By John MacDonald
On Saturday, Liam Williams 9-0-1 (4 KOs) faces the first test of his career as he squares off against Ronnie Heffron 15-1 (5 KOs) at the Phones4U Arena, Manchester but rather than feeling the pressure of expectation he sees this as his chance to establish himself as one of the top prospects in Britain.
The Welshman has learned his craft against the familiar list of durable journeymen and is now ready to showcase his talents on one of the biggest British shows of the year so far against former Commonwealth title challenger, Heffron.
“It’s a big stage to prove myself on. I’m really looking forward to it, obviously there is going to be a lot of people there and this my biggest show to date so I’m looking to impress,” Williams told Boxing Scene. “It’s exciting times. I’m just really looking forward to it, July 26 will be my breakthrough then everyone will realise what I’m all about.”
Current British and Commonwealth light middleweight champion Liam Smith will defend his title later on in the evening against Jason Wellborn who stepped in after mandatory challenger Nav Mansouri withdrew due to injury. Williams will be a keen observer as his own contest serves as an eliminator for the Lonsdale belt currently in the champion’s possession. While the contest is not a final eliminator, the winner will have to face either John Thain or Kris Carslaw who fight on September 6, the 22-year-old is open to fighting any of those mentioned.
“Obviously I’ll be keeping an eye on that fight. After my fight I’ll just chill out and have a look and see what they are all about. I’ll fight anyone in that weight division. I just want to fight the best. I’m just taking it one fight at a time but that’s definitely one for the future.”
Williams turned professional under the tutelage of Vince Cleverly, father and former trainer of Nathan Cleverly. He has since parted company with Cleverly to join the burgeoning stable of young trainer, Gary Lockett. Having had a career which culminated in unsuccessfully challenging Kelly Pavlik for the WBC and WBO middleweight titles, Lockett has experience of the sport at the highest level. His insight has been invaluable to Williams so far and believes it will play a part once again on fight night.
“I don’t really want to slag Vince off because he got me my first couple of wins and did a good job with me but working with Gary is better in every single department. I’m stronger, fitter, he’s slowed me down because I was basically boxing like a headless chicken when I was with Vince; throwing so many shots. When someone put me under pressure I’d try to fight them off all the time rather than just using my head movement and picking my shots. I feel a lot better now.
“The difference between Gary and a lot of trainers is that Gary has been there and done it himself. For instance; say I was struggling in a fight, Gary knows how hard it is in there and he can explain and look at it from a fighter’s point.”
In April, Williams travelled to Rostock, Germany to box on the undercard of gym mate Enzo Maccarinelli’s WBA light heavyweight title challenge against Juergen Braehmer. Whilst the night ultimately ended in disappointment for Enzo, Williams gained vital experience despite suffering serious injury.
In the second round of the scheduled eight, the Welshman threw an uppercut which connected with the point of his opponent’s elbow. The impact broke a bone in his hand yet he persevered through the pain to stop Yuri Pompilio in the final round.
“If you watch the fight back you can see me really wincing in pain but I just got on with it and got the job done. I had to fight six rounds with a broken hand. I’m not one to moan. It was painful but I just got on with it.
“I came back to the corner after I done it and told Gary, he just said ‘So what? Get on with it.’ That’s what I did. I don’t want sympathy, you’ve got to get on with it or don’t bother.”
Having spent the majority of his amateur career and early pro fights at middleweight, Williams has recently stepped down to 154lbs and believes he’s punching harder as a result. Pomilio had never been stopped before and had taken Sheffield puncher Adam Etches the distance. Williams sees his physical strength as a key factor in his fight on Saturday.
“There’s a lot more snap in my punches. I suit the weight a lot better. I’m big for the weight and against Heffron this will suit me. Realistically, maybe he’s not quite a welterweight but he’s certainly not a full-blown light middleweight, which I am. I think that’ll be to my advantage.
“It’s a feather in my cap [stopping Pompilio]. It was a good win for me and now Ronnie Heffron is next, he’s going to get it!”
The sole blemish on Heffron’s record came in 2012 when he was stopped in the sixth round of his Commonwealth title tilt against Denton Vassell but Williams is adamant he’ll add another.
“Heffron is a pressure fighter. He’s going to bring it, we know he’s going to bring it. He’s going to be in my face because to be honest that’s all he can do, he only knows one style. I’m sure all he’s going to do is come marching forward so we’ve brought in bigger stronger guys to put me under pressure. They made me work hard and I think that’ll work in my favor.
“Whatever he does I’m going to do what I need to do and adapt to win the fight. I believe I will and I think I’ll win quite comfortably.”