Exclusive Interview - Leon Williams: “I’ll have a title around my waist again very soon”
Ringnews24.com: When did you decide to get into boxing and can you tell us about your amateur career?
Leon Williams: I got into boxing after watching Mike Tyson fight as a kid. I think the first fight I watched was Tyson fight Frank Bruno in 1996. Watching that just made me think I’d love to become a boxer. So I joined Balham amateur boxing club at 15. I was there on and off for a while then I joined the Fitzroy Lodge gym in Kennington. I had 17 amateur fights. I fought twice at the London ABAs. In one tournament I knocked out every opponent I fought but I dislocated my thumb in the preliminaries for the quarter finals. I fought my next opponent Tony Conquest as an amateur and knocked him out. I never really had an amateur style though and never really enjoyed it so I turned pro.
Ringnews24.com: Did you not want a longer amateur career?
Leon Williams: I didn’t want to box for trophies anymore and I wanted to make some money and support my family by doing something I enjoy. Boxing is a dangerous game so if you can get paid for it, do so.
Ringnews24.com: You started your pro career in Cheltenham despite all of your subsequent fights taking place in London. Why was that?
Leon Williams: That was the available shot at the time. I have some good people behind me, we got the opportunity, jumped on a coach, went up there and I won. I dropped him with my first punch and beat him in one round. We had a link with a promoter called Keith Mayo who gave me the chance to fight on one of his cards so we took it. We were meant to fight in Swindon on another one of his shows but the opponent pulled out. It’s more convenient to fight in London but if the opportunity is there I’ll take it.
Ringnews24.com: You won the British title from Rob Norton who was favourite to beat you. Was that your biggest win to date and how tough was that fight?
Leon Williams: It wasn’t tough but it was very awkward. He played a lot of mind games. That’s the only way he tested me. He kept talking to me during the fight saying I wasn’t hurting me and stuff like that. All mind games. He’s an experienced fighter. He’s been there, done that and worn the t-shirt. In the last round Johnny Eames said I had to throw everything at him and that’s what I did.
Ringnews24.com: What was your toughest fight to date?
Leon Williams: That was the fight against Tyrone Wright. I come out in the first round, I’m boxing him and then he started unleashing a barrage of punches and I was like “what’s he doing? He’s trying to kill me!” I composed myself though and I remember Dereck Chisora telling me “Hold him, hold him!” I went back to the corner at the end of the round and my corner said to me “he’s open for your favourite shot, it’s there”. So I came out for the second round and played and boxed with him and then BOOM, big right hand! He was on the canvas, out cold. It was only a short fight but it was tough because of the way he opened up in the first round.
Ringnews24.com: In your last fight you lost the British title to Shane McPhilbin. How devastating was it to lose in the 12th round considering you were likely ahead on the scorecards?
Leon Williams: It was more of a shock really. I’m not a lucky person I guess. I outboxed him for 11 rounds, dropped him twice and dominated him throughout. I was physically stronger and outboxed him. Then in round 12 I went out there to stop him because we didn’t think he should have even still been in there with me and I got caught over the back of the head with a clubbing shot and went down. As they say: “s**t happens”. I brushed myself off though and got back in the gym.
Ringnews24.com: Do you regret those tactics now considering you would have won had you remained on your feet in round 12?
Leon Williams: In hindsight, yeah. But, we live and we learn. I’ve learnt from that defeat.
Ringnews24.com: McPhilbin took that fight at short notice because you were originally meant to fight Tony Conquest. Do you think maybe you didn’t prepare for him properly?
Leon Williams: You train for everyone the same really. You train hard for every fight. It’s a simple format. I don’t look at Shane as being a devastating puncher. I just got caught with a clubbing shot in the final round. I didn’t get hurt in any other round in that fight. It’s all history now though. He’s doing what he’s doing and I’m doing what I’m doing.
Ringnews24.com: If you can secure a rematch with Shane, would you be victorious?
Leon Williams: I’m confident of beating whoever they put in front of me. All that can beat me is bad luck. Right now all my focus is on Tony Conquest. That’s all I’m preparing for at the moment.
Ringnews24.com: If you secured that fight would you change your tactics second time around?
Leon Williams: No, I wouldn’t change my tactics. I would just end it this time inside the distance and I wouldn’t touch gloves either. I got told off for touching gloves at the end of every round last time and for being too nice.
Ringnews24.com: Shane McPhilbin lost the British title to Enzo Maccarinelli. Who do you think won that fight?
Leon Williams: He [Shane] didn’t get the decision but he clearly won the fight.
Ringnews24.com: So, do you think if the first round had gone on for the extra 47 seconds, McPhilbin would have forced the stoppage?
Leon Williams: Yeah, I’d say so. I don’t think he won over the 12 rounds but he did win in the first round.
Ringnews24.com: Would you defeat Maccarinelli in your opinion?
Leon Williams: I don’t really want to disrespect him really [laughs]. I know Enzo and he’s a really cool guy, very genuine. He’s achieved more than most fighters can achieve. He’s only lost to the best and he’s still the best in the UK.
Ringnews24.com: So, you’d say Enzo is the best cruiserweight in the UK right now?
Leon Williams: Yeah, he’s got the belt. He’s the guy with the British title and for me that makes him the best right now. I think Ola Afolabi is the best cruiserweight in Britain at World level but Enzo is the best at domestic level.
Ringnews24.com: You’re fighting Tony Conquest on July 7th for the southern area title. How has your preparation for the fight been?
Leon Williams: Training is always good. We train hard, that’s what we do. This is my job. We do things properly, not half-heartedly. It’s a tough fight and an awkward fight with Tony being my friend. He’s someone I respect but at the end of the day this is business. I’ve had to take a few steps back and fight for a southern area title but hopefully this will then lead me to taking a few steps forward and challenging for a bigger title once again.
Ringnews24.com: Would you say this is going to be your toughest fight to date?
Leon Williams: I wouldn’t say toughest but it’s going to be challenging. Tony’s my friend but you know, I’ve got to switch it up and win this fight.
Ringnews24.com: Is it quite difficult fighting a friend in the ring?
Leon Williams: You’ll see on the night how difficult it is or how easy it is.
Ringnews24.com: Are you confident of victory?
Leon Williams: Of course. We train to win. We’ve trained for it, we’re prepared and now I’d say it’s down to luck. Good luck or bad luck. I just know I’ve put the hours in and trained hard for this fight and now it will come down to what happens in the ring.
Ringnews24.com: What are your plans for the future?
Leon Williams: To climb the ladder and win a domestic title again like the British title. It’s all just about progressing and elevating myself to the next level.
Ringnews24.com: I’ve heard you’ve sparred Dereck Chisora recently. Is that right?
Leon Williams: Yeah, Chisora’s my boy. We’ve been doing a lot of work together at his gym. We’ve sparred loads of rounds. I go there regularly, get plenty of experience and learn from him. I’m getting physically strong sparring a heavier guy like him, standing toe-to-toe. It’ll be interesting to see how my strength shows in the ring in upcoming fights.
Ringnews24.com: How do you fare against Chisora?
Leon Williams: I do well. We go to work on each other. We’ll see how much it’s benefitted me when I next fight a cruiserweight after sparring a lot of rounds with a strong heavyweight like him. Tony might have sharpness and speed but I’m going to be physically strong.
Ringnews24.com: Considering fighters can often get World title shots off the back of a few good wins nowadays, do you think a World title shot could be on the horizon for you?
Leon Williams: No, I won’t be on that level anytime soon. I’m trying to cement my place at domestic level first. If the opportunity came along and my team thought it was the right fight for me, then yeah, we’d take it. But we’re not looking that far ahead yet. We’re ambitious but not that ambitious. Better still, we’re ambitious, not stupid [laughs].
Ringnews24.com: Do you have a message for the fans?
Leon Williams: Team Solid, all day, every day. I’ll have a title around my waist again very soon. Keep watching.
Ringnews24.com: Thanks for talking to us Leon and good luck for the future.