Sport : Boxing

Williams back in the ring

20th September 2012, 07:23am

Danny Williams: In action at the weekend

Danny Williams: In action at the weekend

Eight years ago on a stormy night in Louisville, a city shaped by the exploits of its most famous son Muhammad Ali, Danny Williams knocked out Mike Tyson and briefly found himself standing astride the boxing world.

Ridiculing long-hurled accusations of sluggishness and mental frailty, Williams rained down 26 unanswered blows onto the head of an opponent who could still, at that stage, summon a passable impression of the so-called 'Baddest Man On The Planet', paving the way for the world title fight he had always craved.

"I'd love to take out Vitali Klitschko and become the next world heavyweight champion," Williams roared afterwards.

"People can say what they want, but I beat Mike Tyson. I went to war with him and I knocked him out."

Williams was bludgeoned to a painful defeat by Klitschko five months later in Las Vegas, but it was a bout which helped set the financially shrewd Londoner up for life, and, it was hoped, would serve to hasten his departure into a long and secure retirement.

In a week which has seen Ricky Hatton announce his imminent comeback plans, and Scott Harrison aspire to reclaim a world title after being ravaged by personal strife for the best part of a decade, it will have escaped the notice of all but the keenest observers that Williams is also due to lace on the gloves again on Saturday night.

The man who once briefly (and bizarrely, given his eminently personable nature) glowered down from those billboards as a giant-slayer, once again assumes the role of journeyman opponent for Romanian Christian Hammer at the Sparkassen Arena in Niedersachsen, Germany.

Long since having been denied a licence by the British Boxing Board of Control, Williams now fights under Latvian jurisdiction, to the extent that he contrived a fight for the Baltic heavyweight title in his last outing - a defeat - earlier this month.

Of more concern was the manner of his bludgeoning second-round defeat to Norway's Leif Larsen in Spain at the end of last year, after which Williams appeared to accept, for at least the third time in his extraordinary, mercurial career, that his fighting days were over.

"I've said before that I wasn't fighting because I thought I could win any titles," Williams said at the time.

"It's just the fact I enjoy fighting and since the age of eight it has been a part of me. I don't know anything else.

"But my punch resistance has totally gone now. It means I can't have a good fight and enjoy myself because when I get caught with a half-decent shot I just go to the floor."

They are worrying words from a fighter who seems unable to accept the end of his career, particularly in the context of his fight against Hammer, who has won each of his last three contests by knockout inside the first two rounds.

Williams' decision to fight on makes even Hatton's questionable reasons for a return seem positively sensible by comparison, and Harrison's targeting the winner of the weekend fight between Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell an eminently reasonable assumption.

On the press benches in particular, there has seldom been a bad word uttered about Williams, as charming and gracious in the build-up to his fight against Klitschko as he was in the myriad minor sports centres where he shaped and then strung out his career.

Like a dark winter night in Neath in 2007 when, following a crushing early defeat to Audley Harrison in his previous bout, he reversed his first retirement decision and showed glimpses of hope in an impressive ninth round win over Scott Gammer.

As Williams now readily acknowledges himself, even those faint hopes have long since been extinguished.

Boxing is not a sport to be fought by nostalgics. It must be fervently hoped that Danny Williams emerges unscathed for one last time on Saturday night, then hangs up his gloves for good.

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