pick out things about him I believe I can exploit and I’m sure Smith feels the same about me. Neither of us really know until we get in there but, yes, I’d be confident.
‘It’s all about moving up the ladder. A fight against the European champion Cedric Vitu would also be of huge interest to me. I’ve not seen a lot of him but I’ve huge confidence in my ability against anyone at my weight, on this continent.’
Nevertheless, both he and the equally grounded Lockett know he could come a cropper if he gives Patterson anything other than his fullest attention.
To ensure his tools are at their absolute sharpest, Williams recently ventured to Sheffield to assist world welter king Kell Brook’s preparation for his audacious but aborted WBC/IBF middleweight challenge to Gennady Golovkin.
‘I sparred Kell when I was nowhere near as sharp as I am now yet he and his team gave me a lot of credit which gives me the confidence that I can mix it in world class. I’m well on form,’ he insists.
And he’ll need to be. In terms of sheer quality, you’ll struggle to find a better domestic title pairing this year, with the victor looking a sure thing to advance to international honours.
‘It’s a hard fight to predict because Ahmet can fight a bit himself. He can move but he can also come forward and bang. We’re not underestimating him,’ concludes Williams.
‘I believe the fight will begin cagily while we figure each other out but I win because I’m the better fighter all round and I’ve proved myself in bigger fights. If he does come and have a scrap, he could go early, if he opts to box, I probably win on points.
‘The one safe prediction is that Liam Williams gets his hand raised.’