IN DEPTH WITH LIAM WILLIAMS
Hot middleweight prospect Liam Williams features on the undercard of Lee Selby’s Commonwealth Featherweight title defence against Patrick Okine this Friday (25th May) at the Newport Sports Centre in Wales.
The unbeaten teenager from Clydach Vale, trained by WBO World Light-Heavyweight Champion Nathan Cleverly’s father Vince, takes on Nottingham’s Gilson De Jesus over four rounds.
Williams talks to boxing writer Glynn Evans about his amateur career, training in the pros and his ambitions.
Selby v Okine is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) this Friday from 7.30pm. Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Liam Williams
Born: Church Village, south Wales
Family background: I’ve an older sister and a younger sister. I live with my parents in Clydach Vale.
Trade: I work as a roofer but always take a month off before I fight to ensure I get quality training.
Nickname: I don’t have one yet. I’m waiting for someone else to come up with one.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? When I was nine I went with a mate to the Rhondda Amateur Boxing Club and I stuck at it ever since. No one else in my family ever boxed but it’s tough up the Rhondda and my dad brought me up to be tough. I liked to scrap on the streets and at school. I won most of the time.
What do you recall of your amateur career? Apart for my last three fights where I was trained by Vince Cleverly (father of WBO light-heavy king Nathan Cleverly), I was coached by Ivor Bartlett at the Rhondda ABC.
I had 49 bouts and I won 44 of them. I won seven Welsh titles at all age levels, including the 2011 Senior ABAs when I was just 18. I beat Warren Sinden, who’s now a pro, by a wide points margin in the 75KG final.
I also won six British titles – a couple of Four Nations plus four Tri-Nations – and various multi-nations titles. Between 15-20 of my amateur bouts were in the Welsh singlet and I went to Poland, Finland plus the World Juniors in Azerbaijan. I was just 17, the youngest there, but got to the quarter finals before losing by two points to a useful Columbian.
I was also scheduled to go to the European Juniors in Turkey, just before I went pro. However, the day before I was due to leave, I had a flat tyre. As I changed it by the side of the road, I was hit from behind by a woman who was texting on her mobile phone. I blacked out and couldn’t walk for a month. She just got a warning?! That was disappointing.
I spent six months up in Sheffield on the Team GB Development squad but the funding barely covered my expenses and the coaches just seemed to care about the English boys. Anthony Ogogo and Ryan Aston were the other middleweights up there and we did a bit of sparring. They were older and more experienced and I never really got a chance but, overall, I was happy with what I achieved as an amateur.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I’d been training with Team Clev for my last few amateur fights and when I received an offer I just took it. Though I was still only 18, I weren’t too fussed with the amateurs. I’d always been more of a scrapper who liked to get stuck in so sensed the pros would suit better. Too many opponents just ran away and it became very frustrating.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed by (ex WBO/WBC middleweight challenger) Gary Lockett who’s pretty local and I’m promoted by Frank Warren. I’m coached by Vince Cleverly at Planet Fitness in Bargoed, half hours drive away. Vince gets you super fit through loads of fast pad work. A guy called Darren Wilson takes care of some of my strength and conditioning; loads of explosive work with kettlebells and stuff.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I run about five and a half miles in the morning and its hard work. There are a lot of nasty hills up here. Sometimes, if our schedules mesh, I run with Nathan and he was British cross country champion as a kid.
I go to the Cleverly gym five or six evenings a week. I’ll warm up with a 20 minute skip, then hit the pads, bag and speed ball for 12 rounds combined. I do three minute rounds with just half a minute break. We’re a bit isolated up here and it can be difficult to get quality sparring but I do bits with (former Commonwealth light-middle boss) Bradley Pryce, a very tough man, and (one time British welter challenger) Barrie Jones. There’s only Nathan and me in our gym so obviously we work together as well. ‘Clev’s’ really fast and has such a high workrate.
I’ll finish each session with 20-30 minutes of bodywork; sit-ups and medicine ball, mainly, then loosen off with a couple rounds of shadow boxing. I most enjoy working with Vince on the pads. It’s all very fast and gets you superfit. On the downside, some of Vince’s runs are killers. There’s some very steep banking around here.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m an orthodox fighter who can go back foot if I need to but like to get ‘stuck in’. Amateur, I went in all guns blazing, throwing wild shots. I sold over 200 tickets for my last fight and my fans go mad when I’m fighting. However, Vince is trying to get me to box a bit more and pick my shots.
A straight right hand is probably my best punch and I stopped about a dozen in the amateurs.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Acquire more experience but I’ll just take everything as it comes.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? I have to train a lot harder. Amateur, it was one session every other day, pros it’s twice every day. Also, the pace isn’t quite as fast and that suits me better.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? It’d have to be Nathan (Cleverly). He just keeps coming at you. We have hard spars but he’s no bully. He did a lot with Joe Calzaghe when Joe was world champion and Nath was just a teenager coming through so he knows how it is. He looks after me.
All time favourite fighter: (Floyd) Mayweather. Awesome fighter. No one can touch him.
All time favourite fight: The Gatti-Ward trilogy.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Pacquiao-Mayweather. It’d go all the way probably but Mayweather wins. His style is untouchable.
What is your routine on fight day? My aim is to chill out as much as possible. During the day I’ll eat lots of carbs and good energy food. I do suffer from the nerves quite badly. The fight’s constantly on my mind. I start to think: ‘Have I trained hard enough? What if I lose in front of my big crowd?’ I try to forget about it but can’t and it does my head in. I like to be at the venue early and wait around. Then, once the first bell goes, I’m fine. Its head down, arse up and in we go!
Entrance music: ‘All Of The Lights’ by Rihanna with Kanye West.
How do you relax? I used to race motocross bikes but stopped when I was about 16 because the risk of getting an injury that could affect my boxing career was too high. I don’t follow any other sports, just boxing. Other than that I just spend time chillin’ with my girlfriend or mates.
Football team: Don’t have one. I might watch the Welsh rugby team when they’re on TV.
Read: Boxing News, that’s it.
Music: I listen to Kiss FM so a bit of everything.
Films/TV: I like the action films and, on TV, I watch BoxNation as much as I can. I’ve not much time for anything else.
Aspiration in life: To not regret anything.
Motto: When in doubt, ‘flat out’!