Ten-Count for Carl “The Truth” Williams
“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.