News February 2013

Richard “The Secret” Williams talks to Livefight

12.02.13

Part 1

By Michael J Jones

Talented; Willaims


In January 2001 I sat down to watch a young British prospect in a dangerous-looking Commonwealth title fight against Canadian Tony Badea. The bout in Sussex, England, saw Badea’a solid 24-3-1 record seem formidable for the 10-1 Londoner. While Badea had mixed in world class, fought several ten rounders etc, the young Londoner had scored a run of stoppages against journeymen and unknowns.

Three rounds, several knock-downs, and a boxing clinic later and Richard “The Secret” Williams had arrived as a major force in British boxing.

“It was a great feeling winning my first title” remembers Richard fondly some 12 years later. Speaking over the phone from his home in London, the former IBO champion spoke at length about his drama-packed career to Livefight. It was a career that nearly crashed before it had even begun.

As an amateur fighter, Williams was a former ABA champion who was involved in one of the best unpaid bouts ever seen. Taking on formidable puncher Wayne Alexander in the London ABA semi-finals, many wrote the less-experienced man off.

“People still talk about that fight to this day” reveals Richard, now 40-years-old. “I’d seen him before knocking everybody out, he even won the previous year’s ABA’s with straight knock-outs. Although me and Wayne had won our previous fights easily, people were talking to me before the fight like I was going to the gallows!”

The three-round bout was far more brutal than many pro contests as both came out swinging. Both were down, both rocked on various occasions but a strong finish by Williams gave him the edge by razor-thin decision.

“It was a very hard fight” sighs Williams. “Wayne was a nice guy but a very hard puncher. To this day, I still say he is the hardest puncher I ever faced amateur or pro; even his jabs felt like right-hands it was unbelievable!”

“I learned I could take a punch in that fight that’s for sure.”

A two years later and Williams decided to turn pro at 23-years-old. A couple of wins were followed by his first pro defeat to slippery southpaw Michael Alexander on points over four rounds. The devastated novice had to take stock of his training camp...

“I turned pro with Carly Carrew as my trainer and I just felt like working with him wasn’t quite suiting me. I’d trained for six months solid before I’d turned pro but there I was a few fights later and I just felt like I was garbage, like nothing felt right.”

“Against (Michael) Alexander, no disrespect to him, but I was in there getting totally out-boxed and thinking ‘I should be able to beat this guy’, I’d turned pro from being the number two amateur at my weight in the country.”

“I never felt right training in Carly’s gym but one good thing was working and sparring with Mark Prince and Maurice Forbes. Me and (former pro) Maurice used to spar every day and I’d always go home with some injury. Some days I’d be staring at my gym bag and ask myself ‘do I really want to do this?’ (laughs). He beat me up every day; every time I’d go home something else would hurt”

“When I started coming home and I didn’t have a black-eye or bruised ribs, I knew I must have been getting better.”

Following his first pro loss, the gifted upstart would also have an unusual medical problem before continuing his career. He explains.

“I took some time-out after my loss to think about what I needed to do. I kept feeling sick whenever I was training hard and I ended up leaving Carly. Shortly after that I went up to Romford to spar Georgie Smith. After two days I picked up a small graze on my eye but it never quite went away. Then on the Friday Georgie walked in with a cold-sore on his lip. That night I put antiseptic on my eye and went to bed...when I got up the next morning my neck was the thickness of my head!”

Williams was badly swollen up and covered all over by nasty scabs. People thought it was glandular fever and the illness proved hard to shake off.

“That (illness) was the main reason I was out of the ring for so long” says Richard, who was out for two years after the Alexander defeat. “About a year later I went back to the doctors and he said straight away it was actually cold-sores. It healed after a while but I was cursing Georgie Smith for a while (laughs). I’ve forgiven him now!”

The 2-1 fighter then hooked up with seasoned trainers James Cook and Don Davies to continue his career. It was a decision which felt right from the very start.

“I learned so much from them (Cook and Davies), being calm under pressure was a main thing. I was never a guy who threw a lot of punches, sometimes I wished I had a high work-rate but I was always more into precision punching, quality over quantity.”
Keeping calm under pressure was a fine attribute to learn with his new sparring partners...

“Before my comeback fight I was working hard in the gym and sparring Ted Bami. Ted threw a lot of punches and hit really hard, so did Spencer Fearon...we had some crazy spars (laughs).”

“I came back and fought a guy named Pedro Callagher and I just felt amazing in there. I felt so strong and aggressive, like I could have picked him up and thrown him out of the ring.”

The rejuvenated Williams would stop eight victims on the bounce to set up his Commonwealth title fight with Badea. Apart from his natural talents and training camp, Williams also had another pre-fight boost before his biggest test.

“I’m not into spirituality or meditating and that but before that fight my sister said to play a relaxation tape at bedtime the night before the fight. I went to Crawley and played the tape at night and had the best nights sleep I’d ever had; I slept like a baby!”

Now 11-1 (10) after seeing off Badea and the new Commonwealth light-middleweight champion, the world appeared at William’s feet as fights loomed with fellow domestic 154lb hot-shots Alexander, Anthony Farnell and Steve Roberts. However, another serious illness again threatened his career just as it was taking off.

“I’d just won my first title and didn’t want to hang around I wanted to build on the momentum and get straight back into training. It was only a week later I came down with a cold and I couldn’t shake it off.”

After feeling drained and out of breath the struggling champion tried hard to train through the illness before Matchroom insisted their fighter got checked out. Upon seeing a specialist, Richard was diagnosed with a rare condition called ‘Sarcoidosis’. The condition can only be detected via a chest X-ray and means a person’s lungs take in more oxygen but less was getting into the blood steam.

The stricken fighter was left devastated at the news.

Big puncher; The Secret could hit


“They told me it could take up to two years to clear up. They offered to give me steroids to help me but I told them if I did that I couldn’t box anymore. I was forced to wait it out but I was totally distraught; this was meant to be the beginning of big things (winning the Commonwealth title). I cried and even considered retiring at 29.”

After some time-out, the still-suffering Williams decided maybe he could continue his career. Five months after beating Badea, the champion was scheduled to defend his Commonwealth title for the first time. After the original opponent failed a brain scan at late notice, Williams’ title fight was aborted and a new opponent was offered the fight.

Before later becoming a trial-horse, around that time, Hussein Osman was a formidable opponent. Huge at the weight, Osman never took a backward step and was as tough as old boots. He was also nine pounds heavier than the below-par Williams.

“I’d actually travelled up on the train with Osman to Hartlepool” states Willams. “He was heavier and it was just a weird fight where nothing seemed to be working for me.”
In a savage encounter, Osman rose from a heavy early knock-down to pummel the smaller Williams through the middle rounds. By the last round, Williams’ left eye was completely closed as both men were showing signs of war.

“I actually thought I’d scored another knock-down after the first one in the third but the ref’ didn’t give a count. I started well but I ran out of energy after that. I remember thinking to myself that I just needed to get through the middle rounds. I took rounds four to seven off but tried to pick it up in the later rounds. A last-round knock-down got me home by a point (actually 95-93)....I’ve never watched that fight back to this day.”

After receiving high praise for his dismantling of Badea, Williams was slated by the press for his life-and-death struggle with Osman.

“I always tried to not take any notice of what was written about me but they were all saying the Badea fight was a one-off and I could never keep that level of performance...yeah that upset me a bit.”

Williams would answer his critics with his next few performances as he also started shaking off the effects of his illness. In the second half of 2001, the experienced duo of Andrew Murray and Shannon Taylor were swept aside in three and four rounds respectively as the champion looked back to his best.

Williams explains...

“I still had my condition for the Murray fight but it was getting better. I was training and not feeling great before the fight though. My girlfriend was pregnant with our first son and I think I had sympathy pains...I was being sick in the morning and felt really lethargic and finding it hard to train. Then two weeks before the fight my son was born and I felt great afterwards.”

The defending champion was cut in the first from a clash of heads but opened up in the third to secure the stoppage. Murray had been a good fighter but was a few years past his best. One man that wasn’t faded was the 29-2-1 Aussie Taylor who had just fought a prime Shane Mosley in America.

“He surprised me in the first how sharp and aggressive he was” remembers Williams, who dropped the first three rounds in the fight. “I knew Mosley had beaten him by jabbing the body and shooting punches over the jab but I wasn’t anywhere near as fast as Mosley. I through the jabs to the body but didn’t throw any right-hands. That was intentional to fool him of my intentions.”

The champion came to life at the end of the third as he finally let his pet right-hand go...

“I didn’t get going until the end of the third, I knew when I threw the right it’d get him. I had him in big trouble in the fourth but for a worrying moment I thought he was going to survive! My legs had started to kill me so I opened up in that instant to get him out there. That was the only reason I upped the pressure again. Even after the fight my legs were cramping badly...if he’d had gotten through that fourth round it could have been a very different fight.”

With the impressive Taylor victory, Williams also picked up the IBO belt. The champion decided to relinquish his Commonwealth title. In his first IBO defence he took on dangerous Welshman Paul Samuels at Brentwood, Essex. Samuels was supremely gifted and hit hard but was erratic. Unfortunately for “The Secret” Samuels brought his ‘A’ game for two good fights.

“The first fight he caught me with a thumb. It was unintentional but it cut me and soon the blood was running into my eye and I couldn’t see out of it.”

Smelling blood (literally) Samuels opened up on his injured foe and the combination-punching from both was electric. “I’d hurt him in the first with a good shot but I wanted to box him. When I got cut that went out the window! I just thought ‘right, let’s go to war and see who has the biggest heart’. I couldn’t see and kept missing my punches so I got in very close to Samuels. I thought he was starting to blow and get tired but the ref stopped the fight.”

With the exciting fight in the balance, referee Ritchie Davies stopped the fight making it a technical draw near the end of the third session. Williams complained at the fight being stopped but was soon full of praise for ref’ Davies.

“As soon as I looked in the mirror (and saw the cut) I said ‘good call’. He did the right thing it looked horrendous.”

Another fight was mooted but Williams only wanted one man in the opposite corner for his next bout.

“What really made me angry after the fight was when I saw that Glenn McCrory said I ‘wouldn’t be in a hurry to fight Samuels again’. I refused any other fight I said I only wanted Samuels again.”

Six months later the two men met again at the same venue with the IBO belt on the line. Williams knew what to expect and was fired up for the rematch.

“Before that fight I couldn’t even look at the IBO belt, didn’t even want it in my house after that fight. I trained really hard for the rematch as I knew he’d been inactive before the first fight so he’d be sharper. I thought about him every day...then a little before the fight I got told by a writer Samuels was saying he’d been robbed in the first fight...that made me laugh.”

The second fight was just as intense as the first, but this time Williams stayed one step ahead of his taller foe to grind out a conclusive ten-round stoppage. The champion was only the second man to beat Samuels (the other being old foe Wayne Alexander).

“I was so fired up for that fight, I knew he couldn’t out-box me or beat me on the inside, I was there in round eight I had hardly broken sweat I was in such good shape.”

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