Jimmy Williams teared up while we talked about what boxing means to him, and how he’d be happy if he could tell his mom and his dad how well he’s doing. Williams fights in the main event Saturday night, at Foxwoods, on a card promoted by CES and Jimmy Burchfield, and no, his parents won’t be there to clap and shout out encouragement to the welterweight, who takes a step up in competition, against Issouf Kinda.
Williams, I talk to guys like him every week. Boxing has been there for him, when other avenues were shut to his entry, when other institutions failed him. He took up the sport at age 8, when he was living in NJ. He took off the gloves to pursue football in high school, and he excelled to the point where he played colllege ball and then had NFL tryouts. The whole arc shifted, though, in 2008 when mom Belinda was found, murdered, behind an abandoned building. “I came back to boxing,” the 13-0-1 fighter, residing in West Haven, CT, told me. “My mom, she was from the streets, tough as they come. backed down from no one. Had a big heart, loved being around family. She always made sure to put food on the table. They didn’t catch the person. One day I will hopefully get answers.”
The boxing is an island of serenity for Williams, holder of the WBC’s USNBC 147 crown. Yes, at times his mind drifts. Dad, who was in prison from when little Jimmy was in fourth grade, for six years, died three years ago. He’d visit dad in prison, every weekend, and vow to not veer off a righteous path. “I’m so glad I got back into boxing,” he told me. “With my mom’s case, you can never really be at peace, with no answers. I could be looking at the killer in their eyes when I’m back home. But I try not to think about it. I channel it all into boxing. My mom always believed I’d be a boxer. I’m tearing up…When I do look back, I’m so glad I never gave up. It’s easy to get into trouble. The hardest thing is doing what I’m doing, being a good man.”
“Losing them both, it can leave you feeling alone, but you adapt. There is that gap there, I miss them daily.. my success with boxing, I miss calling them.”
Back to the boxing; what is his scouting report on Kinda (age 29; born in Burkina Faso; 18-4 with 7 KOs)? “He’s a good fighter, a boxer type, been in with some of the best at 140,” the 30 year old Williams told me. “It’s a good fight for me, it will bring out the best out of me. I will show him the difference between 140 and 147.
“Yeah, he’s the best I’ve faced as a pro, on paper, absolutely. His experience, definitely, hands down.”
If you haven’t seen Williams, he’s a boxer, who will pump the jab, has some power in both hands, and can mix it up, box, slug, can and will adjust.
I asked Williams, who debuted in 2013, what fight he’s learned the most from. In 2015, he met Eddie Caminero, a big puncher, and knocked him out in round four. “The KO made it onto ESPN, but I made it harder than I should have, I got into a slugging match with the bigger fighter. I learned, when I could easily box, not to be baited into fighting, I made it harder than it had to be.”
And so tries to learn what not to do from others who weren’t so fortunate to see and stay on the smarter path. He succumbs occasionally to drifting away to the departed, but he then snaps into the present. Such as… Williams got married in November and his missus, Christina, is pregnant with twin boys. “God blessed me other ways. I have a loving wife, who’s very supportive of my career.”
You can see Williams in action, on a fight card put together by CES, streaming on Facebook Saturday night, at 6 PM. I will doing blow by blow on the Fightnight Live card, which runs till 9 PM, allowing everyone to get their fill of Mayweather-McGregor fare. Yep, the circus is in town, with that boxing vs MMA mashup. But the world keeps turning for all the other folks still seeking the next rung on the ladder, the guys like Jimmy Williams, who haven’t made that fortune that Floyd and Conor will, but who still see boxing as a priceless gift.