Ten-Count for Carl “The Truth” Williams

By Robert Mladinich on April 7, 2013
Ten-Count for Carl “The Truth” Williams
“When you fall flat on your back, if you can look up, you can get up.” (Robert Ecksel)

“I still say that I could have continued,” Williams said. “Even Mike said the fight shouldn’t have been stopped…”

Former heavyweight contender Carl “The Truth” Williams passed away today after a long battle with esophageal cancer. He was only 53.

During a 15-year career that spanned from 1982-1997, Williams compiled a 30-10 (21 KOs) record against the best the division had to offer.

He was blown out in one round by undisputed champion Mike Tyson in Atlantic City in July 1989, and also lost a 15-round decision to IBF titlist Larry Holmes in May 1985.

The Holmes fight was significant for two reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most people believe that Williams won handily. It was the very last heavyweight title fight to be scheduled for 15 rounds.

“Had I won that fight, my whole life would have changed,” Williams, who had nary a nick or a scar on his handsome and relatively youthful face, told me a few years ago.

“I wouldn’t have gone through a lot of the pain and suffering that I have. It would have set the stage for lots of good things. Instead it caused me to spiral down and people started to diminish me.”

When Williams squared off against Holmes, he was 16-0 with 12 knockouts. In his very next fight, Williams got off the canvas twice to stop then undefeated Jesse Ferguson in the 10th round of a nationally televised thriller.

Williams considered that bout the highlight of his career, which also included wins against James “Quick” Tillis (W 10), Bert Cooper (TKO 8), and Trevor Berbick (W 12), and losses to Mike Weaver (TKO by 2), Tim Witherspoon (L 12), Tommy Morrison (TKO by 8), and Frank Bruno (TKO by 10).

“Getting off the floor twice to knock out Ferguson was the proudest moment of my life,” said Williams. “People forget that he was undefeated when I fought him, and how hard he could punch. His left hook was hard, man.”

By the time Williams fought Tyson, he had already lost to Holmes, which was questionable, and to Weaver, which was as clean a stoppage as you’ll ever see.

Still, some insiders gave him a chance to use his 6’4” height and sizzling right hand enough to slow down, if not stop, the rampaging Tyson.

Instead, Williams was knocked to the canvas with a vicious left hook, and the fight was stopped by referee Randy Neumann after just 1 minute and 33 seconds.

“I still say that I could have continued,” Williams said. “Even Mike said the fight shouldn’t have been stopped.”

While the stoppage was the subject of public conjecture at the time, Williams’ life after boxing was the subject of much publicity, nearly all of it negative.

Several years ago it became known that he was dead broke and working as a security guard at Ground Zero in New York.

The onetime top contender had fallen hard, and one had to wonder if he could pull himself back up from what appeared to be the abyss.

“I was angry for a long time,” recalled Williams, who says that unsavory investment advisers and attorneys misappropriated about $950,000 of his hard-earned money. “One day I had to decide if I was going to continue to be angry, or if I was going to turn the anger into a positive. I can’t do anything about the past. I have to live with what happened.”

One reality that was even harder than the loss of his fortune was the loss of his 12-year-old daughter Nijah, who passed away from leukemia.

“Nothing could have prepared me for that,” Williams said. “Nijah wasn’t born during my heyday, but I loved her and she loved me. She was my baby, my hero.”

Williams told me he downplays the fact that he was a fighter, and that many people had no idea that he twice challenged for the heavyweight championship of the world against Holmes and Tyson, the two premier heavyweights of the past quarter century. 

“That all happened such a long time ago,” he said. “By the time I quit boxing, my heart and soul wasn’t into it anymore. My last fight, I should have beaten that guy getting out of bed. I knew then that I had to walk away.”

Williams’ final fight was a seventh round TKO loss to Anthony Green, who was 8-2, in October 1997 at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.

“When you fall flat on your back, if you can look up, you can get up. Thankfully I got up, and I’m still standing.”

Rest in peace, champ.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Larry Holmes vs Carl "The Truth" Williams (NBC Broadcast)

Mike Tyson vs Carl Williams

James "Quick" Tillis vs Carl Williams- Entire Fight.wmv

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  1. Jethro's Flute 06:58pm, 10/03/2014

    “I agree—His fight with Tyson should not have been stopped”.

    He didn’t answer the referee when asked if he wanted to continue. He had the square root of no chance of winning and the referee would have been putting his life in danger, letting him continue on.

  2. bikermike 09:46am, 09/30/2014

    Irish Frankie…..You make your point very well
    ...put a guy with a pulse in a ringside seat, give him a scorecard and a No.2 pencil…...
    True that !!

  3. bikermike 09:37am, 09/30/2014

    You know Ted….

    You have more knowledge than most ...in the matter of investing huge amounts of earnings over a short period….in order to leave a professional athlete from any discipline financially secure…or at least with a base fund to live off in his older years.  If he needs it ....fine…if he doesn’t…so what..he can use it as a bonus

    A commission could insist on vetting contracts to assure funds were rightfully distributed…..including a variety of options for any winnings….large or small

  4. bikermike 09:26am, 09/30/2014

    Nice article and some good posts share my respect for Carl Williams and his family and frends.
    Williams got two shots….Holmes won a decision…(slow paced effort…Holms lost some fans for this performance) ...
    Tyson was stopped early…to avoid damage or ???  Didn’t think early stoppage by referee was good for either boxer..and not the fans…
    Thank you for some great moments

  5. Vinny 07:01am, 04/13/2013

    I had the good fourtune to befriend Carl in his later years.I am very sad at his passing but I know he was at peace with his situation and he loved his family very much. He never lost his sense humor and we shared many laughs. God Bless Carl!

  6. nicolas 11:54am, 04/09/2013

    Sadly, for whatever reason, Williams, Michael Dokes, and Jimmy Young have died very young. Joe Frazier and Ron Lyle made it to their late 60’s. Strange that what would be considered a more brutal time of boxing that heavyweight champs Jess Willard to Jack Sharkey all made it passed 80, with the last two Schmelling and Sharkey made it past 90. Of course Jimmy McClarnin also made it past 90, and Jake LaMotta is still with us today past 90.

  7. raxman 04:18pm, 04/08/2013

    again i’m reminded why I love this site. good stories well written. and then the youtube videos to go with
    a few things struck watching the holmes fight - 1. two judges scoring the fight 11rounds to 4 seems outrageous. 2. Williams out jabbed holmes for the most part but let himself down I think by not throwing more right hands. and 3. these are big guys 6’3, 6’4 and around 220 and they were so athletic, they moved and fought - even the smaller HW’s ie the ones up from cruiser like adamek and haye don’t move as gracefully or fight with the same energy. I wonder if the modern day strength and conditioning doesn’t take away the looseness (for want of better term) - I can’t believe its just a talent thing. the HW era of holmes, Williams etc was hardly a super talented one

  8. andrew 03:05pm, 04/08/2013

    r.i.p champ

  9. Bob Mladinich 12:37pm, 04/08/2013

    I stand corrected on Holmes-Williams not being the last 15 round heavyweight title fight.  Thank you readers for bringing it to my attention. My mistake.

  10. Eric 11:54am, 04/08/2013

    It seems like the worlds of professional boxing & professional wrestling have a great deal of participants who die rather young or before their time.

  11. SGT GARY 10:45am, 04/08/2013


  12. peter 09:28am, 04/08/2013

    I agree—His fight with Tyson should not have been stopped. Randy Neumann pulled the trigger too soon. I felt bad for Williams. His title shot would never come again.

  13. Richey 07:40am, 04/08/2013

    Holmes’ fights against Spinks were also scheduled for 15 rounds.

  14. Robert Newman 07:26am, 04/08/2013

    Met him a few years back at the IBHOF.  He was very low key, didn’t have a name tag on, usually given to “celebrity” boxers who were on hand for the festivities.  When I approached him, he was almost shy and surprised to be recognized.  We talked for a bit until a young, unknowing fan approached and asked, “Are you a boxer?”  Williams softly replied, “No, I’m not.”  We looked at each other, grinned and left it at that.

  15. nicolas 06:41pm, 04/07/2013

    I don’t recall that most felt that Williams won the Holmes fight, though I actually did, but then I was no big fan of Holmes. It was not the last scheduled 15 round fight though. I think all the 15 round fights that went afterwards, both Holmes-Spinks fights, and Spinks two lineal defenses against the Norwegian fighter and Cooney were were scheduled for 15. It seems that so many of these heavyweights are dying so young? I’m a little older than Mr. Williams was, and it always brings to me by mortality when someone close to my age passes away.

  16. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:28pm, 04/07/2013

    Robert Ecksel-This article really made me sad….which reminds me ...give an unqualified individual a ringside seat, a score card, and a No. 2 pencil and you have just given them the power to make or break a fighter’s career, which in so many cases is all that they really have to hold onto in this world!

  17. Sean 05:29pm, 04/07/2013

    Nice work, terribly sad news.. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Williams in 2006 and he was nothing but class.

  18. Ted Sares 04:56pm, 04/07/2013

    Very sad news. Nice and respectful write up, Bob. Thank you.

    By the way, Mike Silver says to say hello as I was with him today in Boston.

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