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.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments