On the evening of Tuesday 17th September, Bethnal Green's York Hall played host to the British and Commonwealth heavyweight championship bout featuring champion Danny Williams. Williams is an articulate, well-groomed convert to the Islamic faith who now is a familiar figure on BBC boxing presentations. Until recently in the company of Marvellous Marvin Hagler, Williams has being seen clutching his title belts while bandying opinions at Audley Harrison matches. But such 'Jaw-jawing,' to borrow a Churchillian phrase has not being matched by 'War-warring;' the agreement he had signed with Don King promotions having yielded little by way of fights. Now signed to Lennox Lewis' outfit, Lion Promotions, Williams is hopeful that the emphasis will be on the latter.
His opponent, one Keith Long, a 34-year-old Brixton residing carpenter by trade, is a short, squat bull-necked warrior with far from impressive amateur credentials. Yet as a professional, Long has caught the eye most recently with a win over Michael Holden, a former undefeated British heavyweight champion in a British title eliminator one year ago. Strong, but limited, Long was not expected to threaten Williams.
Williams started the fight strongly jabbing away at Longs head before advancing in with power laced hooks and uppercuts. But Long, on the advise of his handlers who trained Williams as an amateur, moved under the jab, all the time trying to hurt Williams to the body. When not on the receiving end of a torrent of Williams' shots, Long was always advancing and returning fire. The allusion to trench warfare is not misplaced and the programmed billed as "The Pride of Britain" would have being better described as the Battle of Britain. Long remained amazingly resilient, taking tremendous blows around his head but in the third, he struck back. With his back against the ropes, close to a neutral corner, Williams was forced to absorb a powerful uppercut and right cross to the head, which brought gasps from the crowd. Then the battle moved to another side of the ring where both men continually battered each other with closely delivered punches to the head. The round ended with Willia! ms on top and Long had to be guided back to his corner by his handlers.
After this the fight settled down to a pattern of Williams throwing combinations and Long stepping in to punches and trying to land his blows. As the fight entered its final rounds, it was obvious that Long was the more winded of the fighters, but he summoned up all his energies for a final round assault on Williams to no avail.
The fight was scored 117 to 113 to the 29-year old defending champion.
Interestingly, neither Williams nor his putative rival, Audley Harrison were impressed by Williams' performance. For Williams, fighting the likes of Long do not bring out the best in him as he somewhat brings himself 'down to their level.' Harrison, on the other hand, though failing to impress in his inaugural bouts against mediocre opposition was unsurprisingly dismissive saying that Williams' abilities are so limited as to negate any pretensions of ascending to world level.
Where then does this leave Williams? By beating Long, Williams has won outright a coveted Lonsdale Belt; one last domestic chore before concentrating his efforts on higher profile international bouts that he hopes will serve to bring him into the international spotlight. To that end, his new promoters hope to match him against Corrie Sanders, the South African former WBU heavyweight champion. Whether this will lead to a tussle with Lennox Lewis is rather uncertain; in fact, it is most unlikely given that Lewis will want to finish his career with high grossing match ups with the Klitschko's and Mike Tyson.
It was a tremendous battle with Long. "You can tell those guys came from the ghetto!" exclaimed one on looking fan as an exhultant Williams fitted on his gleaming belt.
I'll second that emotion.