Towering and Glowering

By Ted Sares on March 21, 2015
Towering and Glowering
“I knew Tiger Williams was a tough guy. I made my mind up I would knock this guy out.”

Earnie Shavers might have been the best heavyweight who never won a title, but Roy Williams might well have been one of the best fighters nobody ever heard of…

“I wouldn’t drive through Philadelphia because I didn’t want to take a chance on running into Williams”—Earnie Shavers

“Williams was from Philadelphia, and our fight, man, it was life and death for both of us. They called and asked me to fight him twice, and I said ‘keep it.’ I fought him in Las Vegas. It was a 10-round war, back and forth. In the last nine minutes, I was in trouble. I knew he was a tough guy, an ex-sparring partner. To this day, I don’t know how I won this fight…I had to feed my family.”—Shavers

“Pay up motherfucker.”—Williams to Ali for sparring money in Zaire

I saw the fight between Roy Williams and Earnie Shavers on television on December 11, 1976. It took place at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, and they almost pulled a Heidi. Thankfully I was able to see this bout to its amazing conclusion. I just got through watching the video again and still marvel at what I witnessed. Hell, I thought I had seen just about everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Roy “Tiger” Williams was a classic Philadelphia fighter except for one thing. Most of his wars were fought in the gym and Roy was known throughout the boxing world as the toughest gym fighter around and someone you might want to spare with to prepare for a rough fight. In Zaire, for example, Ali sparred for weeks with big Roy and told the media, maybe to hype things up, that Williams was bigger, stronger, tougher, and hit harder than Foreman.

Roy was both big (6’5”), weighed around 240, and extremely scary looking. He towered and glowered and according to Ali, had “sledge-hammer fists.” He also had great ring perspicacity, deceptive hand speed, threw punches in combinations, and possessed a short and deadly left hook that he launched with incredible speed. To make scary matters even scarier, he made a loud grunting sound every time he threw a punch.

Big Roy was known as a very moody, temperamental person and much of this may have had to do with the reported treatment he received from Ali. It was rumored that Ali abused him physically in sparring and verbally in camp. Williams also thought Ali owed him money and that he and Ali sparred 10 rounds two days in a row, with both trying to hurt the other to settle the matter. In the end, Ali paid the Tiger what the he wanted. At any rate, Roy was feared or avoided by most of the fighters of his era. Perhaps with better handling and management he could have been a top contender or beyond. Though he haunted the gyms, he did have a stamina problem that probably could be traced to poor conditioning.

According to Larry Holmes, Williams, who was not in the business to make friends, was bitter and nasty about not getting any breaks and being overlooked for title fights and the attendant money. There is one story that Holmes tells about going to watch Williams fight, on a rare occasion when somebody agreed to fight him. Holmes was ringside, cheering on the man he had spent a couple of years with in training camp, and during a clinch Williams turned to Holmes and said from the ring: “Shut the fuck up.”

Known as the “Black Destroyer” and later (thanks to Ali) “The Acorn,” Shavers compiled a record built on consecutive stretches of brutal knockout victories, most of which happened inside the first few rounds.

The following quote from Earnie Shavers book, “Facing Ali,” attests to Roy’s reputation: “Ali had a sparring partner named Roy ‘Tiger’ Williams. He said, ‘If you beat Tiger Williams, I’ll give you a shot.’ I knew Tiger Williams. He was a tough, tough guy. So I made my mind up I would knock this guy out…”

And that brings us to December 11, 1976 at the Aladdin.

The Fight

The bell rang and Earnie started strong hitting Roy with some of his patented bombs but the Tiger was going nowhere. He had never been stopped, but he had never faced a fighter with Shaver’s one-punch power. The fight progressed through ebb and flow with most of it going Ernie’s way, but an ever-so-subtle change occurred around the 8th round as Shavers began to tire and the Tiger began to snap his punches off with more authority grunting with each punch—uhuu, uhuu, uhuu.. Shavers had built up his upper body with weights and commentator Jerry Quarry sagely suggested such a technique could tighten up Earnie’s muscles and tire him out.

In any event, the Tiger was beginning to roar. The ninth round saw a big change both ways. The Tiger started strong and landed a number of solid shots. He seemed in charge but then tired himself midway through the round and Ernie came on bombing away. Roy had to hold on and regroup. With about a minute to go, the moment happened. Roy snapped off one of the hardest left hooks I have ever seen and staggered Earnie who was now in big trouble. After some follow-up shots, Shavers looked ready to go as Tiger mixed short left hooks with two or three short right leads on top of Shaver’s shaven head. Earnie had no answer and likely was saved by the bell. He staggered back to his corner. The crowd, which included Joe Louis, was up and screaming; they were anticipating the kill. Clearly, this was the Tiger’s time to roar.

The last round began and Shavers came out visibly exhausted while Williams appeared confident and ready to end matters, finally emerging as a serious heavyweight contender. He quickly moved Earnie into a corner and applied brutal, nonstop punishment until Referee Buddy Basilico called a standing 8-count. Tiger thought the fight had been stopped, turned around and raised his hands in victory but when he turned back to see a determined Shavers still standing, his spirit visibly sagged. Still, he came on and hit Shavers with blows that would surely have knocked out anyone else.

But then Earnie started to connect with some medium hard blows to Roy’s body which slowed him down. All of a sudden, Earnie connected with one of his deadly uppercuts with Tiger on the ropes and it straightened him up. The Tiger was now hurt and Earnie sensed it. Now it was his turn to bully the Tiger into a corner and begin throwing his own bombs. Roy could not withstand the ferocious onslaught and Referee Basilico gave him a standing eight, the second in the round but to two different fighters. Earnie stood poised, albeit exhausted, and ready to continue. As the ref ordered Roy to begin fighting he took a step forward, hesitated, and then collapsed in the corner a beaten man. Earnie sagged over the ropes too tired to celebrate. The fight was over. Earnie had won, but the Tiger had indeed roared.

As Shavers would later say, “I trained hard. The first eight rounds, I was ahead on points. He came back in the ninth and the beginning of the tenth, and damned near destroyed me. But I knew I had to win for the Ali fight. They gave me a standing eight count, asked me questions, asked my name, where I was fighting, who I was fighting? I said Las Vegas, Earnie Shavers, Roy Williams. So I knew then, I had to go on the chin and stop him. He came forward toward me and I stepped in and hit him on the chin and I hurt him. And that’s when God gave me the strength, and I stopped him.”

Roy would close out his career with seven straight wins, six by KO. His final record was a decent 30-6. Among his opponents were the capable Harold Carter, Larry Holmes, Jimmy Young, Jeff Merritt, Bob Stallings, and Henry Clark. I believe he now lives in Las Vegas though rumors abound as to what happened to him after he retired from boxing.

Shavers, of course, got his fight with Ali and God knows he earned it. He would finish with a marvelous record of 74 wins (an astounding 68 by KO), 14 losses and one draw. To this day, he still regards Roy “Tiger” Williams as his toughest opponent.

Ernie Shavers might have been the best heavyweight who never won a title, but Roy Williams might well have been one of the best fighters nobody ever heard of.

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Earnie Shavers vs Roy Williams 1976 12 11

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  1. Kid Blast 05:19am, 03/27/2015

    Where have you been Reverend Hassler?

  2. Tex Hassler 06:01pm, 03/26/2015

    I have watched William vs Shavers several time and man that is a CLASSIC with capital letters.

  3. Kid Blast 11:46am, 03/23/2015

    Thanks Joe.

    Thanks John.

  4. John aka L.L. Cool John 10:06am, 03/23/2015

    John Howard
    2024 Ocean Drive
    Oxnard, CA 93035

  5. Joe Bruno 09:26am, 03/23/2015

    I remember this fight. It was a war. I was there when Shavers went 15 rounds with Ali too.

    Great article, Ted.

  6. Kid Blast 06:36am, 03/23/2015

    Two are being sent to Oxnard, Cali, John

  7. John aka L.L. Cool John 06:38pm, 03/22/2015

    Re your comment, “A book has been sent to the source.”
    So, Ted, did I receive second place? I have a few birthdays coming up, and your books are always well received as gifts.
    You’re always controversial, and your articles and books are always accurate and well researched. You are a true historian of the game.

  8. Kid Blast 03:54pm, 03/22/2015

    Attention: I have learned from a reliable source that Roy is not in prison. He was released many years ago. He has performed at the Briscoe Awards in Philly and attended the 2013 PA. BHOF banquet where he was inducted. He actively performs around town with his doo-wop band.

    A book has been sent to the source.

  9. Kid Blast 02:56pm, 03/22/2015

    The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American Football League game played on November 17, 1968, between the Oakland Raiders and the visiting New York Jets. The game became notable not only for its finish, in which Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to win the game 43–32, but also for an incident in which NBC controversially broke away from its television coverage of the game on the east coast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time to broadcast the television film Heidi, causing many viewers to miss the Raiders’ comeback. I almost threw my beer at the monitor.

    Un thus fight, the program began to flicker to commercials as The Tiger raised his hands in what he thought was a victory. Thankfully, the station stayed with the entire fight but signed off the second Roy hit the deck, Very close to another Heidi.

  10. LaRue 02:22pm, 03/22/2015

    What’s a Hedie?

  11. Kid Blast 10:39am, 03/22/2015

    Unbelievable, You must really want my book.

  12. John aka L.L. Cool John 10:02am, 03/22/2015

    No, Ted, but there is one nearby.

    I contacted the Frankford. Historical Society and asked if Williams is a resident. I left a voicemail msg. Years ago while writing for ESB, I found Michael Nunn incarcerated in Leavenworth Federal Prison. I’ll try and get to the bottom of this Roy Williams mystery.

  13. Kid Blast 09:44am, 03/22/2015

    Is there a prison there John?

  14. John aka L.L. Cool John 09:39am, 03/22/2015

    FYI: BoxRec lists Roy Williams’ residence as Frankford, Pennsylvania. Msg me offline, Ted, and I’ll give you the address in which to send my book(s).

  15. John aka L.L. Cool John 09:30am, 03/22/2015

    Roy Williams was frozen out of the heavyweight scene much like Tim Witherspoon. Tim had Don King problems, and Williams was just too damn tough to get fights!
    I remember when Shavers had Holmes on same-sex street. Wow, Holmes did one hell of a job surviving that round.
    Nice article, Ted.

  16. nicolas 08:04am, 03/22/2015

    Yeah the standing 8 count destroyed Williams in that fight. Though it might have been that the ref felt that Shavers was knocked into the ropes and that it was ruled a knockdown. The other fight that I remember that this happened was when Bobby Czyz appeared to have a third round stoppage over Prince Charles Williams, but how things changed after that, took everything away from Czyz, after that I think I gave hm one round.

  17. Kid Blast 06:53pm, 03/21/2015

    Like many posters on, Irish knows his boxing and his boxing history.

    I am so very sick f so-called historians. I think this site s one of the few with legitimate historians.

  18. Kid Blast 06:31pm, 03/21/2015

    So the real question is: Where is Big Roy Williams today?

    Correct answer gets one of my books,

    Second place gets two of my books.,

  19. bikermike 06:29pm, 03/21/2015

    IRISH FRANKIE….man break me up…...
    You’re like a pool shark….you know where the shot is supposed to wind up…..but the flare you place….in the pathways…to get there..

  20. Kid Blast 06:03pm, 03/21/2015

    Bienvenue Billy Boy

  21. Dollarbond 06:00pm, 03/21/2015

    Never heard of him thanks for the info

  22. Kid Blast 06:00pm, 03/21/2015

  23. bikermike 05:49pm, 03/21/2015

    .....and as for the ethical issues that came to light in this article…........not much has changed….
    ...the guy never got his due

  24. bikermike 05:43pm, 03/21/2015 that time….a kid ...or come back tuff guy ...could get a shot on WEEEKLY ...NATIONAL TELEVISION…....supposed ‘stars’ had to ....toe the line…....mid seventies ...etc

  25. Kid Blast 05:29pm, 03/21/2015

    OK. I’ll be on the watch. Primo

  26. Primitivo Ibok Ala 04:04pm, 03/21/2015

    remembering yesterday!! nice article…..we didnt see any video footage of USADA getting blood sample of Floyd…watch out for the coming days the humors spread that the CEO of USADA mr Tygart was a closed friend of Al Haymon…

  27. LaRue 03:29pm, 03/21/2015

    What were you going to sat to CG?

  28. Kid blast 11:34am, 03/21/2015

    Thank bro. Yes, he was a gym rat deluxe

  29. Big Wally 11:03am, 03/21/2015

    Superb piece of writing Tedster. Riveting stuff on this mean guy.  A true gym rat

  30. Kid Blast 11:03am, 03/21/2015

    And Earnie could not close the show

  31. Eric 10:09am, 03/21/2015

    Remember Earnie’s bout with Bernardo Mercado in 1980. Great fight. If you ever get a chance to view that fight, I believe it is still up on Youtube. Another back and forth Shavers slugfest with another huge and forgotten former heavyweight contender.

  32. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:46am, 03/21/2015

    ch.-If his group does the Flamingo’s version of “I Ony Have Eyes For You”, it’s all systems go for me. The reverb sound they got in studio way back then is still tatooed in my brain and always will be I guess.

  33. Kid Blast 08:31am, 03/21/2015

    Thanks Lindy for your great post and thank you Chuck for solving the mystery. I thought he went the musical way and I suspect he might have a low voice, I sure as hell wouldn’t question his singing.

  34. ch. 08:15am, 03/21/2015

    Roy Williams was inducted, and attended, the 2013 PA BHOF banquet on May 19 at Romano’s in N.E.Phila. He is lead singer with his Doo-wop band that appears regularly in the Philadelphia area. He was still quite an imposing presence, but seemed shy and humble.

  35. Lindy Lindell 08:11am, 03/21/2015

    Yes, Ted, this is the kind of stuff that the people who hawk this site are MOST interested in.  Another piece on Ali, Mayweather, Tyson—please!  That is, forgettabout it!  There is a recent biography out on Gaspar Ortega, so maybe there is hope.  I was in my early-teens when I went to see Ortega fight against Ralph Dupas in my home town of Norfolk, VA—or should I say, when I went to see Dupas, because no one went to see Ortega—except to get beaten up.  Normally, kids don’t get to go into dressing rooms, but because I was connected with the locals in the know, I got to go into Dupas’ dressing room;  after listening to ten minutes of Dupas dispensing his canned speech about getting a title fight to the local press, I said that I wanted to go see Ortega.  Glances were exchanged and it was agreed to “let the kid see him.”  When we got into Ortega’s dressing room, he was still in the shower, completely exposed to myself and those who were escorting me.  One guy said something like “I don’t think he’s ready to receive you now.  Maybe another time.”  A few years before, when Joey Giardello came to town to display his wares versus designated opponent Al Andrews, I got my cherry broke regarding the boxing phenomena of the A Fighter and the B Fighter.  I had been a fan of Giardello before the fight (I was a twerp kid, the only kid at the weigh-in), but I found myself rooting rooting for Andrews, who fought what might have been his career best fight that night, or at least until he walked into a right hand in the tenth round, at which point all of the air went out of Andrews’ Little-Engine-That-Could effort.  It wouldn’t have mattered.  Giardello would have got the decision at any rate.  That night I learned that the Al Andrewses of the world would always be chucked into that bin designated for B fighters.
    Such recognition of B fighters was underscored later with Dupas-Ortega;  when we entered Ortega’s dressing room, there wasn’t a single other person there beyond the showering Ortega.

  36. Kid Blast 07:21am, 03/21/2015

    Eric, exactly

  37. Kid Blast 07:15am, 03/21/2015

    Yep, Bones will be doing some time in the Joint. He had a nice thang going for him there but got caught. Moron.

    Thanks for the kudo. Rumors on Roy ranged from doing a life term for murder to playing *singing in a small band with Larry Holmes to living in Las Vegas. Many ex-boxers move to Vegas to take jobs in the casinos and live pretty cheaply in the surrounding environs. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    I’d love to find out where he is now. I’ll re-research it,

  38. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:09am, 03/21/2015

    Ted Sares-I enjoyed this article very much. I hope his bad ass is alive and well in Sin City. He probably doesn’t give two shits for….still it would be nice if someone would give him a heads up so that he would know that he is still remembered here….which reminds me….Bones Adams off on retreat for six months here in Vegas for his pimping/selling limo driver gig. It makes me sad when guys like Bones and Kelly Pavlik self destruct…..they both were world class American fighters….of European descent for Christ’s sake….very rare creatures indeed.

  39. Clarence George 07:02am, 03/21/2015

    That “left yourself open” was no happy accident, I’ll warrant.  Evil!

  40. Kid Blast 06:59am, 03/21/2015

    You left yourself open for a neat response but with respect and charity, I’ll pass this time. hahaha

  41. Clarence George 06:49am, 03/21/2015

    Interesting piece on a guy of whom I knew pretty much nada.  I particularly enjoyed his “Shut the fuck up.”  Whatever Tiger is doing now, I think we can safely assume that he hasn’t found work with the State Department.  Well, maybe as a DS agent.  I was once asked to apply for that position.  Maybe I would have…if I’d known that Tiger would have had my back.

  42. Eric 05:57am, 03/21/2015

    The Shavers-Williams fight probably propelled Earnie into his title shot with Ali the following year. What a fight and what a comeback by Earnie. Roy Williams was one big scary looking hombre. Can’t believe that Richard Dunn actually defeated him by decision, I guess Dunn wasn’t as bad as he appeared when fighting Ali. Another big scary dude and one that broke Shavers jaw while sparring with Earnie, was Jeff ” Candy Slim” Merritt. Two huge guys that had the potential but I guess things didn’t quite fall into place,  maybe “politics,” or bad timing. Happens in every type of bidness under the sun. I’m sure there are talented folks out there in all walks of life,who for whatever reason, were held back and went unnoticed while those with less talent succeeded.

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