It was a fight in Hollywood without a happy ending for Liam Williams on Saturday afternoon in Florida.
Williams was beaten on points by the champion, Demetrius Andrade, in a fight for the WBO middleweight title, but the raw statistics barely tell the story of 36-minutes of blood and guts. And, it was another failed attempt by a good British boxer in an overseas fight against an underestimated champion.
Williams was perhaps too confident, too convinced that he could not be hurt and that he would, at some point over 12 rounds, break Andrade’s spirit; it looked like a decent plan and remains the easiest way to beat Andrade. However, in boxing, knowing and doing, are often separated by a galaxy of hurt.
Andrade is now unbeaten in 30 fights, he has won and defended world titles at two weights, he was a quality Olympian in 2008 and in 2007 he won the world amateur championship. He has deep, deep pedigree, but has missed out on big fights, missed out on the profile. He is a maverick with a tricky style, not boring, just elusive.
In the opening thirty seconds of the first round, Williams was caught, staggered, badly hurt and I don’t think he ever fully recovered his senses from that early, early attack. He was on heavy legs when the bell sounded, defiant but stunned and bright-eyed as he sat down for a needed reprieve. It was not in the plans to get hurt so early and so heavily, that is for sure.
In the second he was dropped by a left and landed with a thud on his backside; his balance at the moment the punch connected was not great, but he was still badly shaken, his eyes glowing with confusion; when he regained his feet, Andrade had 20 seconds left of the round to finish him off. He never did, it gave Williams the type of hope and courage that so many before him have shown in lost, lost causes.
“I took his best shot, I knew I could beat him then – I knew that he could not hurt me again,” said a defiant Williams at the end.
“He was tough, he kept on coming,” admitted Andrade, who had struggled before the first bell to agree Williams was a tough man. “He never stopped coming at me.”
It had been a disastrous start for Williams in a fight where he believed that Andrade could not hurt him and there is no way to sugar-coat the struggle he faced as the bell for the third sounded.
“He was a lot better than I thought, far more slippery,” admitted Williams and he is right. The fight might have finished differently had Williams fought with a bit more caution from the start, a bit more respect and fear. In the end, they met each other in the middle of the ring for a slugfest and Andrade connected first. It was a risk for both and it made it a terrific fight to watch.
Andrade never got the stoppage after such a big start; Williams slowly and painfully fought his way back into the fight. It was attritional at times, always gruelling and Williams simply refused to back down. If the fight had started in round three, it might have become a classic; Williams was in a violent struggle from the third until the final bell, the first two rounds ruined his chances.
In round four, Williams blocked a few counters and pushed Andrade back; it was the pattern I expected, the pattern Williams needed from the start and I thought he won the round. He tried to do the same in five, six, seven and eight, but Andrade is smart and moved, slipped and held. Andrade also connected often enough and with enough power to stop Williams in his tracks. It was, after eight, a better fight than most expected, but Andrade was way out in front; Williams needed a knockout by the start of the ninth.
In the ninth, Williams, like Andrade in the second, was a punch from boxing’s promised land. Andrade was caught with a right, his legs buckled, he fell back to the ropes, turned his body away from Williams, hid his chin and survived. It was sudden and disturbing, but the champion got through it. It was a brawl from that point until the final bell with both men marked and taking a lot of punches. Andrade won the rounds; Williams made the rounds.
One judge gave it to Andrade by five rounds, the other two seemed brutal, but it is a closer reflection of the fight, and gave Williams just two rounds. It was a lesson in boxing grade; a fight won ugly and a fight lost ugly. There was certainly no fantasy attached, no dream moment in the late afternoon sun of a lazy Florida day; it was just two men somewhere on the Florida coast in a fight with too much pride, on a night when too many people were watching the sanctioned freak show between a YouTuber and a fallen UFC fighter in another American boxing ring.
Andrade deserves a fight with one of the other champions and Williams will be back; they both deserve another big show, just not against each other. They saved the sport, on a night of lunacy in another ring, with their blood and guts and devotion to the ancient art. That is about as close to a happy ending as I can manage from a fight that was too often uncomfortable to watch.