YET to even start camp for his next fight in September, Darlington’s Troy Williamson was in fact lounging by the pool on holiday when news started to filter through regarding what could be a monumental British title defence later this year.
He was alerted to the news by a British Boxing Board of Control circular, which called for purse bids on August 10 for a super-welterweight fight between Williamson and North East rival Josh Kelly, and suddenly, just like that, Williamson, 18-1 (13), found himself back in business mode.
“I’m really excited,” he told Boxing News. “I just want to be in big fights defending the British title. Josh Kelly is next in line and that’s a big fight for the North East. It’s got a lot of people talking about it. The news only came out yesterday and everybody’s got something to say already.”
Kelly, from Sunderland, has performed beneath a bright spotlight since turning pro back in 2017 and last time out, in June, stopped Peter Kramer inside four rounds. Unlike Williamson, the expectation placed on him by others has been significant since day one and Williamson, a future opponent, believes the hype, based on Kelly’s talent, is warranted.
Never, though, did he expect Kelly to one day campaign at super-welterweight, much less be in line to oppose him.
“He’s only just come on my radar since he stepped up to super-welterweight,” Williamson admitted. “He was only a welterweight before that and it never really crept into my mind that he could one day step up. I didn’t think he was a massive welterweight, either, so I was a bit surprised to hear he had moved up, to be honest. I have a size advantage over most people I fight and it wouldn’t be any different with Josh.
“Still, I think he’s a special talent; very talented. He’s got a great skillset. I think he’s a great fighter and I always have done.”
While Kelly’s talent has never been up for the debate, there are of course numerous other areas in which a fighter needs to excel in order to ultimately fulfil their potential. For Kelly, 11-1-1 (7), there is still something to prove in the eyes of most and, moreover, his task has been made tougher due to a 2021 loss against David Avanesyan, which, Williamson suspects, established the blueprint as far as beating Kelly.
“I think the way to beat Josh would be to make him fight at my pace and not let him work at his pace,” he said. “That’s what Avanesyan did with him. He set a high pace and never let him settle into any kind of rhythm. You have to stay on him and pressure him.”
Often easier said than done, to get the chance to try Williamson will first need Kelly to decide to head in his direction and pursue the Lonsdale belt. Should that happen, he then sees no reason why the pair can’t meet around December time.
“I don’t know whether they’ll go for it or not, but I really do hope he takes it,” said Williamson. “I think he would take it, if I’m honest, but it will probably be down to his team. They might talk him out of it. I hope they don’t, though, because it would be a big fight for this area.
“I know Josh is fighting on July 30, and I’m looking to get out in the middle of September. Potentially, at the end of the year it could happen. We could do a stadium fight if we pack the stadium with the best fighters from the North East. Boxing here is booming at the moment and we’ve got some great talent coming through.
“I’m willing to put it all on the line. If Josh is game and up for it, let’s make the fight happen.”
Back in March, Williamson, in defence of his British title, had to go 12 gruelling rounds with Mason Cartwright, who dropped the champion in the second. It was, on reflection, a learning experience for the 30-year-old known as “Trojan”, one he ultimately came through with his unbeaten record intact.
“I didn’t perform great, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I had to grind it out. I wasn’t 100%. I got put down, I got back up, and I then dug in, gritted my teeth, and won the fight.
“I thought I won by three rounds. On the night, emotions were high and I thought it was dead close. When I watch it back now, I think he started the fight well, a couple of rounds were give and take, but from round six or seven onwards I thought I won every round on my jab alone.
“I think if I had started using my jab earlier, I would have made it a lot easier for myself. But I got put down early and the game plan went out the window after that. Once I composed myself, got back to my boxing, and stuck to the plan, I couldn’t miss him with the jab. From the seventh round onwards, I busted him up with that shot.”
Prior to going 12 rounds for the first time against Cartwright, Williamson had won the British title with a stunning 10th-round knockout of Ted Cheeseman in 2021. That win not only delivered him the Lonsdale belt but also put Williamson on the map, the role of underdog, or unknown, one in which he flourished.
“The win against Cheeseman did elevate me to that next level,” he recalled. “After it a lot more people were talking about me. That was the fight that catapulted me up the rankings. People now knew who Troy Williamson was.
“But then, going into the Mason Cartwright fight, nobody really knew who Mason Cartwright was. People were writing him off and I was expected to just go in there and steamroll him. The bookies had me a huge favourite, which actually reminded me of when I fought Cheeseman. Nobody knew who I was back then. I hadn’t been promoted well. People expected Cheeseman to beat me. But I shocked a lot of people and I think Mason shocked a lot of people with the performance he put on against me. It was a great performance and a great fight.
“A lot of people might now look at the Cheeseman performance and think that it was a bit of a fluke, or maybe a one-off. They expected me to do the same to Cartwright and that just didn’t happen.
“Now I’ve had two back-to-back “Fight of the Year” contenders and, if Josh Kelly takes the fight, and I take care of Josh Kelly in the same fashion, people will start believing in me. I’ll have three good names on my record then.”
First things first: before a name on a record, Troy Williamson first needs a name on a contract. Only then will he allow himself to start getting excited.