The dust has settled from the weekends boxing, and I’ve just about got that bitter taste out of my mouth, the taste that’s been there since the “head butt heard around the valleys” went undetected. Liam Williams (16-1-1, 11 KOs) was in cruise control, out-boxing the former WBO world champion Liam Smith (25-1-1, 14 KOs). Then Williams’ eye was on the receiving end of a head clash that forced the contest to reach a dramatic controversial conclusion at the halt of the ninth round.
My initial reaction was that Smith had to be disqualified, failing that; it should go to the scorecards for a technical decision and as Williams was up on the scorecards, he’d be announced the winner. Alas, the head butt was missed and it was not to be for the Welshman. The sight of Smith celebrating his shallow victory was like being on the receiving end of a body shot, similar to the one he suffered at the hands of Saul Alvarez in Texas last year. I felt sick; I slumped into my chair with my head hung low scrolling through twitter retweeting every insult aimed at Smith and his team with a grimace spread across my face. Nicola Adams was in the ring; I’m a big fan of her and female boxing and couldn’t wait to be at her professional debut. The way I felt in that instant, I couldn’t give a shit.
This is totally out of character for me, I showed little class but I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, much like Williams. Williams is a passionate man too so I couldn’t help think that however I felt, it must be a hundred times worse for him. But unlike myself Liam’s class didn’t falter. From the minute the fight was agreed, the first press conference, the moment Smith missed weight to the post fight interview after the defeat, he showed nothing but class.
I’ve taken inspiration from this, and I am generally an upbeat person and now that I’ve gotten all the negatives out of the way, I’ll focus on the many positives.
I heard on the grapevine that Frank Warren originally wanted the fight to take place in Cardiff, but Smith refused and suggested a neutral venue. Then Birmingham was proposed but it still wasn’t neutral enough for Smith. So Manchester was agreed, a forty-minute drive from Smith’s native Liverpool. For Williams and his fans it’s three hours and forty-five minutes, or more accurately four hours if you take into account all the average speed checks clogging up the M6. Despite this, Williams still sold the largest allocation of tickets on the night and his fans were the most vocal by a long shot. Smith’s fans only piped up when he was declared the winner, and it was a sigh of relief, if anything.
BT Sports exposure
Williams’ fledgling career has taken place on BoxNation, a prescription channel where only the hardcore boxing fans are prepared to pay the monthly fee. As an undefeated British and Commonwealth champion if he fought on the Sky platform he’d be a household name by now. On BoxNation Williams went under the radar outside the South Wales Valleys, but times are changing. Since BT Sports linked up with BoxNation in a landmark partnership, Frank Warren fighters will now get the exposure they so fully deserve. On Saturday night there were as many people in the valleys watching at home as there were in the arena. My social media timeline was full of people tuning in, people who didn’t know Liam personally were watching and expressing their opinions online, even my mother text me asking what channel it was on. In the run-up to Saturday, BT Sports featured its “Unfiltered” series, a collection of small episodes giving you an insight into a day in the life of the boxers leading up to fight night. Liam came across very well, a likeable family man with quotes such as “If I could pay £500 for a cheese cake right now and not put on any weight I would.” and “I’d rather get hit in the face than get my tattoo finished, it doesn’t hurt as much.” If you didn’t adore Liam before Saturday, you do now.
In ring ability
At the time of the stoppage, I had Williams up on the cards seven rounds to two. He out boxed Smith for the majority of the fight, he showed he could box as well as fight; he bullied a former world champion on the big stage. He definitely proved that he belongs on that level. If the rematch is made, I believe the bookies will have Williams as favourite.
Whenever a fight ends in controversial circumstances the rematch is always a tastier affair. Take a look at Froch vs Groves 2 for instance. I’m not comparing Smith vs Williams 2 to the aforementioned fight; it’s not a PPV at Wembley. But the public interest in the rematch already eclipses what it was leading to their first meeting, which had everyone talking based on the nature of it being a 50/50 fight. The rematch now has a back-story, repeat or revenge, the Welshman out for justice, the Scouser out to prove it was no fluke. When Smith came to Cardiff for the press conference ahead of their first meeting it was a quiet occasion, both men respectful of each other, Williams’ fans listening on quietly while both men said their bit. In the event of a rematch a press conference in Cardiff would be reminiscent of when Tony Bellew was scheduled to face Nathan Cleverly for their return. Hundreds of rowdy Welshman drowning out the Liverpudlian, singing, chanting and throwing insults. Williams should expect the same thing when he fulfils his obligations in the return presser in Liverpool. Both would make compelling viewing, and the hits on IFL would go through the roof. The build up alone would capture public imagination, from the valleys of South Wales, to the banks of the Mersey and just about everywhere in between.
Smith vs Williams isn’t over yet; it’s only just begun.
Ricky Wright was ringside covering the action in Manchester for Ringnews24
All photos by LJA Photography. Check-out the website here: LJA Photography