The pain hasn’t gone away for Jimmy Williams. More than 12 years after the murder of his mother, Belinda, he’s resigned to the fact that it probably never will. (photo by Jared Sher)
Perhaps what makes it worse is that the November 2008 crime in Plainfield, New Jersey was never solved, with no suspects, no leads, no closure for the 34-year-old junior middleweight.
“It went cold real fast, and that's something that keeps me up at night sometimes,” said Williams. “I don't know who did it and there's not enough evidence there. It's just a tough situation to deal with. And when it first happened, I was like, 'Damn, that's my mom,' and I felt myself being busy, but the older you get, the more it hits you. I've got two kids and they're never gonna meet their grandmother, but it keeps me going.”
Ironically, if not for Belinda Williams’ murder, her son might not be in Atlanta right now, preparing for a Saturday bout against former world champion Yuri Foreman. In 2008, football was the love for the cornerback at Southern Connecticut State University, and boxing, which he had competed in as a youngster, was a far second on his priority list. That didn’t stop mom from telling him, “Don't rule out boxing.”
He laughs, realizing how funny life can be sometimes in terms of twists and turns. When Belinda died, Williams’ family encouraged him to keep chasing his football dreams, but when NFL and CFL tryouts didn’t produce a contract, he turned back to the sweet science.
“I thank God for boxing, because if it wasn't for that, who knows,” he said. “I wouldn't be doing this call right now; I could be in jail or six feet under. So I thank God for boxing because that's my therapy.”
And as he returned to the gym to begin pursuing a boxing career, there was a face there that he will soon see again this weekend.
“Me and Yuri grew up in the gym together in Paterson, New Jersey,” said Williams. “Joe Grier guided Yuri to a world championship, and Joe gave me the nickname 'The Quiet Storm,' so we've got history. At that time, my lifestyle was all over the place, so I come in the gym and boxing saved my life. And I used to see Yuri and I kinda envied that lifestyle a little bit. I just wanted the best for my family and the best for myself, and Yuri was a class act guy. He came in the gym and he has everything a young fighter wanted in life.”
But Williams won’t mind punching him in the face at the Buckhead Fight Club?
“He ain't gonna mind punching me in the face either,” laughs Williams, a good guy and a family man who has unfortunately dealt with enough bad luck to fill a football team’s roster. He wonders when his luck will change, and he expects it to be soon.
“I looked at it like, hey man, I feel like God did this to me because every bad thing that happened, it motivated me and didn't force me to quit or force me to give up on myself,” he said. “God didn't make it easy on me and I think no matter what life brings my way, I'm still blessed. But I need a good break. And I think this fight will be the fight.”
At 26, Williams turned pro with a fourth-round knockout of Noel Garcia on the Sergey Kovalev-Gabriel Campillo card in January 2013. He made it to 14-0-1 with 1 NC before losing to Marquis Taylor in 2018, but after two subsequent wins, he hit the skids in 2019-20 with an 0-4-1 stretch that included a first-round knockout loss to Brandun Lee on ShoBox.
“I was on the fence,” said Williams when it came to continuing his career. “I don't need boxing - I'm educated, I work in the community and work in the high school - but boxing is something that always burns. After my mom was murdered and that rough patch, it made me decide, okay, if I got a second chance to do this, I gotta do it right. And that's what I've been doing. I don't need boxing, but boxing needs me, and I love the sport. I know I gotta lot left and I know it's not over for me, but I knew I had to regroup, change my circle, change my surroundings, and be ready to climb that ladder again.”
In April, he scored his first win since October 2018 when he halted Clifford McPherson in a single round. It was an under the radar bout against an opponent with a 2-43-1 record, but it was something. The next something is bigger, perhaps the biggest fight of his career.
“I've been in big fights but fighting a former world champion is a dream come true,” said Williams, who now makes his home in New Haven, Connecticut. “My goal is to be a world champion, so I go in there with a guy who's been there and done that and show that I belong, I think in the long run I'll get my opportunity to fight for a world title.”
It’s a twist Belinda Williams probably never saw coming, but Jimmy Williams believes she’s happy it did.
“I know she's up there talking to God and is in his ear telling him to look out for me,” said Williams, who credits his mom for all the best attributes he brings to the ring, and to life.
“My mother's murder changed my whole outlook on life,” he said. “It showed me that it's a cold world out here. People will do anything, and I think that just made me stronger. That made me look at stuff from a different angle than someone else would, and I think that's where my thick skin comes from, my humbleness, my hard work and my not giving up attitude. I know the day that my mom got murdered, she fought to the end, and that's something I'm gonna do, too.”
If you have any information on the 2008 murder of Belinda Jordan Williams, anonymous tips can be reported to the Plainfield Police Department by calling (908) 753-8477 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org