RingSide Report

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Ringside Report Looks Back at Boxer Bobby Williams

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

Judges and referees get a really hard time from pundits, commentators and fighters themselves. At times, rightly deserved, but at other times lashing out at officials can be unedifying and mask the hidden hurt of realizing that there is often only one person who you should blame.

The fact is that the overwhelming number of contests that occur nightly happen without any controversy whatsoever. Or, if they do – perhaps when a journeyman beats a prospect but does not get the nod from the referee, they scarcely make a mark on anyone’s radar. In fact, oftentimes, the journeyman can be upset for seconds as he realizes that the loss simply means he can keep fighting next week and earn a crust for his family once more.

But one of the frequent arguments that surrounds officials is that many simply never fought. If they never laced a glove, how can they know what it feels like to fight; and therefore, how can they understand the ebb and flow of a contest? Officials may have ended up with a pen and a keen eye, but never got hit in the face. Bob Williams, 20-12-1, 8 KOs is one of the UK’s most prominent referees who does not fit that description as he was once a prospect himself.

As well as his career in the ring, Williams was a fire fighter who was given the nicknames – Brain Damage and Rembrandt – apparently because he was always on the canvass! He gave up an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce to become a fire fighter because he wanted to have more time to train as a boxer.

He fought as a super lightweight from the late 1980s through into the next decade, Williams boxed as BF Williams – is middle name is Frank and he chose the BF because there was another fighter Bobby Williams active at the time did not want to get mixed up with matchmakers. But his story is even more inspirational than simply giving service as the third man in the ring, or in one the major public services in the country but Williams has been behind innovative schemes to help and support his local community.

Before becoming a professional Williams was an amateur who collected 50 wins out of 70 in his amateur career and toured extensively until Frank Maloney convinced him to turn professional. Having fallen in love with boxing from the age of 13, through the Bushey Amateur Boxing Club, he was to find out that boxing ran in his DNA. Williams’ great grandfather Jennings was the 116lb English champion and fought four times between 1899 and 1902 for an English title – winning just the once. But in the loft in the family home, that belt was still held – and Bob got to see it as a young prospect. His great grandfather, Jim had beaten Pedlar Palmer in London, in Covent Graden, where the underdog Williams, got a second-round victory against a man who had fought twice for a world title. Jim retired in 1909 after nearly 50 fights, it is claimed. Once Williams realized this, it apparently got him excited enough to join the local gym, the Bushey Amateur Boxing Club (ABC) and start on his journey.

His apprenticeship as he told the Watford Observer was tough and hard. “There were times I boxed three times a week. I wasn’t winning every time but, like everything in life, you need to gain experience. That was my apprenticeship. There was no way I ever ducked.”

As a professional fighter, great grandson, Bob Williams managed 33 contests, 20 of which he won. It all began on the 28th of May 1986, in Lewisham, London when he stopped Ken Watson who sustained a cut above his left eye in the 5th round. Of the fights he lost, perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, given what he has gone on to be within the game he claims he was on the wrong end of “bad decisions”!

The only time that he fought for a belt was on the 10th of March 1994, against John Thaxton in Watford Town Hall. Williams was stopped by the undefeated Thaxton for the Southern Area Super Lightweight title. Coming into the fight, Williams had a winning record from his last four contests so hopes were high. Williams had a game plan to take what was coming in the early rounds and then take over the fight down the stretch – unfortunately he got stopped in the fourth round, so never really got to put his plan into practice. It was to be Williams’ last professional contest as a boxer. His own review of his time in the ring with gloves on is pretty honest, “I won some, lost some. It was great.”

Retirement saw him take up two aspects of the game – officiating, and through the Hertswood Center in Borehamwood, run Boxcleva, which is a school based non-contact initiative working to address the issues of aggression, drugs and drink. For his work in this area Williams received the very first Dean Powell memorial trophy from the British Boxing Board of Control in 2014, which had been planned without him being aware he was going to be given the award! As he told the local newspaper, Borehamwood Times’, reporter, Anna Slater, at the time, “I had no idea – it was a complete shock. I am honored to bits. I joke now that everyone stitched me up, but in a good way. They began speaking about a gentleman who has done a lot for boxing-related causes in the last 35 years and my wife began crying, realizing they were talking about me. My ears pricked up then. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to say. I’m just so happy, it’s an unexpected surprise.”

And if you want to know more about Williams, he has graced the pages of a book by Melanie Lloyd as one of her interviewees. And you can pick up copies of Sweet Fighting Man Volume II wherever you buy your books!

Williams’ career in the ring continues and just the weekend that I am typing this up, he was on Sky in the center of their televised coverage once more giving advice before the first bell, separating fighters when needed and ensuring the safety of all under his jurisdiction.

Click Here to Order Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime By “Bad” Brad Berkwitt