By John Evans
Shock results in boxing don’t necessarily need to involve a heavy underdog defying the odds. Steve Williams’ December knockout of Manchester’s Karl Place could be described as one of the most surprising of last year. That Williams emerged victorious from the bout wasn’t a shock - the highly rated Place may have entered the clash as a slight favourite but the 12-1 (5) Williams is a talented fighter – the surprise element came in the manner of the victory. The Wallasey resident simply walked through his rival to finish his man in the second round.
Williams’ reward for his efforts is a second crack at the British light welterweight title. Whilst facing the in form Ashley Theophane is far from an easy task, if the fighter who demolished Place turns up we are all but guaranteed an interesting night. The fight also takes place in Liverpool - Williams’ backyard. It is shaping up to be a special night for the 28-year-old.
“It’s great. I couldn’t have asked for a better bill to be on with there being six title fights and especially with it being in Liverpool” said Williams when talking to Boxingscene.com. “David Price is topping it [in his British title fight with Sam Sexton] so it should be a full house. I’m looking forward to putting on a good show. I do always like to be in good fights so I’ll probably be pushing forward all the time so with a bigger crowd there it’ll probably spur me on more.
“Training’s going well. I’ve been training pretty hard for about two weeks and there are still eight weeks to go. I’ve probably known about the fight for about a month, we just didn’t have a date. I actually thought it was gonna be sooner. Now we’ve got another eight weeks, I’ll take it easy for a bit and then do a proper seven week camp.”
The clash with Theophane will be Williams’ second title tilt. His first ended in defeat at the hands of then champion Lenny Daws. The then 9-0 (3) Williams acquitted himself well but a badly cut right eye brought matters to a close in the tenth round. Almost two years on, Williams is certain that he is now a far more complete operator.
“The Daws fight came early for me but I think I’m a better fighter for that. I went away and worked on my weaknesses rather than doing the same things all the time.”
Williams hasn’t worked solely on his weaknesses. Having been afforded the chance to help John Murray prepare for his WBA lightweight title fight with Brandon Rios, Williams made sure he soaked up everything he could from their sparring sessions.
“I picked up a few things. Even though he’s a pressure fighter, he was counter punching as well. I’d go to hit him to the body and he’d block it and come back with something” said the softly spoken Williams. “A few people I’ve sparred with in the past would cover up, wait for me to stop throwing and then they’d start punching whereas he’d block and hit straight back. I’ve started adding that to my game in sparring and its working. It’s coming along nicely.”
“I think I’m ready for this one now” he continued. “I sparred with Ashley before he beat Daws about a year ago. We did 16 rounds over a couple of days and it was good competitive sparring. I sort of know what he does well and what his weaknesses are. He does pick his shots well. He’s not very fast or strong but he does everything well. It’s just good technique.”
Don’t expect Williams to be laying out his blueprints on beating Theophane just yet though. “I’m gonna keep that to myself for now!” laughed Williams.
As Williams says, the 31-4-1 (9) Theophane is one of those boxers who does everything well. He may not be a one punch knockout artist or a supremely fast counter puncher but his solid all round skills are complimented by an almost maniacal dedication to fitness. Talented fighters such as Delvin Rodriguez, DeMarcus Corley and Jason Cook and have found the 31-year-old Londoner a tough puzzle to solve. Since returning to the British scene following a period of globetrotting, Theophane won the British title with a decision victory over Daws and has gone on to defend it with late round stoppages of Cook and Ben Murphy. The victories have been earned the hard way though. Murphy in particular gave the champion all he could handle until succumbing late on.
“That’s it. His stoppages lately have come because he’s in these twelve round fights and starts taking over in the second half of the fight. I think his stoppages have been more down to his opponents tiring. I’m fine for the twelve rounds and will be able to set a good pace for it” he said.
“It’d be good to worry him a bit early if possible but I’m planning on coming on strong in the later rounds like he does. He says all the British fighters are running out of steam after six rounds and starting as if it’s a sprint. I don’t do that even though I’ve got my last couple [of opponents] out of there in two rounds. That’s not been down to me starting fast. I always think about leaving something for the later rounds.
“Keeping consistent pressure on him is the key to beating him. When he’s at that long range throwing those wild punches, he’s good at that. These world class fighters he’s been in with gave him space to get his shots off. I think Ben Murphy showed everyone how to beat him. Stay on him and unsettle him”.
Staying on Theophane is clearly the way to beat him yet - as his recent opponents have found out - saying it and doing it are different things. It’s the perfect time and place for Williams; will he be able to rise to the occasion?