Danny Williams was given a boxing lesson by fellow south Londoner Julius Francis just over two years ago. It wasn't a particularly painful one but he absorbed it well and last night gained his revenge convincingly by knocking out the old soldier 2 min 15 sec into the fourth round to retain his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.
The curtailment of the contest, brought about by a swiftly delivered left uppercut, Williams' favourite punch, was a literally stunning blow. It left 36-year-old Francis on his knees, dumped in a neutral corner, wincing in agony. The punch had raked up from his chin and nose and ended crushingly on his left eye. So severe was the swelling that a British Boxing Board of Control doctor immediately ordered him to hospital for an examination of the injury under anaesthetic.
Williams, eight years the younger, thus erased the only blot on his 24-bout career, a result which brought him great delight. "I always thought I could catch him with my left uppercut,'' he said. "It is my best shot. I'm a different fighter now to the one who lost to Julius last time. The punch that did the damage seemed to cause Julius more pain than simply daze him.'' Outside the ring the two are quite friendly, although you would not have thought so from the way they nudged noses in a head-to-head confrontation before the bell.
A crowd of just over 2,000 had assembled at the Wembley Conference Centre, perhaps respectable enough for a sultry summer's evening with two relatively unknown combatants. It was only a fraction, of course, of the crowds who attended the heavyweight era of Henry Cooper and his predecessors just across the way at the old Empire Pool or down the road at White City.
The championship, once the jewel in British boxing's crown, may have become a bit of a bauble but at least Williams looks the business and has the ability to breathe new life into it. Promoter Frank Warren is promising a world title shot (and you can pick any one from half-a-dozen authorising bodies) within 12 months.
Since that defeat by Francis, Williams suffered a severe injury when his right shoulder came out of its socket in a fight against Mark Potter. But the left he produced to rescue the situation then was reproduced last night with even more devastating effect.
In the past Williams has been criticised for being somewhat slow-footed, but last night his jabbing was sharp and his technique imaginative. The first three rounds suggested that this was not to be a bloodcurdling classic, and it was hard to fathom Francis's game-plan as he held his left shoulder high to protect his chin and threw only the occasional body shot.
"Jab, left hook,'' came the curt instruction from the Williams corner in the fourth and he followed that to the letter, jabbing Francis backwards into a corner then whipping up the uppercut that left Francis on his knees and never looking likely to beat the count.
Francis, fodder for Mike Tyson in Glasgow a year ago, reckoned he was Williams' nemesis, but what he didn't reckon with was the improvement the new champion had made to his condition and accuracy of punching.
Although Audley Harrison, the Olympic champion and newly turned pro, was not at ringside, his promoter and manager were watching on his behalf. The message they should take back to their man is to bide his time. He isn't ready for Williams yet, and perhaps never will be.
Ross Minter, 22-year-old son of former world middleweight champion Alan Minter, won his third professional fight, outpointing the 32-bout veteran Leeroy Williamson, from Worcester, over four rounds in a welterweight contest. Although he lacks a really damaging punch, Minter is a neat, compact chip off the old boxing block.Reuse content