Undefeated British and Commonwealth super-welter king Liam Williams is a seriously hard young man, sculpted in the heart of the Rhondda Valley that spawned so many of Britain’s toughest ever prizefighters.
Ahead of his unmissable shoot out with Liverpool’s former WBO king Liam Smith at Manchester Arena on April 8th, the raw boned, shovel fisted 24 year old powerhouse from Clydach Vale spoke to Glynn Evans about the streets and people that helped fashion him into a formidable fighting machine.
‘I’m a Rhondda boy and I’m extremely proud of my roots. I’ve always said that no matter how much money and recognition I gain, I’ll never move very far from here.
‘Everyone up here knows each other, looks out for each other. The people have always been the same with me, not just since I started doing well. Whenever I fight, the village is pretty empty. They’ve always shown their support and bought tickets by the thousand. Hopefully my success can inspire others from up here to achieve good things.
‘We’ve a fabulous fighting tradition in this valley. The great Tommy Farr, an absolute legend who came so close to toppling Joe Louis for the world heavyweight title (1937), lived literally 50 metres from my house. He’s held in very high esteem in these parts so to hear people speaking of me as ‘The Next Big Thing’ since him is extremely flattering.
‘Jimmy Wilde, probably the greatest Welsh boxer ever (a Hall of Fame former world flyweight champion) was from Tylerstown and, if I could fly, that would be barely a mile away. It’s about five miles by car on the winding roads.
‘Tom Thomas, the first British middleweight champion, is from Penygraig where my old amateur gym was based, two miles away and flyweight Percy Jones, Wales first ever world champion, was from Porth which is only three and a half miles from Clydach. These great fighters all did the same runs as me, breathed the same air. That’s inspiring.
‘Clydach Vale is a hard, hard area, an old mining community. There was a coal tip literally 50 metres behind my house and the majority of the old boys up here are ex miners. Big men, hard men.
‘You’d always get a lot of brawls outside the pub on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s that kind of place. We’re brought up to look after ourselves. Nobody ever backs down. But there’s not much knife or gun crime. If someone has a problem they like to settle it immediately. They don’t come back later with a weapon. It’s shirts off and have it out. Up here, we settle our disputes with our fists then shake hands after. Old school.
‘My family are all strong, brave people, old traditional fighters who don’t give a f*** who you are. Apparently my grandfather on my dad’s side was a bare knuckle boxing champion but he died before I was born so I don’t ask too many questions.
‘Rugby and boxing are the two big things up here. I never really took to rugby. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved a fight; in the ring or out. In school, I was probably the toughest kid. I weren’t the tallest but I was always a bit of a lump, naturally very strong and chunky. I’d never back down and there weren’t too many challengers.
‘The Rhondda’s been through some bad times in recent years. Since the pits shut down, there’s not a great amount of money up here. That’s why I value my support so much. As a kid, I never had anything easy myself. That breeds toughness, mental strength. Perhaps that’s why we’ve produced so many outstanding boxers from here.
‘But I’m only telling you all this because you’re asking the questions. To me, it really doesn’t matter where I’m from or where Smith is from. It’s all bullsh**. Let’s just meet inside the boxing ring in Manchester on April 8th and ‘sort it out.’
‘I’ll be seeing him soon and he’d better be ready. I’m very confident!’
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