Carl 'The Truth' Williams: Boxer who fought Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes

 

Carl Williams was so nearly in the right place at the right time in both his fights for the heavyweight championship of the world. "The Truth", as people who knew him liked to call him, lost on points over the ancient distance of 15 rounds to Larry Holmes in 1985. The ringside experts and fans in Reno that night overwhelmingly believed Holmes had lost for the first time in 48 fights, but the judges denied Williams. Holmes lost for the first time in his next fight.

In 1989 Williams was back in championship contention and was matched with arguably the best version of Mike Tyson in Atlantic City. Tyson, like Holmes, was undefeated at the time, feared and viewed with equal amounts of respect and disgust. It was known that away from the ring his life was in dangerous turmoil and that was just one of the reasons Williams had to sign a contract giving the promoter, Don King, three options on his future fights. Somebody once quipped that in Atlantic City that week it was the only time that King and the truth had ever been in the same room.

"We wondered about Tyson's life and believed that if he could fall apart outside the ring then he could fall apart inside the ring," Williams recalled, and with his coach, Carmine Graziano, he devised a bold plan to fight Tyson with fire. It was too bold but it was the right plan. " We knew that Tyson could be manipulated," Graziano insisted.

Tyson caught Williams with a perfect left hook, which is a simple counter to a lazy jab, in the opening round of a furious fight and Williams crashed heavily to the canvas. He beat the count, seemed to nod to the referee that he was fine but instead it was stopped after just 93 seconds. Tyson lost for the first time in his next fight when Buster Douglas put in place The Truth's risky plan.

"Tyson told me straight away that he knew that I could continue and he was right," Williams said. "I met great champions when they were great champions but I knew how to beat them."

Williams had started to box late after an early life wasted on the streets of South Jamaica in Queens. He won the New York Golden Gloves titles in 1980 and 1981 at a time when being the "Gloves" champion carried weight. However, he was forced to move away from his neighbourhood and live on his own at a motel in White Plains, New York. The move saved him.

"There are two roads in life that a man born with nothing can go down," Williams said one night in 1990. "There is the straight road – and believe me that is the hardest – and there is the other one and believe me that is the easy one; I picked the straight one and became a boxer. It has never been easy."

In the ring Williams had exceptional timing and a fantastic jab but he was vulnerable when caught by heavy punchers, often in fights where he had been suckered into slugging and not using his finer skills. It was his misfortune to peak during the great days of Holmes and Tyson, a neglected but in many ways golden spell for heavyweight boxing, and had he been born 10 years later he would have surely won a version of the heavyweight title.

Williams was in hard fights with world champions Tim Witherspoon, Trevor Berbick, Tommy "The Duke" Morrison, Mike "Hercules" Weaver and an odd affair in Birmingham with Frank Bruno. He was also involved in great scraps with leading contenders James "Quick" Tillis, Bert "Smokin" Cooper and Jesse Ferguson. He met men who could really fight at a time when securing a world title fight only came through victories and not from the glowing testimonies of the deluded that masquerade as influential in the modern business.

Williams finally retired in 1987, having lost five of his last nine fights. "I should never have taken the last fight," he told me. He ended the fighting part of his life with 30 wins from 41 fights, and away from boxing he continually slipped under the fight game's radar. There was talk of mystery advisors "losing" – a beautiful boxing euphemism – nearly a million dollars of The Truth's money.

Williams worked on the door at various clubs in New York and had a job for a couple of years as a security guard at Ground Zero. He remained a lost fighter from a lost generation of largely forgotten fighters; he would often tell people that they were mistaken if they asked if he was The Truth. He died of oesophageal cancer.

"I never heard The Truth complain or cry about the Holmes fight or the Tyson fight," said Mike Marley, formerly of the New York Post, for whom he covered The Truth's big fights. "There are heavyweights still talking about where it all went wrong, but The Truth was not one of those guys. He was just a regular guy."

Carl Williams, boxer: born Belle Glade, Florida 11 November 1959; one son, one daughter, and one daughter deceased; died New York 7 April 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?