Brixton's pearl on the brink

FACES FOR '96: Two young sportsmen are at the vanguard of emerging British talent; BOXING; James Reed on a heavyweight with shoulders broad enough to bear the acclaim

At night Danny Williams winds his way carefully through the flats near Brixton Prison, enters Brockwell Park by the school and runs three times round the silent grounds, passing the secret windows of a thousand council houses, the distant parade of shabby stores at Herne Hill, before heading back towards the glow of Brixton's lights. When Williams - 22, 16st 11lb and 6ft 2in - goes running, the street life wandering the park's dimly lit corners pauses.

As a child he walked the same route on his way to the gym above the Half Moon at Herne Hill. He was big then, big and lazy. Williams often missed training and it was hard to match him because of his size; slowly his flesh turned hard and men at his new club, the Lynn near Camberwell Green, started to get very excited. However, in the domestic championship he failed on four occasions but the national coach, Ian Irwin, tucked away with his formulas and ideas behind closed doors at Crystal Palace, developed the fighter's natural jab and took him to tournaments all over the world. Williams fought 19 times for England, losing just four bouts, won gold at various events and bronze at the European and Commonwealth Games.

Since 1992, hawkers from the professional business have shown an interest, but once the sweet promises started they were broken. Yet still the assistant dreamers showed up at Williams' door to stake bold claims. Boxing has too many wise guys, experts who pray on innocent amateurs, and Williams met them all. Frank Warren watched the situation from a safe distance, knowing that Williams wanted to box in Atlanta next year. But finally in September, after Williams decided that the dole and amateur boxing's politics were not conducive to podium strolling, a deal was done. "Danny has the speed, the power and skill to become a very wealthy man, because he is a very dangerous man," Warren warned.

In 1994 Williams demonstrated just how dangerous he can be when he met the English amateur champion, Danny Watts, in the final of the Liverpool Multi-nations Tournament. The bout was an unofficial box-off for a place in England's Commonwealth Games squad. It lasted 32 seconds: one left hook put Watts down and out. Silence greeted his fall because he was the favourite. "I didn't enjoy it; Danny is a friend of mine," said Williams as he cast a casual glance at Watts who was changing right next to him. "It was me or him." It was a perfect punch, smooth, accurate and quick. Not the work of a 20-year-old boy.

Part of the problem when Williams was an amateur was his weight. For three years he tried to compete at heavyweight - the equivalent of the professional cruiserweight division -before moving up to super-heavyweight, or professional heavyweight, just a few months before beating Watts. There were several occasions when Williams was stuck in a sauna to lose excess pounds.

Williams has now boxed twice as a professional. On both occasions he beat men who accepted the fight knowing they would probably lose. However, he ended both contests with style by using simple tactics, basic punches and staying calm. Williams has more poise at this stage of his career than Lennox Lewis, who cuffed and flapped his way past a variety of domestic sacrifices, or Frank Bruno, who sent dozens of foreign performers helter- skeltering to early showers at the start of his career after most had simply wandered into the dreaded slipstream of one of big Frank's swings. Williams is also bigger than either Bruno or Lewis were at 22.

In his last fight against Joey Paladino, at York Hall, earlier this month, Williams stood patiently as Paladino climbed up from two nine counts before he ended it with just a few seconds left in the first round. "These guys are big and, if they get a few rounds, all of their experience starts to show," Williams said.

He is right. This year Williams will test his concentration against the resistance of 10 or 12 more boxers. He can win every fight but his mind must remain focused - young boxers always lose outside the ring. Williams is the first to acknowledge he has just started to learn and now has to show people he is listening. "I have respect now," he insists.

Williams knows he can gain an even higher level of respect if he becomes regarded as Brixton's black heavyweight prospect. Williams has lived in Brixton all his life and he has seen it change. Other things have changed and there was a time when black people stayed away from fights. However, Nigel Benn started to alter the shade of fight audiences, and now Naseem Hamed has introduced even more shades to the once all-white arena. Hopefully it will continue changing. Williams is the great black hope, and the kid knows it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum