Seeking the Truth: Former Heavyweight Title Contender Carl Williams Speaks to RSR
Exclusive Interview by Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett
“When you fall, fall on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up”–Carl “The Truth” Williams
I remember October 1984 as though it wasn’t all that long ago. A talented virtual novice named Carl “The Truth” Williams arrived on the heavyweight title scene with a comprehensive ten round unanimous decision over the rated and popular James “Quick” Tillis in Atlantic City. Tillis of course had been in with just about everybody of note during that period and was certainly the type of heavyweight gate keeper that would separate true talent from mere hype. Despite Williams’ humble 15-0, 12 KO’s, record to that point, he performed in a manner befitting a fighter with far more experience and seasoning under his belt.
Not long after, Williams was propelled into what many figured was a premature title shot against the long reigning and undefeated IBF Heavyweight Champion, the “Easton Assassin,” Larry Holmes. In a grueling fifteen round encounter, Williams appeared to wrestle the crown from Holmes in an upset, only to later find out that in fact, somehow the judges had seen fit to award Holmes the verdict, despite the punch stats and the swollen features befitting a man that had been out fought and battered for the majority of the match.
The added experience and network exposure served to propel Williams to the forefront of the heavyweight boxing scene. Various boxing magazines wrote articles about him. Talking heads invariably brought up his name when the topic of talent relative to the overall heavyweight picture was discussed. There was no question that The Truth was on the map. Many figured him to be the man to one day win the heavyweight championship. Time was on his side and the future looked bright.
The rest of the 80’s featured some notable highs and lows for Williams, ultimately culminating in a very high profile second opportunity at the heavyweight championship against an undefeated “Iron” Mike Tyson at a point when Tyson was considered virtually invincible and at the pinnacle of his career. The opportunity became a disappointment for Williams. The climb towards a second title shot had been long and arduous. An apparent momentary lapse of judgment by the referee concluded matters mere seconds after the match had begun. It had to be the ultimate painful exclamation point. Four years of hard work towards the most rare of opportunities waved off in just ninety-three seconds.
If anything, boxing is an ongoing tale of tragedy. Many have turned to it and ultimately given up without making a noticeable blip on the radar. Others have managed to realize success only to later come apart as men when their time is done, ultimately ending up back on the streets with no prospects and little, if any, hope. One shifty call by a referee or the wayward scorecards of a couple of judges can literally alter a man’s destiny.
Spending time talking with Carl “The Truth” Williams, it quickly dawned on me that I wasn’t dealing with a relic from a bygone era, but rather dealing with a guy that had been to the highest levels of a very cruel sport and had come out of it with clear perspective on himself and life in general. Speaking with him, it became clear that I was dealing with a man of wisdom accrued over a lifetime of unusual success and dire disappointment. Along the way, I picked-up on his appreciation for life and sensed the underlying compassion that has no doubt served him well. There was one more thing that struck me, it was clear that there was no smoke being blown, and that I was indeed dealing with a man that was clear on reality and dealing strictly in The Truth.
MP: How did you get started in boxing? How did you get that nickname “The Truth”?
I initially got started by watching amateur boxing on television. Me and some friends of mine, we used to always watch it on channel 7 on Wide World of Sports. The USA versus this country or the USA versus that country. I’d always tell my friends “I could beat those guys.” They were like “man they could tear you up!” We’d always talk about it. We’d always race home every Saturday to watch television. Then one day, things kind of got, you know, I fell on some hardship, so to speak, and a friend of mine had suggested I go into boxing. You know at that time, I was like, please give me a break. All of a sudden, my grandmother became sick, and whatever I was involved with at the time, I wanted to change my life around. I started going to the gym. It was really hard in the beginning, I must say. But I stayed at it.
So they put me into the ring with a guy who was being groomed for the Golden Gloves, and I did fairly well with him for somebody who had come off of the street. Three or four months later, I chased him out of the gym. And I became the “go to” guy. I went to the golden gloves, and within six months of first starting out I won the whole golden gloves. I never fought any smokers, as they call them. Just straight from the gym to the Golden Gloves. The next year came around and I was immediately put on the United States boxing team. That was a thrill. That was a super experience for me traveling around the world. Be able to go to the various countries. Just to see the different cultures and different ways of life. For a kid coming off of the street, primarily from the ghetto, so to speak, reaching those heights, going to England, Sweden, Japan and facing various fighters from all around the world was just an awesome experience and a privilege. International boxing gave me an array of things.
MP: How did all of this affect your life?
The notoriety was unbelievable. When I became an amateur, people who knew me, they knew I was trying to do some boxing, but they didn’t know to what degree that I was a boxer until they saw me on Wide World of Sports. They couldn’t believe that I had gone from the Golden Gloves to international boxing, and had gotten that good to make it to that level.
Some of the people I grew up with at that point would tell me I’d never amount to anything. They’d tell you, “you’ll never beat this guy or you’ll never beat that one.” These are supposed to be the people who you grew up with and are supposed to be your friends. So what I did is I kind of left them behind. I just walked away from them. Unfortunately, as I went through life, I ran across a lot of that.
There’s an old saying, when you laugh everybody laughs with you. When you cry, you cry alone. This goes to say so many things about people. When the times are good, you have so many friends and admirers. They care about you and want to do something for you, but when you slide from fame or slide down a little bit, you’ll see who your real friends are. I know this because I’ve done a lot of living. Living, and learning and experiencing. I’ve been what people consider from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. We live and we learn, but you pay a lot to learn that lesson.
MP: You turned professional on January 22nd, 1982, with a four round unanimous decision over Greg Stephany at the Felt Forum in New York. What are your recollections of that period and your first win?
The thing was getting ready and making that transition from an amateur to a pro, I had pretty much grown into a pro style I guess. The more international boxing experience you have, the better you are equipped to turn pro, so to speak. It was good experience. I won the four rounder. I just boxed him throughout. He was a very strong guy I remember, not super on skills, but that was my first fight. It was a hell of an experience for a young man who had been fighting for maybe two or two and a half years. Suddenly I was a professional and as I thought, a very promising one.
MP: You faced an aging Larry Holmes for the IBF Heavyweight Title in your next fight. At that point, Holmes was a perfect 47-0. What are your recollections of that opportunity and the period just thereafter?
I remember when I was getting ready for him I told him I was the uncrowned king, the young heir to the throne, the baddest heavyweight in all the land. If I said one thing to Holmes, who I loved, don’t get me wrong, I kept telling him that “he’s ‘The Man,’ but I’m gonna push those legs into a journey of no return.” I guess I kept up that rhetoric for him, in that respect. It was playful as he was someone I always respected.
But unfortunately, that could have been one of my downfalls. I say it could have been one my downfalls because as opposed to finishing him on the few occasions when I had him, when I probably could have finished him, I was a little reluctant. He was literally taking a beating from a guy who was a mirror image of himself. What he provided for me wasn’t a money-thing but was an experience that I would get nowhere else. It opened the door for Carl “The Truth” Williams.
Even to this day, I figure that I beat Larry Holmes and on the points system I definitely should have won. That was my high, and obviously I seen a great deal of lows as a result of not being given the decision. One of things that fighters have to remember when you don’t win, there will be a lot of repercussions as a result, and ultimately for me there were.
MP: Three months after Holmes you were floored twice before posting a dramatic tenth round stoppage over a 13-0 Jesse Ferguson. How did you feel after such a grueling win?
He put me on my behind two times! I have to say to this day I’ve been in some fights throughout my career, but that has to be the hardest fight I fought as a professional. It was an endurance fight. It was a fight where I had to dig deep down within myself. I had to reach into myself and said this is what you are all about. I am a champion with a champion’s heart. I could have easily quit, if it had been my make-up, so to speak. That fight showed the people what I was really made of.
It was my carelessness in the respect of getting caught with my hands a little too low, which unfortunately has been my downfall as far as boxing is concerned. But I rose to the occasion. I was able to pick myself up, two times on the canvas, in the third round and again in the fifth, and come back and knock him out in the 10th round. Once again I proved that I was The Truth, no matter what.
MP: February 1986. You were handling the former WBA Heavyweight Champion, Mike “Hercules” Weaver, with apparent ease and seemingly on the verge of stopping him in round two. What happened?
At the Weaver fight I was slated to face Mike Tyson thereafter, probably. There was a lot of talk about that. This was before Tyson was champion. Now the people I had were not too smart, and maybe I wasn’t thinking myself, obviously I wasn’t. Because if I had been down in the Ferguson fight from left hooks, why the hell did they put me in with a guy like Mike Weaver who is a guy that specializes in left hooks and is a very good puncher. What they should have done is put me in fights where I could have honed my skills as far as the left hook is concerned and become a little more defensive in that respect. Then take a fighter like Mike Weaver, a good puncher, as an opponent.
In the fight itself, I did very well early and I had him ready to go. Out of the clear blue sky, all of a sudden he comes over with a left hook, my fault again. The same thing that Ferguson did to me cost me against Mike Weaver. He knocked me down three times and I couldn’t recover. It sent my career somewhat into peril. I had to rebuild myself back up again just to be able to again move forward.
MP: A mid-1987 return to the ring on network television against the streaking “Smokin” Bert Cooper who was coming off of a big win over Olympian Willie DeWitt. It appeared as though you were brought in as the opponent in order to build him up. What happened?
I know Bert. Bert is a friend of mine. He had vowed to destroy me. He was on a high, so to speak, because he had crushed everything they had put in front of him. He was heading down “Tyson Road,” so to speak. I wasn’t even looked at. They figured I was just somebody to be dominated and knocked out, etc, etc. He thought he knew everything but he didn’t know the truth like I know The Truth.
I was put back in the situation where I could redeem myself and that’s what I did, I redeemed myself. I had trained very well…it was one of the hardest times of my life training for a fight. I trained to stick, move and just literally stuck him up. I used good movement, jab, a little boxing, a little punching, in and out. After awhile, Cooper started to come unchained and he just kind of came apart. I just kept putting it on him until the end.
MP: In your 8th year as a professional fighter, and after having posted several impressive wins, you earned another shot at the heavyweight championship, this time against a 36-0 “Iron” Mike Tyson. What are you recollections of that event, going into it, and in the wake of its controversial aftermath?
I felt great about going into the fight against Tyson. Mike used to be my sparring partner, you know. Cus D’Amato was a friend of mine and a friend of my manager’s at the time. Kevin Rooney used bring Mike to White Plains to box with me. I was maybe 7-0 or 8-0 at the time, but Cus would allow him to come down because he trusted my trainer. Mike was very strong, a tough, tough fighter. But believe me. I used to put it on him. I definitely put it on him.
Everything he was when I fought him as a pro, he was an amateur. It just wasn’t the opportunity to continue because the ref said I “oh you never said anything, I asked if you were ok,” but I could barely hear the ref. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a little dazed, but I was up at the count of one, two, three. After, I was left to ponder what could have happened. Ok, he knocked me down, but I’ve been known to be knocked down twice in certain fights, but I always got up and rose to the occasion. This goes back to the amateur days on Wide World of Sports, the USA versus Cuba. The Cuban knocked me down in the first round, when I got up and he came at me again, I ended up knocking him out. As a matter of fact, that was in Montreal at the World Games. I was the only American to win that year.
MP: You went 4-2 with one no contest before landing yourself an HBO date with the very popular and highly ranked Tommy “The Duke” Morrison in 1993. You dropped him twice and came within a whisker of upsetting him before being yet again, the victim of another questionable call. What are your recollections of that event?
They gave Morrison an eight count even though in the rules there was no eight-count for that fight. That was criminal in itself. How the hell did they give him an eight count when there was no eight-count? They were preserving him for the Foreman fight. I knew what happened. It was just another of the unfortunate breaks that to my peril, altered my course in boxing. Every little occasion where they could rob me or they could do something, they would. The only thing, I just thank God is that I still have my head on my shoulders. They couldn’t take that from me.
MP: Your record shows that your final fight was in October of 1997, a stoppage loss to the unheralded Anthony Green. At that point, was the desire gone?
Yeah, pretty much. To be quite frank, I had a five fight deal. I had two knockouts and two decisions and I was fighting Anthony Green, somebody I used to box in the gym. I was just looking to get in and get out really quick, but there was just no longer any desire.
MP: Update RSR readers on what you have been up to since your retirement from boxing in 1997.
Well I’ve had my ups and downs. I was working at Taj Mahal at one point. I was what you would call an ambassador there. I would help people and direct them. From there I became a counselor up in West Chester. Then from there I started working in security. Gerry Cooney has an organization called F.I.S.T. He invited to come into his organization and he’d help me out. HBO had two jobs they were going to give to F.I.S.T. He said, “I’ll give you one of the jobs,” and I said, “okay.” So I waited and nothing happened and then Gerry came to me after six months to tell me that Lou DiBella, who was vice president at HBO Boxing at the time, wasn’t going to give me the job because he was going into boxing himself. He was going to need Bob Arum, and Bob Arum told Lou not to give me the job.
What happened was, he told me to take a security job with a firm he had a connection with to keep a little money in my pocket. Over time, I started getting recognition for doing a super job, because I was combining my street ability with my ability to articulate and communicate with people. I just kept getting better and better at that job. Over time I moved up various levels, I became a field supervisor, then a supervisor, then an account manager, ultimately becoming the Fire Safety Director.
There’s an old saying in order to get in, you got to fit in. You can’t get in if you don’t fit in. My articulation helped me a great deal and the fact that I’ve been able to call upon my experience through out my life of dealing with people and situations. I’ve been fortunate in that respect. I was handed an opportunity and I made the most of it.
I would love to have somebody give me a chance, give me a break. I would love for that to happen, to sit in a booth, sit down and talk about boxing, talk about fighting. You’ve got a lot of people doing that that don’t know crap about the game. They may know it from the outside, but they don’t know it from the inside. I am able to give you an all around view and understanding of boxing. I would just love to be able to do that, to commentate.
MP: How do you feel about today’s heavyweights and all of the titles floating around?
Well, to tell you the truth, if I were around at my very best I’d would probably be a champion for ten years or twenty years, based on the present crop. And that goes for the Klitschko’s or who ever else is fighting today. Today it’s embarrassing. These guys are big lumbering guys looking for one or two punches, holding each other throughout the rounds. In the 80’s, guys were fighting. Today’s crop, you slap them and they run to the ref like a little girl. The opponents are definitely weaker. It’s definitely not the boxers and boxing that I knew. It’s laughable.
MP: Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all fighters? How can this be accomplished?
It would have to be accomplished so that every time there is a fight, in whatever state or country, as long as you are a part of that body, whatever comes out of your purse, whatever percentage, will always go into that fund. Whether it’s 1% or 5%, it has to apply to each and every boxer, no matter how small or large the purse. If you participate in the sport, a portion, a percentage, must be put into this fund. The bigger your purse, the more you are actually putting into it. The standards have to be put into place to ensure that it works so that thirty years from now after your career is done, you don’t have to go out and sweep the fucking floor. The thing that helps me is that I can go out, deal with people and articulate. I can roll with the punches, so to speak. You also have to be able to think, show and prove. That’s one of the things that I had to do. I just didn’t talk the talk. I had to walk the walk. Unfortunately, not everybody has that ability.
MP: In closing, how do you want your fans to remember you?
I would like for them to remember me as a tough guy, a tough fighter. I was fair. I wasn’t a dirty fighter. I was honest. As my fans know, there were a few fights that I should have got the decision and I should have won. There were a few fights that I’ve had in my life that would have made the difference in my life, and probably my fans lives too. In retrospect it would have affected everyone. I just want all my fans to know that I still love them and that I’ll always be Carl “The Truth” Williams.
MP: Thank you for giving RSR your time.
Thank you. Hey man, listen. I said I would do it. It was my pleasure. Sometimes I just want to sit back and let all of this stuff out. The average person, everyday, when I go to work, or when I go here or I go there, they weren’t a part of that world. They don’t know or understand. The average person would have no idea on the depth to boxing and what goes into it. I’ve had some really difficult struggles in my life, things that I haven’t even gone into here. If there’s one thing boxing and life has shown me it’s this; “When you fall, fall on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up.”
Nickname: “The Truth”
Professional Record: 30-10, 21 KO’s
Date Opponent Location Result
1982-01-22 Greg Stephany New York, USA W UD 4
1982-03-31 Dwight Triplett New York, USA W TKO 1
1982-04-30 Louis Alexander New York, USA W TKO 2
1982-05-28 Donny Townsend New York, USA W KO 1
1982-06-11 Barry Funches New York, USA W TKO 6
1982-08-20 David Starkey New York, USA W TKO 3
1982-10-22 Michael Greer New York, USA W TKO 3
1982-12-09 Leroy Boone New York, USA W PTS 8
1983-02-18 Richard Cade New York, USA W TKO 1
1983-04-24 Robert Hill Atlantic City, USA W TKO 3
1983-06-30 David Jaco Atlantic City, USA W TKO 1
1983-08-16 Woody Clark Atlantic City, USA W PTS 10
1983-09-09 Percell Davis Las Vegas, USA W TKO 4
1984-03-07 Lou Benson Jr White Plains, USA W RTD 2
1984-08-09 Terry Mims New York, USA W TKO 3
1984-10-23 James Tillis Atlantic City, USA W UD 10
1985-05-20 Larry Holmes Reno, USA L UD 15
IBF Heavyweight Title
1985-08-31 Jesse Ferguson Atlantic City, USA W TKO 10
1986-02-16 Mike Weaver Troy, USA L TKO 2
1987-06-21 Bert Cooper Atlantic City, USA W RTD 8
vacant USBA Heavyweight Title
1987-10-17 Mike Gans Atlantic City, USA W TKO 7
1988-01-27 Rodney Frazier San Diego, USA W TKO 1
USBA Heavyweight Title
1988-06-27 Trevor Berbick Atlantic City, USA W UD 12
USBA Heavyweight Title
1988-11-10 Mike Rouse Stateline, USA W TKO 3
USBA Heavyweight Title
1989-07-21 Mike Tyson Atlantic City, USA L TKO 1
WBC Heavyweight Title
WBA World Heavyweight Title
IBF Heavyweight Title
1990-07-24 Melton Bowen Atlantic City, USA W TKO 5
USBA Heavyweight Title
1991-03-08 Tim Witherspoon Atlantic City, USA L SD 12
USBA Heavyweight Title
1991-10-15 Kimmuel Odum Atlantic City, USA NC NC 10
1992-01-12 Marshall Tillman Atlantic City, USA W TKO 2
1992-03-22 Jerry Jones Atlantic City, USA L PTS 10
1992-08-20 Ossie Ocasio Atlantic City, USA W UD 10
1992-11-03 Jimmy Lee Smith Mashantucket, USA W TKO 3
1993-01-16 Tommy Morrison Reno, USA L TKO 8
1993-04-24 Frank Bruno Birmingham, United Kingdo L TKO 10
1994-07-22 Alexander Zolkin Robinsonville, USA L TKO 7
1995-03-17 Melvin Foster Bushkill, USA L PTS 10
1996-05-31 Sean Hart Rye Brook, USA W DQ 3
1996-08-02 Lou Turchiarelli Melville, USA W TKO 2
1996-11-27 Domingo Monroe Whitman, USA W PTS 8
1997-06-13 Marion Wilson Port Chester, USA W UD 10
1997-10-30 Anthony Green Port Chester, USA L TKO 7
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