Editor’s Pick: Danny Williams’ retirement must be permanent this time

Steve Bunce wrote why Danny Williams had to stop

THE stagger, the
step, the stumble and the end of the latest fight in the truly remarkable
career of Danny Williams was haunting to watch. It was placed on permanent
loop, people laughed, one or two cried, boxing was blamed and then something
else happened to take away our eyes.

The decline and
fall of Danny Williams is our shame in many ways.

At some point in
about 1985 Williams was just a fat kid from Brixton, a member of Brixton ABC,
the club above the Half Moon pub in Herne Hill. He was too big to spar with the
other juniors, too big to get a fight on the regular gym shows. But he always
moved like a much smaller kid, not a boy battling his weight. In the last fight
– in Russia – there were just a few moments when Danny looked like Danny. My
goggles, I admit, might just be tinted. His opponent, by the way, was making
his professional debut, Danny fighting for something like the 100th

He is 47 now, has
probably lost over 35 fights, and he will never be Danny Williams again. The
official record is 54 wins, 29 defeats, but that is a mirage.

I think he has
fought in 25 countries, mostly during the last decade of anarchy, visiting just
about every one of the old Soviet republics and hauling his way from customs to
the corner in filthy taxis.

Since the start his
fights have taken place in Madison Square Garden, York Hall, the HulloPullo
nightclub in Vaasa, the Freedom Hall in Louisville, the basketball Centre in
Khimki and dozens of other obscure venues have erected a temporary four-roped
tribute to Danny’s deadly travelling urges. It has been ten years under the
radar, outside our boxing laws, in lonely rings against men with no desire to
help a veteran get a living and leave the ring safely on his own feet. The last
opponent had the decency and humanity to stop throwing punches and tell the
referee to end the fight.

John Gichigi/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter that
Williams has insisted that he will not fight again. His name is a band-aid
remedy to desperate promoters in Europe and beyond. When they call, he accepts
and under the camouflage of his latest retirement he will simply be a tourist
as he walks through passport control at Almaty, Sevastopol, Riga and other
places where he has risked his life. The calls will come, trust me. There is no
point talking about bans or taking away his licence; Williams fights in places
where men carry new licences in their pockets, freshly printed and give them
away to anybody with a pulse.

It is amazing that
he does win some of these fights, beating men with losing records and even one
guy, in Austria last year, who was unbeaten in 24 fights. This is a boxing
world of invented records, where liberties are taken with life and underground
fight clubs want Danny’s face on their posters. The man Danny stopped in Weiz
was called Boban Filipovic, a big lump of a mean looking Serbian, who is now
aged 44 with a record of 26 wins, 24 quick, with just the one loss to Williams.
It was beyond a freak show, poor Boban was clueless and some stupid fools in
the crowd were cheering Danny, praising his work. What kind of friend would be
part of that type of sickness, supporting such risk?

When Williams lost his British title to Dereck Chisora in 2010 it was decided that he should retire. Danny nodded in agreement at the deception; he went straight on the road and for a few years he met a lot of decent fighters. He lost to Manuel Charr, Christian Hammer, Oleg Maskaev, Dennis Bakhtov and Mairis Briedis in a three-year period when he was hopefully getting decent money. By the end of 2013 the circus started, the secret fights were hidden and Danny’s decision making was a serious danger to his own health. We ignored his awful journey, turned away each time he won or lost in an old Eastern Bloc outpost.

In 2017 Danny told
me he was fighting for his children. I had phoned him at home. I never wrote
the interview, believing that he could get a few quid from a newspaper for his
story. He deserved it. He has probably had 15 or more fights since then; many
of his fights are not listed on the usual boxing record sites. The fights exist
in a fantasy land of lunatic glory and kitsch belts of nonsense.

In this magazine there was talk of his heavyweight fight with Aberdeen idol Lee McAllister in 2018. McAllister had been a good lightweight in his day, but they met for the WBU heavyweight title. McAllister won – there is no clue about the Global Boxing Federation heavyweight title that Williams won with a seventy-seven second knockout in Hungary earlier in the year. Ten years ago McAllister and Williams were separated by 136 pounds: McAllister won the Commonwealth title at 134 pounds, a few months later Williams lost the British heavyweight title at 270 pounds.

It is hard to
invent this craziness and too easy to imagine a house in South London where
Danny has put his Lonsdale belt, his Commonwealth belt and a few
inter-continental versions on the wall. Where does the GBF belt sit on that
wall of graft, under what warped convention does that glimmering piece of
trickery enter the real world of Danny’s beloved prizes? There is a lot of old
blood on Danny’s wall.

He failed to win Prizefighter
and the WBC heavyweight championship, he also fought twice for the Latvian
heavyweight title. In Prizefighter, Carl Baker, the Fridge, beat him and
it was Vitali Klitsckho’s fists that ended Danny’s WBC fight in 2004. In the
same year Williams had been brilliant as a massive underdog to beat Mike Tyson.
It was his finest night and it was probably over 70 fights ago.

At some point in the Nineties Williams bumped into my dad at York Hall. He went over, said “hello” and remembered that a decade earlier my dad had dropped him home after the training at Brixton. In September I called my dad to tell him Danny had just been stopped in Russia and he went silent, no doubt doing the sums in his head.

I never need
reminding that Williams is a good guy and was a great fighter, now let’s look
after him.

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As an Editor and an Sports Geek, it's my pleasure to share my knowledge about Sports and their various aspects that can impact our lives.

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