Demetrius Andrade starts fast and fades in the middle rounds but proves too sharp and crafty for a courageous Liam Williams
It is usually a propitious sign when both participants in a world title contest have something to prove, as it was tonight at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida in the headline act of a Matchroom Boxing USA show.
For Welsh challenger Liam Williams, riding an impressive seven-fight KO streak against mostly good but not great opposition, it was a chance to show he had come a long way from the dominant domestic operator who lost two previous shots at global glory, to Liam Smith. Defending WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, from Providence, Rhode Island, entered this match as one of boxing’s least revered undefeated two-weight titlists. Undoubtedly talented and intelligent, Andrade nonetheless found himself choosing between Willie Nelson and Jack Culcay as his most creditable victims in 29 fights. At 33, five years Williams’ senior, “Boo Boo” was in need of a big performance to silence the doubters and secure a long-desired showdown with a marquee name like Canelo Alvarez or GGG.
Whether his early dominance is enough to create public demand for such battles is open to question, but his fading down the stretch against an opponent who refused to give up may just tempt Andrade’s rivals into accommodating him, despite his clear 12-round decision triumph.
Both men began quickly but it was the rangy southpaw Andrade who seemingly could not miss with the left hand, one of which wobbled Williams in round one. Liam recovered well but it was an ominous start to the fight. Andrade’s lateral movement was excellent and he was happy to clinch when Williams got close. Towards the end of the second session, Andrade dropped his rival with a razor-sharp one-two. Williams rose, shaken, at the count of nine. The Welshman made inroads, finally, in the third, connecting with some rights over the top and left hooks. Andrade’s holding was already becoming excessive. Williams maintained the impetus in the next, moving his upper body well and targeting the body as the American’s work rate dipped noticeably.
Andrade wrested back control in round five, pot-shotting with serious intent and landing hard uppercuts. Williams sustained a cut right eye and looked a little folorn. It was more stick-and-move from Andrade in the sixth, punctuated with some huge uppercuts. Williams, usually pretty fast, was being made to look positively pedestrian. He continued to work hard in the next but was buzzed by another uppercut late in the session. The eighth was another quiet round from the champion but Williams attempt to goad him into a brawl fell on deaf ears; Andrade was winning while boxing within himself.
Williams appeared to hurt Andrade with a hard right hand to begin round nine but between Demetrius’ holding and Liam smothering his own work, the title-holder wriggled off the hook. He really should have been at least warned for the continual grabbing. Andrade finally got that warning in the next, by which point it was far too late to act as an effective deterrent. Williams meanwhile cut the ring down quicker and landed some chopping rights. I had it 6-4 in rounds to Andrade at this juncture but with an extra-point advantage due to the early knockdown. Demetrius, in my view, made sure of victory in the penultimate stanza, sharp-shooting and spoiling in equal measure, one particularly fast combination catching the eye. This strategy carried into the final round and I had it 8-4 plus the knockdown at the close for a 116-111 scorecard. The judges had it 116-111 and 118-109 twice.