|Former Heavyweight Contender Carl Williams brings ‘The Truth’ to Doghouse
INTERVIEW By Sean Newman (Nov 22, 2006)
In early 1982, 22-year-old Carl Williams began his professional boxing career with a four round unanimous decision win over Greg Stephany. It wasn’t long after that when he found himself staring down the reigning heavyweight champion after only 16 fights. That champion was Larry Holmes, who had a 47-0 record and was making his 20th title defense and looking to eclipse Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0 very soon. Williams, though woefully inexperienced in comparison to Holmes, put up an exceptional effort and almost pulled off the victory.
Following that fight, Williams had a few disappointments in his career, especially when he was stopped in 93 seconds by a prime Mike Tyson. Interestingly, Williams was the last opponent for both Holmes and Tyson before their respective unbeaten streaks were ended. Recently, Carl Williams generously took the time to talk about his title fights, his war against Jesse Ferguson, why he felt his fight with Tommy Morrison was “rigged”, and his involvement with the F.I.S.T. organization.
Williams was the epitome of a skilled boxer in his day. Watch a few of his fights, and you will see that Carl Williams is one of the best heavyweight fighters never to win the world title…and that’s the truth!
Sean Newman: What are you doing to keep yourself busy these days?
CW: Well, unfortunately, I’m working like a slave. (Laughs) Not really. I work for a security firm, as a matter of fact I’m assigned to Verizon. I’m also a fire safety director. New York has a code, if a building is over a certain height, you have to have a fire safety director, and you have to go to school for that. That’s pretty much what I’m assigned to do.
SN: This is something I’ve always wanted to ask you: Where did you get the nickname ‘The Truth’?
CW: People ask me that sometimes, if I get asked that a million times a year you get a million different answers in stories. ‘The Truth’ came about because we used to say if you’re the truth, you’ll eventually come to the light, and that was evident in my case. I adapted that name from the street, I guess. People used to say, ‘you’re bad, you’re the truth’. I said, ‘wow, the truth, I am the truth.’
SN: You began your career 16-0, including a win over James ‘Quick’ Tillis. You were often compared to Larry Holmes because of your jab and movement. Three questions about this fight. First, what did you think of the comparisons between yourself and Holmes? Were they valid?
CW: They were definitely valid, definitely accurate. Even though it was a tough fight, I thought I edged him out in points, which I did in punch stats. But he was a popular champion at the time, and I said to him “I’m going to push those legs into a journey of no return.” It was a great, historic fight and a great introduction of myself to the public, what I was about. It was just unfortunate that I didn’t win the title. When I didn’t win the title after fighting my heart out, I knew my life would not be like it should be had I won.
SN: Having only 16 fights and going up against an experienced champion who was 47-0, do you think that the fight was too soon for you?
CW: Well, many people thought I took it too soon. I considered myself the uncrowned king, the young heir to the throne. At that time, I felt like I was the baddest heavyweight in all the land, Holmes included, even though he was the guy I modeled myself after. The funny thing about the fight is, many people thought I gave him a break, and I wonder that myself. They said I let him off the hook and let him survive, when I had him ready to go.
SN: Finally, you acquitted yourself well in the fight and only lost by a point on one card. What are your recollections of the fight?
CW: It was a good fight, jab for jab. I was outjabbing a jabber, outjabbing the old lion and he knew the young lion had outjabbed him. It was different for people to see because they knew Holmes had the best jab in the business up to that point. And nobody had ever outjabbed him or beat him to the punch, and here I am, a young kid, 16-0, knocking his head every time he moved, I was touching him. It had to be a big surprise to him, because he had never been outjabbed. That was his bread and butter. It was a great thrill for me, a great experience.
SN: You go on to defeat Jesse Ferguson before losing on an early knockout to Mike Weaver, who was a former champion. What happened?
CW: Ferguson was probably one of my toughest fights ever. He knocked me down twice, I got up and knocked him out in the seventh round. It was a brutal war. As for Weaver, they were talking about a fight with Tyson even back then. I don’t know if I took Weaver lightly, I know I dropped my hands. When I dropped my hands, he came in and hit me with a hook. Even though he was on the receiving end and ready to go, that haymaker came out of nowhere, which he was known for. He was ready to go, and all of a sudden, BOOM. After I made that simple mistake dropping my hands, guess what? I landed on my ass. He knocked me down three times, and I couldn’t recover.
SN: You had another good run, and then the Tyson fight. Was that fight stopped too quickly?
CW: The fight was definitely was stopped too quickly because Don King already had a deal for an Evander Holyfield fight, but they wanted to get rid of me. They wanted me to step aside, they weren’t giving me nothing, so I think it was already set. He knocked me down, I got up, and all of sudden the referee said I waited too long to say something. Then when he stopped it, I said, “what are you doing, what are you stopping the fight for?” He said, “It’s over.” Then I think I said to him, “how much is Don paying you?”
SN: What would you have done had you been allowed to continue, especially with the hindsight of seeing how Buster Douglas defeated Tyson in Tyson’s next fight?
CW: I wasn’t hurt, I got up at the count of three. I could see if I got up wobbly, or shaking or if I did have my legs under me. It was loud, I must say, it was really loud, but he was a foot away from me. I knew I got a bad deal. You could protest, but who in the hell wanted to hear that? By that time, the Holyfield fight was already in play. (Writer’s note: The Holyfield fight would not come off at that time as in Tyson’s next fight, Tyson would be knocked out by Buster Douglas).
I wanted to take him into the later rounds, take him into deep waters and drown him.
SN: You almost derailed Tommy Morrison’s fight against George Foreman by knocking him down twice in the fifth round and almost out. How was he able to get off the hook?
CW: Let me tell you something. That fight was so f*cking rigged, I’m so pissed about that. It was so rigged. I had him down twice, and don’t get me wrong, he caught me too. But I had him down twice, and guess what they did? I know what they did because I know (Bob) Arum, that piece of garbage. They gave him an eight count. There was no eight count, though! The referee told us the eight count was waived, I said okay. And all of a sudden, he was getting an eight count. Now how the hell do you explain that? There was NO eight count, and he got one. Arum was looking at the Morrison-Foreman fight. They figured they could get me out of there 1-2-3, but they didn’t realize I was coming with guns. I had him, he was ready to go. They gave him an eight count and there was no eight count. Just shows you how things are. Unfortunately, I had to live through that and live a different life than I would have obviously lived had I won those fights that I felt that I deserved. Fate came and hit me in the ass. It’s unfortunate because I put so much into it,
and picked myself up so well moving on and trying something else. I had one of the greatest opportunities in life just snatched out from under me like a rug. There’s no justice there. Bob Arum’s a big player.
SN: What is your opinion of the heavyweight division today, if you follow boxing?
CW: Unfortunately I do not follow boxing today. I’ve seen the Klitschkos, I saw a little bit of the last fight with Calvin Brock even though I fell asleep on it. I know he knocked Brock out in the seventh round, but that pretty much sums it up. That’s what it is today. I see it, and I go to sleep. I don’t see any excitement in it. I know the average fan doesn’t, and I know boxing is taking a hit in that respect.
SN: Let’s talk about your life after boxing. You are one of the success stories of F.I.S.T., the organization created by Gerry Cooney to support fighters after retirement. Tell us about your journey after boxing, how it led you to F.I.S.T. and what that organization has done for you.
CW: I was up at the boxing hall of fame and I saw Gerry Cooney up there, and I was working at the Trump Taj Mahal at the time walking around, helping people out, I was an ambassador. It was entertainment. I was having some trouble with the people and I told Gerry about it because I figured he may be able to talk to Trump about it and see what was going on with me over there. Gerry told me he had two jobs coming up under F.I.S.T. with HBO. He said, “I’ll give you one of the jobs,” and I said, “okay.” So I waited around and waited around and nothing happened and then Gerry came to me after six to eight months. He told me Lou DiBella, who was vice president at HBO Boxing at the time, wasn’t going to give me the job because he was going into boxing himself. He was going to need Bob Arum, and Bob Arum told Lou not to give me the job. Can you believe that shit? Gerry said what I could do in the meantime is that he had a connection with a security firm and he could hook me up with that to keep money in my pocket, and then if I wanted to go to HBO when Lou left we could try it all over again. I got hooked up with the security firm and became a fire safety director, etc., and started doing pretty good there. I kept moving, and things are working out, but I’m not where I want to be because I want to do some color commentary at some point.
SN: Is there any advice you would give to young boxers coming up today, either for training or planning for life after boxing?
CW: I think they should manage their money the right way because nothing is forever. When it’s over, you think your friends are friends, some may be, but watch your money. Watch how you spend your money. Nothing is forever. As soon as you start making some money, think about investing it into something that will be there well after your boxing career is over.
SN: What would you consider the highlight of your career in boxing?
CW: The highlight of my career was fighting Larry Holmes. Also fighting Jesse Ferguson. Both fights proved to me that I was what I thought I was. With Holmes, I outboxed him and totally turned things upside down. Jesse Ferguson was one of the toughest fights I had as a fighter, and although I was knocked down twice by a vicious left hook, I was able to muster up what I was made of and knock him out in the tenth round after all of that. He was 12-0 coming out of Philadelphia when I fought him. He was tough, and I had to break down.
SN: How would you like to be remembered by fans?
CW: Just that I was honest and fair, that I was not a dirty fighter. And one day in my life, the baddest heavyweight in all the land, Larry Holmes, became the SECOND baddest heavyweight in all the land.
SN: Thanks so much for your time, Mr. Williams, it’s been a real honor to talk to you.
Writer’s note: I would like to thank Mr. Mike Smith of the F.I.S.T. organization for his assistance in arranging this interview. We at DoghouseBoxing.com encourage all of our readers to visit the F.I.S.T. website and make any contributions you can at www.helpboxers.org.
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