By Derek Bonnett: Arthur Williams tried for the world cruiserweight title in March of 1994 at the age of twenty-nine. The then once beaten contender took on the world’s best cruiserweight, Orlin Norris, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and fought the fight of his career. The bout was competitive throughout, but after 12 rounds “King” Arthur appeared to have landed the more telling blows and did more damage to his opponent; he deserved the decision. Instead, the favored champion kept his title via split verdict. Williams’ day eventually came in 1998 when he dethroned Imamu Mayfield to claim the IBF cruiserweight strap back when the weight limit was still 190 pounds.
In 2009, at the ripe old age of 44, Arthur Williams still longs to be “King” in more than name alone. Sure, he’s had quite a few more losses added to his dossier, but Williams belongs to a fraternity of fighters who can boast that they fought virtually every elite fighter of their era and beyond. He scored wins over Dwight Qawi, Jeff Lampkin, Yuri Vaulin, Steve Little, and Adolpho Washington, but suffered defeats to Chris Byrd, Vassily Jirov, O’ Neill Bell, and David Haye. This is just a cross sampling of the opposition faced by Williams since he turned professional in 1989.
Now, at 46-15-1 (30), Williams is riding a three fight win-streak including back to back victories over prospect Dewey Cooper. Most boxing experts would have to acknowledge it will be an uphill battle for Williams at best, but manager Jason Schlessinger stands by his support for Williams and still sees a winner in front of him.
“Fighters like Arthur Williams have already been to the top. They have been world champions,” Schlessinger explained. “They are known and, therefore, are usually more easily marketed. Given the right opportunity at the right time, they can become champions again. I love to see an ex-champ retire as a champion again rather than be used as a washed up opponent. As long as the fighter shows he still has the skills and talent to deliver, I am proud to be a part of his career.”
Schlessinger helped form the boxing organization dubbed the LBA and takes partial credit for getting Larry Holmes out of retirement in 1991 to fight Tim “Doc” Anderson. He points to how few people took Larry Holmes seriously on the comeback trail and how the Easton Assassin made a cool 8.4 million dollars in the process.
“All sports have exceptions to the rule. It has been said that fighting is a young man’s sport. To some extent, that is true, until you find the experienced, dedicated older fighters that use their years of knowledge and ring skills to outfight a younger, stronger, aggressive fighter,” Schlessinger stated. “I focus on what I believe. If a young fighter shows me he has what it takes, then I focus on that fighter. If an older fighter shows me he still has what it takes, then I am willing to focus on that as well.”
Now in his twentieth year as a professional, even Williams has a certain surprise to still be around trading leather with men his junior by a decade or more.
“I did not realize I would be fighting this long. The reason I’m still fighting is because I feel like I did not have a fair chance when I was world champion. Some people took advantage of me, but I won’t call out names,” Williams offered. “They tricked me by telling me I would get a rematch with Jirov, win, lose or draw, but the rematch did not happen. I am determined to become world champion and as long as I still have the desire to fight and the hunger to win, I will become world champion again.”
Williams looks upon his wealth of experience as not only an advantage in fighting on today, but also as a sense of what he’s accomplished in the sport. The decision in the first Norris fight is still a sore subject, but one Williams is adamant about when it is brought up.
“I feel like I didn’t lose that fight,” Williams stated confidently. “The judges had me on the score card as a loss, but the fans knew I won. I was the people’s champion that night. That’s why they were booing the decision. Orlin knew it too. In fact, Ferdie Pacheco told Orlin in front of Don King and myself that he lost that fight. He told him ‘you’re lumped up and cut up and that there is no way Arthur Williams lost that fight tonight.’ I saw Ferdie in the bathroom later that night and he showed me his scorecard and he had me as the winner and that is all I have to say about that.”
Aside from a second cruiserweight world title, the Pensacola, Florida native feels the only thing missing from his career was a showdown with long reigning champion Alfred “Ice” Cole and a rematch with Jirov.
That and, of course, another shot at the cruiserweight crown.
“[Williams is] in the top ten of the WBC which puts him in a class where a money fight can happen at any time,” Schlessinger stated. “Roy Jones has called and spoken with us and Roy is anticipating putting Williams on his card in March in Pensacola, Florida. We are just in the negotiation stage at this point, but Williams is excited about the chance to fight in his home town after all these years.”
A successful homecoming is far more likely for the former cruiserweight champion than a return to the throne. However, “King” Arthur Williams has a friend atop the cruiserweight picture in Tomasz Adamek, whom he helped prepare in sparring for his title eliminator against O’Neil Bell. Adamek’s dance card appears full for the time being, but stranger things happen on a daily basis in the sport of boxing. When given the right opportunity, old dogs often find a way to one more big fight, and sometimes they even turn back the clock just far enough to surprise a young pup.
February 18, 2009