x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Williams undecided on future while organisers hail success of Abu Dhabi’s first pro boxing event

Conquerer of Mike Tyson says he knows he should no longer be fighting while Lion Heart Promotions say they are in talks with former heavyweight champion Hashim Rahman to headline next event.

Danny Williams, left, easily beat Mazur Ali during their headline heavyweight bout at Yas Island.  Sammy Dallal / The National
Danny Williams, left, easily beat Mazur Ali during their headline heavyweight bout at Yas Island. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // The calculations of life could not be any starker. Danny Williams is 40 and he does not want to fight anymore. He is done with professional boxing.

But his children attend a private school in the UK and the fees of more than £20,000 (Dh120,000) need to be paid.

So retirement remains on hold. It is such a common boxing tale that it seems normal. He has now fought twice in just over a month. On Thursday night at Yas Island, he headlined the first pro boxing night in Abu Dhabi and easily stopped the Egyptian Mazour Ali.

He still has no answers about his future.

“It all depends on my job situation,” he said after his win. “To be honest I shouldn’t be fighting and I wouldn’t be fighting if I had a good job which was earning money to keep my kids in school. My kids go to private school.

“I’ve got a nice house out of boxing, I’ve done well out of boxing. But my kids are in private school and it costs over twenty grand a year to send them to school. I haven’t got that money. I’m looking for work now,” he said.

The fight itself was an insipid one. Williams may be 40, but he has pedigree: twice British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion and, most famously, the second-to-last man to beat Mike Tyson. Ali looked out of shape and stood at a 70-pound-plus weight disadvantage. He never looked like testing Williams.

“I would’ve preferred an opponent who came to fight,” Williams said. “People in Abu Dhabi, this is the first fight for them so they wanted to see a good fight. If an opponent was brought in who came to fight it would’ve been a good fight. But he came to run about and mess around so it was not attractive. It takes two to tango. I wanted to fight, he didn’t want to fight.”

Tyson remains a big part of Danny Williams’s story. In his latest book, Undisputed Truth, Tyson claimed he was using recreational drugs in the run-up to his fight with Williams, in Louisville in July 2004. But such is the legend of the man, Williams said it would not diminish “the biggest victory” of his career.

“It takes nothing away from the win for me. At the end of the day, regardless of what he says, I still beat Mike Tyson. I said after the fight I know I didn’t beat a peak Mike Tyson. But who could’ve lived with a peak Tyson? I didn’t fight a peak Tyson.

“I know, but I fought a very good Tyson. You see the fight – the first two rounds he was very, very good. He can say whatever he was on, but the drugs he was on, all I can say is that they done him good because he looked good in the first two rounds.”

Williams’s win capped a quietly encouraging debut for professional boxing in the capital. The eight-card fight did not draw a massive crowd, but it did draw a small, knowledgeable one. Promoters Lion Heart Boxing Productions and the Dubai-based Prince Promotions had insisted success lay in the event going ahead, after it was postponed the first time in October.

The highlight of the evening, fight-wise, was Mohammad Ali Bayat’s victory over Abdul Kabbani, a grudge rematch between Dubai residents. The pair had fought once before, in 2011, Bayat securing a controversial points win but he was far more decisive on Thursday; Kabbani did not come out for the fifth round.

On a card of uneven quality, this was easily the best fight.

“That fight was a really good fight,” said Edward Mendy, a senior executive with Lion Heart. “It was everything I thought it was going to be and more and the only disappointment was Kabbani quitting.

“There was a good build-up to it and both of them did well for themselves. We were hoping Kabbani would win so we could have a third fight between them.”

More such Thursday nights at Yas could be forthcoming; Lion Heart is planning the next, tentatively, for February 20.

“We are committed to doing this on a long-term basis,” Mendy said. “We’re looking to come back in February and then after that. Obviously, if we do three, four events and we don’t have the support of the community then we have to make a decision that this is not the right place for fights. We knew it was going to be slow so we thought we would build it one step at a time.”

The next headliner could well be an even bigger name than Williams. Mendy is in talks with Hasim Rahman, the man who shocked Lennox Lewis and became heavyweight champion of the world in April 2001.

Rahman was in Abu Dhabi watching the event.

“He hasn’t decided yet, but he was here tonight,” Mendy said. “He is supposed to be our next main event. They are deciding. If he doesn’t retire then he will be.”


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