Machine rebooted? Williams and healed hands back from career threatening injuries
It’s been a long and frustrating year for Clydach Vale’s Liam Williams (12-0-1, 7KO) and there have been times during his 13-month inactivity when he has been forced to consider that his Commonwealth strap may be the only title he’ll collect in his threatened career.
After days, weeks and months of anxious worrying, the Welshman will finally enter the ring again on Saturday and heads to the Manchester Arena with one more obstacle to overcome.
That hurdle will be Scotland’s rough, tough Kris Carslaw (22-5, 5KO) and it could be just as challenging as everything he’s faced so far. The reward? The British super-welterweight belt. When Williams ploughed through the usually durable survivor Youri Pompilio [KO8] on a world title undercard in Germany 20 months ago, it looked flawless to the naked eyes of observers on BoxNation.
The prospect found approval from a wider pool of fans for the first time since turning professional in 2011 but under the surface of his black 8oz Adidas gloves, damage had been suffered. A right uppercut thrown in round three didn’t reach the targeted torso, instead hitting the Spaniard’s elbow. After expressing his discomfort for all of two seconds in the corner, Williams was encouraged to get on with it and he did.
The jab was introduced, doubled and reloaded to rapidly triple while the right was launched sparingly to the softer sections of the body. When the referee waved the fight off, the injury was almost forgotten about. Almost, until adrenaline faded and a break was discovered.
Remembering his reaction, Williams said: “Obviously, I gave it a rest for a couple of weeks and it was fine after. It wasn’t a serious break or anything but then it went worse from there, getting worse after every fight. It didn’t repair right and it come to a point where I just couldn’t go on, it was so much pain.
“I boxed really well [against Pompilio] and got my name out there but on the other hand, it was the start of a downhill for me. It’s just been one of them things, it’s boxing and injuries happen. I’ve had to take it on the chin. Life goes on, doesn’t it?”
Success followed, time on the television increased with two more wins inside-the-distance but his hand remained unaddressed. That was until March when he decided to do something about it once and for all. The super-welterweight was told by a leading British hand specialist surgeon that he’ll never be able to fight again, suggesting that he instead turns to training others at just 22-years-old.
By now, ‘The Machine’, a nickname attributed to his efficient manner of breaking opponents down, knew the knuckle of his right hand’s index finger was seriously malfunctioning. With his most important tool disabled, Williams was worried but he felt that the medical expert scarcely glanced at previous scans before drawing his career-ending conclusion. Was it that bad?
“Honestly, it was really bad. I couldn’t do things like opening a bottle of water, taking lids off things and day-to-day life… even putting my shoes on! Everything really. Obviously, the index finger is used a lot and it was really painful,” Williams reminisced, almost wincing as he recollected the pain.
“When you have a surgeon telling you that [it’s career ending], he obviously knows better than you about what’s wrong with the hand. It was a really worrying time. At one point, I thought it was over and I’d have to go back to work to a normal job,” pondered the former roofer. “I was depressed, I was down… I just couldn’t be arsed with anything. I didn’t want to do anything but then I went for a second and third opinion, hoping for some good news. Somebody said they thought they could do it and we went down that route to get it done.”
After already paying out for an expensive treatment on the injury once before, other avenues had to be pursued and Williams put his head together with Gary Lockett – his trainer, manager and most importantly, close friend. Frank Warren, who has had Williams on his books since his second outing against Tommy Tolan [PTS4], was instantly supportive. The Hall of Fame promoter offered to fly Williams to New York City, hooking him up with the hand specialist who worked on Prince Naseem Hamed’s dangerous but brittle weapons.
Instead, the pair’s search for a positive opinion, aided by the medical expertise of Lockett’s father-in-law, led them to David Shewring. The specialist hand, wrist and elbow expert at Spire Healthcare’s Orthopedic Centre of Excellence was based a lot closer to home in Cardiff and he was tasked with the challenge of un-fusing the ligament away from the index knuckle bone of Williams’ right hand… but it didn’t come cheap.
Williams said: “I had to pay for both operations, it cost me in total £9,000. It goes to show how much I want it! A lot of people wouldn’t have spent that money, thinking that it can still possibly go to waste. Obviously, I want it more than ever and I had to get it sorted.”
With extended inactivity, many boxers before Williams have succumb to alternative temptations and ‘Dully’, a deceptive nickname inherited from his father, was well aware of the danger. Instead, the now 23-year-old contender applied himself by training to the fullest, doing everything he did could, except what he does best – punching.
He said: “I’ve had to keep myself in half decent shape. If I let myself get too far [out of shape], I wouldn’t have been able to come back. I’d been well overweight and too big.
“I did everything that I could then. There were certain exercises I couldn’t do, like press-ups and things like that but I got through my running, shadow boxing and whatever else. I’ve stayed in pretty good shape and it’s paid off.”
It’s been a successful year for Lockett’s Cardiff Bay-based gym, amassing a collective record of 20 wins [10 by knockout] and only two reverses. Notable highlights have included Nick Blackwell blasting John Ryder for a British title and Enzo Maccarinelli ending American legend Roy Jones Jnr, both on away soil.
One man with a justifiable reason to be jealous had been watching from the side-lines, willing his teammates on from the corner. Williams had taken out a second’s license with the British Boxing Board of Control [BBBoC] to keep busy.
In that time, one thing that’s helped to stop Williams dwelling on his injury and instead focus on recovering was the news that he’s soon to become a first time father with his partner of seven years, Evie. When not training, Williams is often working on a project to renovate his maiden property ready for his daughter’s due date in February, so he’s stayed occupied.
Analysing his out-of-the-ring activities, he said: “It’s been really good, I’ve been able to see both sides of boxing and pick up more experience for when I’m fighting myself. I’ve seen what goes on in the corner and how people think, so it’s been a good experience for me.
“It’s helped me a lot and I’ve got a lot of motivation now. Obviously, I’ve just wanted to fight to make stuff a bit better for myself and I always have but I’ve got someone else to take care of now, as well. It’s definitely more motivation and I think it’s going to really help my focus.”
Since August’s operation, the hand has been given time to heal and it has done so better than predicted, albeit with the decoration of a lengthy four inch scar. Ahead of using it competitively for the first time since devastating the tricky Michael Lomax [KO1] in less than three minutes to become Commonwealth champion 13 months ago, the Welshman admits he’s already overcome any worries about its resilience in the gym… and it matched the levels of his mental resilience.
Machine rebooted? Fingers, index included, crossed.