The Artistic Afterlife of Carl “The Truth” Williams

By Peter Weston Wood on April 15, 2013
The Artistic Afterlife of Carl “The Truth” Williams
Dear Carl, wherever you are, I hope you’re looking down at my painting, at our painting.

Dear Carl “The Truth” Williams,

I’m sorry this letter did not reach you in time. But I hope, wherever you are, you will still read it and smile.

This letter’s tardiness is entirely my fault.

Instead of jumping in my car and visiting you in the hospital, like I should have done, I was just too forgetful and self-absorbed.

Carl, I had something really good to show you. It would have made you sit up in your hospital bed and smile from ear to ear. It would have made you feel happy and proud. What I had to show you would have released you from your nightmare of sickness—at least for a little while.

I was your deliverer. But I was too caught up with my own life and petty problems. I failed you.

I’m so sorry.

I think I’m writing this letter to soften my feeling of guilt. But I am also writing it to reach out to you.

Recently, two boxing friends of mine drove all the way up from New York City to visit you at the Westchester Medical Center—Jimmy Monteverde, the chief-editor of, and Eddie Post, the proud owner of Spartan Sporting Goods. Eddie is still proud when you stepped into the ring wearing his white satin trunks with his Spartan logo for your 1985 title bout with Larry Holmes.

My friends visited you but didn’t stay long.  Jimmy said you were all alone and opened your eyes only briefly. Tubes were running in and out of your body. It was more than sad.

They left flowers by your bed.

Back in the 1970s I also visited a famous boxer. I had read the great middleweight champion, Mickey “The Toy Bulldog” Walker, was dying in a Bronx hospital. When I walked into his room, “The Toy Bulldog” was lying there all alone, trembling between two white sanforized sheets. It was horrible to see a great champion now helpless. He looked up at me, a complete stranger; I looked down at him. It was so awkward. A feeling of utter loneliness and sadness filled his room. We didn’t know what to say to each other. I spoke a few uncomfortable words. I think I said, “My father and I think you are a great man.”

He nodded.

I left flowers beside his bed, too. A dozen red roses.

Carl, you and I knew each other, but more as stereotypes. You—the successful pro heavyweight contender; me—an amateur boxer. The truth is we never knew each other too well.

But we worked out together at The Cage Gym on Ferris Avenue in White Plains. I watched you spar and hit the bags. We once ran across each other when we were doing roadwork on the Bronx River Parkway trail. We stopped and briefly chatted. I remember in the gym in 1996 I snapped your picture as you squared off in your boxing stance. I told you it was for a painting I planned to paint.

That’s what I wanted to show you—that painting.

It’s not a great painting, in fact, it’s rather amateurish, but it’s of you with the words “Strength, Speed, Skill, Stamina and Spirit” frame your torso. It hangs prominently, and proudly, on our wall at home.

Carl, you were, arguably, one of the best heavyweights in the last 30 years never to have won a world title. When you stepped into the boxing ring, you were, unbeknownst to yourself, stepping into the most ironic sport of all. Boxing is ugly and vice-ridden. But it draws out the most beautiful and virtuous aspects from within a human being—strength, speed, skill, stamina and spirit. That’s exactly the point of my painting. And I used your face to prove my point.

Carl, I am ashamed that I didn’t visit you in the hospital and show you my painting. Our painting.

I was saddened to learn of your death and I was saddened by the lack of media coverage you received. You deserved so much more.

But perhaps the lack of coverage is due to, not your death, but the slow death of boxing—such an anachronistic sport.

But a boxer like Carl “The Truth” Williams is not an anachronistic man. You will continue to personify the blessed virtues of the human being—strength, speed, skill, stamina and spirit.

You personify the beauty of boxing.

Carl, wherever you are, I hope you’re looking down at our painting, feeling happy and proud, and smiling from ear to ear.

Our painting with your face looking out at me will forever resonate with an artistic afterlife.

I’m grateful our paths crossed.

With Great Respect,

Peter Wood, Your Friend

(Peter Wood, an English teacher at White Plains High School , is the author of Confessions of a Fighter—Battling Through the Golden Gloves and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, two memoirs published by Ringside Books.)

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

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  1. andrew 07:53am, 04/17/2013

    one of my favorite writers!

  2. Bob 11:06am, 04/16/2013

    Outstanding story, Pete. Hopefully this experience provided a very valuable lesson. A friend of mine once told me if you have to think about whether to go to someone’s hospital bedside or funeral, you should always go. For some reason those words of wisdom stuck with me, and I have taken the advice.  It has served me well. Hopefully The Truth’s family will reading your moving story and I’m sure it will bring them a degree of comfort. You wear your heart on your sleeve in your stories, which always makes them such a pleasure to read.

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