TEN years ago today, in an arena where Muhammed Ali made his professional debut in Louisville, Kentucky, Britain’s Danny Williams shocked the boxing world, with a fourth-round knockout victory against boxing legend Mike Tyson.
Showing the kind of grit and determination the Brit exhibited against Mark Potter, when winning the British and Commonwealth title fight with only one arm, due to injury, Williams rode an early storm in the Tyson fight, to upset the odds.
Despite being written off, Williams appeared to be confident before the fight. ‘’I really believed that I could beat him. I trained so hard, I believed that he was taking me lightly. Really, I was so confident that I could beat him,” Williams said after the fight.
The confidence of Williams before the contest appeared different to many of Tyson’s previous opponents, who seemed to have lost the fight before it had even begun, due to the self-proclaimed baddest man on the planet’s fearsome reputation. But Williams wasn’t fazed by this: ‘’I was more nervous before my third fight with [Michael] Sprott than I was for Tyson. The reason being, for Sprott, because I’d already stopped him twice I was expected to win, but for Tyson, there was no expectancy at all. Most people thought I’d turn up and get wiped out in one or two rounds.”
Williams, being a 9-1 outsider, took Tyson’s dangerous punches and appeared on the verge of being stopped himself. Williams recalls the ferocious punching power delivered by Iron Mike: ‘’He was really sinking them in. He’s a really, really powerful guy. It’s amazing a guy of that size, that stature, throwing such powerful punches.’’
Williams’ victory over Tyson, a decade ago was even more unpredictable due to the Brixton heavyweight losing in a British title fight, three fights prior to the Tyson clash and, as we reported a decade ago, ‘’…it didn’t seem logical to think a fighter with a history of switching off mentally and who was bounced around by moderate hitter Sinan Samil Sam last year for the European title could overcome his nerves against…the master intimidator.’’
Despite his often frustrating performances on the domestic scene, Williams was eager to leave the British circuit and take on bigger international names. ‘’I’ve been boxing at British level for many years, fighting C class opponents. I’ve always wanted to fight the top Americans. And I had the opportunity against Mike Tyson. And I said I’m going to take it with both hands,’’ said Williams before the fight.
In taking the Tyson fight with both hands, and capitalising on Tyson being a shadow of his former self, showing grit and determination to force the stoppage, Williams managed to temporarily abandon the domestic scene, and was catapulted to world title level in his next fight, suffering an eighth round TKO defeat to then WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko.
Despite failing to pick up one of the most prestigious titles in boxing, against Klitschsko, Williams still looks back on his eventful career with fond memories, seeing the Mark Potter and Mike Tyson fights as his proudest moments in the ring.
After the Tyson fight, Williams’ popularity increased, and rather than just go straight home after the fight, he appeared to enjoy the media attention and adulation, appearing on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. Other TV and sponsorship offers were also said to be coming in.
The former British and Commonwealth champion, and former European and WBC title challenger, has gone on to become a Close Protection Officer, legally carrying a firearm for work purposes. In 2012, Williams retired from boxing, claiming that his new-found profession would keep him busy and take away the temptation to climb back into a ring again, but it wasn’t long before he was back. He has since suffered a string of defeats and a few victories, against mediocre opposition.
At 41, Danny Williams continues to box, unsuccessfully chasing the high that he experienced on that great night in 2004, when beating a ring legend, Mike Tyson, in Louisville, Kentucky.