Liam Williams hunts Alantez Fox to set up world title shot

Liam Williams hunts Alantez Fox to set up world title shot

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: Clydach’s Liam Williams (22-2-1, 17KO) made a major statement and positioned himself for a world title shot by dispatching America’s Alantez Fox (26-2, 12KO) in five ruthless rounds.

It was the best win of the middleweight’s eight-year career and it secured a high world ranking. ‘The Machine’ captured the WBO Inter-Continental title and stole the show at the Copper Box Arena in London, live on BT Sport. Williams’ nasty finishing instincts extended his growing record of knockouts. Over the past six years, all of his 14 victories ended before the final bell.

“I don’t really want to remember [what it’s like to win on points]. I plan to keep going the way I have been, taking these guys out hopefully,” he stated afterwards.

“People have got this image of me now like, ‘Liam is a killer, he’s knocking everyone over, doing this and doing that.’ Unless you know me, a lot of these people fail to realise that I can actually box, as well. I can always knock them out and if that doesn’t work, I can always go to Plan B and maybe use my skillset a little bit more.”

The eye-catching aggression does disguise from his tactical intelligence. On this occasion, the tactics included out-jabbing an opponent who stood at incredible six foot five inches tall and there was a sense of inevitability from the opening bell. Williams immediately found his range, tracking Fox’s movement to close down the space between the pair. Being the shorter man, it was important for Williams to get close to Fox and to do it quickly, so he did it with an unexpected reverse one-two combination. After receiving stinging straight shots, Fox was forced to a neutral corner and Williams banged the body to drain the visitor’s energy tank.

Analysing how the fight started, Williams said: “Everything was part of the game plan. Everything I done, I was told to do. I was quite surprised how easy I was beating him to the jab at certain points. To be honest, the game plan was either stay well out of range or be on his chest, y’know. I just felt comfortable to exchange a couple of jabs and I came off best.

“Technically, it would’ve been great to box, move around him, ping him with the jab. Everyone wants to look like Muhammad Ali, don’t they? Unfortunately, against an opponent such as Alantez Fox, I had to be clever about how I went about the job. It was kind of crash, bang, wallop. Put him out of his comfort zone and give it to him, that’s how I had to approach it.”

Despite the dominance, Williams suffered a small cut at the end of the opener. The wound was in an awkward position below his eyebrow and called on the cutsman to keep it from deteriorating. Fox was enthused and he landed a flush right cross to start the second round. It was a brief moment of adversity for Williams and served as a reminder to stay alert and not get carried away in the heat of the moment.

“I’ll be honest, I did feel it and he caught me by surprise,” said Williams, honest in his recollections of the incident many observers missed. “I think it was a good thing for me. After the first round, I thought I was going to tear through him but by landing that good shot, he didn’t hurt me or have me gone but he buzzed me a little bit, and I thought I’d better wake up. It kept me honest.

“I was aware of it [the cut]. It wasn’t very much. If I’d gone to the doctor or hospital, they would’ve given me one or two stitches. The area where the cut was, it was in a place that when my eye was open, you couldn’t even see it. Within a matter of hours, it was sealed up. It’s totally disappeared now.”

Williams was keen to dampen any of Fox’s optimism and he forcefully reimposed himself. Fox’s body language began to betray his efforts as he coped by blatantly holding Williams’ arms and turning away, waiting for the referee to call for them to separate the two. Both boxers recognised Williams was the stronger man and it became obvious to everyone else in the third round. A right cross cut the bridge of Fox’s nose, who took his turn to bleed in a one-sided session.

The Welshman said: “I knew I was better than him anyway because I felt so comfortable but I just thought… ‘I’m hurting him so early in the fight, if I’m doing that now, what’s it going to be like in three, four, five rounds time when he starts gassing?’ I knew I was going to get him out of there. I tried going about it as calmly as I could but y’know what it’s like when you see fighters get someone hurt, it’s difficult not to go for the kill.”

If Fox wasn’t dazed entering the fourth round, he certainly was when he left it. 30 seconds in, Williams was in the ascendency and he detonated a series of hooks and overhands. Fox couldn’t escape the onslaught and he looked weaker in his attempts to tangle with Williams’ limbs. Another thumping right cross then walloped Fox to the floor and he awkwardly staggered upright. Williams unleashed another assault, landing heavily to head and body and Fox used all of his awkward attributes to hear the bell.

Perhaps the indication of a perfectionist, Williams wasn’t happy with all of the aspects of his work. He said: “I’ve watched it back a few times and I’ve seen a lot of things which I didn’t do great but I can’t complain about the performance or the win because it was a good statement. I believe I’ve got so much to brush up on, maybe that’s me just being a bit self-critical.

“When someone’s holding on to you, I just think, ‘Fuck that, work!’ Get whatever shots off you can. Why wait for the referee to break it? They think when they’ve got hold of you, the ref is going to break it and they’ll have a little break, a rest for a bit. Whenever you can work, work!”

Fox was clearly disorientated as he entered the fifth round and the corner could have spared him another painful attack. Referee Steve Gray issued a point deduction for repeatedly holding and Fox was nearly spent. Williams knew it. He rolled under Fox’s attempts to hold again, launching a pair of left hooks and they sent Fox groggily tumbling to the ropes. Williams quite literally ran to his target and coldly brought the bout to a close.

“I knew he was gone because his body went really limp,” said Williams, recounting the conclusion as coldly as he delivered it. “Every time he was about to go down, he’d lock on to me, on my legs! I couldn’t get a clean knockdown on him. I was buzzing him and he had a good chin, recovering quite well but every time I buzzed him, he’d wrap those big arms around me and I couldn’t finish him properly.”

Before the fight, Williams was ranked at #7 by the WBO and Fox occupied the #2 slot. America’s Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17KO) has held the WBO title since October 2018, having previously held the super-welterweight version in 2013-2014 and the WBA title in 2017. The 31-year-old southpaw made two successful defences of his current belt and was due to put it on the line against Ireland’s audacious Luke Keeler (17-2-1, 5KO) in Miami, headlining a show promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom on 30 January.

Andrade’s skill from the portsider stance has never been in question; doubts have only come when he seemingly coasted through fights. A prime example of that bad habit came when he faced Fox on his middleweight debut in 2017. Evidently a level above, Andrade played it safe for the full duration of their 12 rounder, despite Fox suffering a severe shoulder injury and only having the use of one arm from the second round onwards. Andrade’s attention span saw him knocked to the floor in that fight and he’s also visited the canvas on other occasions, too.

Williams was mindful that comparisons would be made when he faced Fox. He said: “I definitely planned to go and do a better job [than Andrade]. If it didn’t come, I was prepared. Leading up to the fight, I thought it could turn out to be difficult because he’s been 12 with Andrade. I knew I’d better be prepared for a long night but I planned to do a better job and I grabbed people’s imagination.

“Andrade is obviously good, a southpaw and awkward. He’s got good boxing ability and I think he carries decent power but the same as my other opponents, I believe I can beat him. I’ve got enough power to trouble any of these middleweights and he’ll be the same as any other opponent. If I hit him on the chin, he can go.

“At one point, I fought three southpaws in a short space of time. I knocked one of them out in the first and the other two in the second round. I actually get on really well with southpaws. I just like a different challenge sometimes because I can get a bit stale. If I haven’t got something to work towards with different game plans and different styles, I do get a bit fed up. I’d rather a bigger challenge.”

Williams was well aware of the champion’s abilities, and so was his trainer Dominic Ingle. Stablemate Billy Joe Saunders was due to defend the WBO title against Andrade when he was mandatory challenger in 2018. However, Saunders was ruled out of the date when he tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine in a random VADA urine test. Despite his defence that it was taken through a common decongestant nasal spray, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission refused to license Saunders and he subsequently vacated the title. Andrade went ahead to win it, dropping late replacement Walter Kuatondokwa numerous times before typically settling for a cautious decision win.

All throughout the build up to Williams’ thrashing of Fox, it was advertised as a ‘final’ eliminator for Andrade and the winner was promised mandatory challenger status. However, the WBO President Francisco Varcarcel was quick to clarify that pole position for the winner wasn’t actually guaranteed. It was still likely Williams would challenge Andrade in 2020, especially as the champion hadn’t faced a mandatory challenger since winning the belt two years ago. Frank Warren, who promotes Williams, has a notoriously healthy relationship with the Puerto Rican-based WBO as he was one of the first mainstream promoters to utilise the organisation when it was established in 1988. The two parties have a long history together and it has benefitted five Welsh world champions; Robbie Regan, Barry Jones, Joe Calzaghe, Enzo Maccarinelli and Nathan Cleverly.

The fight against Fox was Williams’ fifth under Dominic Ingle and their relationship appeared to be going from strength to strength. They train together at the infamous Wincobank gym and Williams lives in the Chapeltown area of Sheffield during training camps. The move reduced home comforts and any temptations on offer to Williams at home in Wales, where he had trained with Gary Lockett. The previous set up was very successful before the two losses to Liam Smith in 2017. Even then, Williams was winning the first fight until the referee missed head butt that caused a cut and obliged the corner to pull him out. However, Williams felt the sacrifice of moving to Sheffield was more than showing its worth.

“I don’t even think I’d still be boxing if I didn’t move away. I was getting so fed up with it, so many things dragging me here, there and everywhere, I couldn’t focus on what I needed to do. People asking me to go out, people asking me to go for food, I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I just want to focus.

“It’s been five fights with him [Ingle] now and five stoppages. Everything is going perfect and I couldn’t ask for better. I feel very confident with Dom in the corner. I feel he’s got a really calming thing about him and he never panics if he’s in a sticky situation. He’s got his way with words and I feel we’re ready for the big fights now. We’ll just see what comes next.”

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

Image by MTK Global.

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