Tramaine Williams obviously would prefer it if fans could attend perhaps the biggest fight of his career Saturday night.
The skillful junior featherweight is from New Haven, Connecticut, about a 45-minute drive from where he’ll encounter another unbeaten boxer, Ra’eese Aleem, in a 10-round, 122-pound bout. Fans aren’t allowed to attend the Williams-Aleem match at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“[It’s] a little unusual,” Williams said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. “I take every fight as if it’s another day in the gym or another sparring session. So, this will be nothing different. As boxers, as fighters, as humans, we’ve just gotta adapt. No excuses. Whatever comes our way, we’ve gotta figure it out. And that’s what I’m gonna do come Saturday.”
If Williams wins the second of three fights Showtime will televise, he’ll at least be considered to fight whomever emerges victorious in the main event next. Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) and Albuquerque’s Angelo Leo (19-0, 9 KOs) will square off in that 12-round, 122-pound title fight for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title.
Fulton is ranked number one by the WBO in that division, one spot ahead of the second-ranked Leo. Williams is ranked sixth by the WBO.
The 27-year-old Williams (19-0, 6 KOs, 1 NC), nicknamed “The Mighty Midget,” also mentioned WBA world super bantamweight champ Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) and IBF/WBA “super” champ Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KOs) as potential opponents.
“I’ve been ready for all these guys,” Williams said. “It’s just my [inactivity] that just deterred me from being in the position that Fulton and Leo’s at right now. I should’ve been here. I should’ve been fighting for world titles.”
Williams hasn’t fought in a year, not since he defeated rule-bending Dominican veteran Yenifel Vicente by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder last July 27 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. His inactivity isn’t disconcerting to Williams, though.
“I feel like rust is just something in the mind,” Williams said. “Like it’s no such thing as rust. I’ve been doing this 18 years, so maybe it was just the break I needed.”
Williams will face a vastly different fighter in Aleem (16-0, 10 KOs) than when he beat Vicente (36-5-2, 28 KOs, 1 NC), who was disqualified in the 10th round of his last fight against Jessie Magdaleno on June 11 in Las Vegas.
“He’s different because he’s a cleaner fighter,” Williams said. “You can tell he’s a respectful man, and he comes from a good lineage. He comes from Detroit. [He’s] a lot different than Vicente. Vicente was coming in there, swinging for the fences, trying to catch a lucky shot. And then I had him frustrated, so he was – maybe he was looking for an out, or maybe he was trying to distract me or deter me from winning. But there was nobody like Vicente. That was crazy.”
Aleem, meanwhile, has been scheduled for 10 rounds for the first time in his eight-year pro career. The 30-year-old Aleem – a Muskegon, Michigan, native who lives and trains in Las Vegas – produced his most noteworthy win in his last fight, a fourth-round stoppage of San Antonio’s Adam Lopez (19-4-2, 9 KOs) that Showtime aired February 14 from Philadelphia.
“It’s things that I learned when I was like 21, 22 that I don’t think he has learned yet because he lacks experience,” Williams said. “And I think he only fought one eight-round fight. And it’s a different way that you’ve gotta fight 10 rounds and 12 rounds, and an eight-round fight. I’m pretty sure I’ll take him to deep waters. And deep waters don’t mean the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th rounds. Deep waters means the third round, and you’ve still got seven to go.”
Before the Williams-Aleem and Fulton-Leo bouts, Showtime’s three-bout broadcast will begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT with a 10-round light heavyweight rematch between Houston’s Joseph George (10-0, 6 KOs) and Argentina’s Marcos Escudero (10-1, 9 KOs). George edged Escudero by split decision in their 10-rounder November 15 at WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.