Sunday, January 27, 2002

Williams Jr. fights in the name of his hometown, and its people




By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
(left to right) Boxers Brandon Bennett, 14 of Price Hill, Olympic silver medalist Ricardo Williams Jr., Adrien Broner, 12 of South Fairmount and Anthony Walker, 15 of Avondale.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        So intent is Ricardo Williams Jr. on fighting at home, he is taking part of his compensation in tickets for his Feb. 24 nationally televised main event.

        His opponent is Anthony Washington (15-0-1) of Philadelphia.

        Wednesday, it appeared the fight would not be held locally — “It fell through; we're fighting in Akron,” said a voice mail from Ric Williams Sr., Ric Jr.'s co-manager — but then a deal with Cincinnati Gardens was announced Friday.

        “It's a tribute to how much Ric wants to fight there,” said Lou DiBella, Williams Jr.'s matchmaker.

        DiBella said Williams Jr., 20, the Olympic silver medalist, remains on track for a matchup with gold medalist Mohamad Abdullaev, who beat Williams Jr. at the Summer Games in Sydney. It could happen later this year or early next year.

        DiBella wouldn't provide financial details about the Feb. 24 card, except that because it's a Sunday afternoon fight card on ESPN, there is “not a high budget” for the show. So the only way it could happen locally was for Williams Jr. to get creative. The arena rental was less expensive elsewhere.

        Williams Jr. took a portion of his guaranteed purse in tickets.

        “That helped make it possible,” DiBella said. “It's the right place to fight. Brian Viloria, an Olympic teammate of Ric's, will be on the TV portion of the card. We're also going to have several local kids on the card.”

        Among them could be local Robert Dula (vs. world-ranked Travis Simms), Cornell Shinholster and Ravae Springs, who is fighting for a title Feb. 6 in St. Louis. Matches still are being arranged. The show's promoters are shooting for a Tuesday press conference in Cincinnati to provide more details.

        The scheduled 10-round bout will be Williams Jr.'s third local show as a pro. Williams (6-0, 5 knockouts) is the main event.

        His last bout wasn't televised — a knockout of Canadian Mark Adams in San Antonio — but afterward, Williams Jr. made sure the crowd knew where he was from. He donned a red-and-black Reds cap and waved it around. The Reds, who for financial reasons have spent an offseason nixing trades and acquisitions that would have helped the team, can use all the positive exposure a favorite son can give them.

        Williams Jr. continues to make a big impact in the Mount Auburn gym, where he trains under his father, Billy Joiner and Mike Stafford, who is heading a local contingent of young boxers who will fight for national Silver Glove titles next week in Lenexas, Kan.

        Among them: Brandon Bennett, 14, of Price Hill, who is ranked No. 3 nationally in the senior division at 106; Adrien Broner, 12, of South Fairmount, who is No. 1 as an intermediate (75 pounds); and Anthony Walker, 15, of Avondale, No. 2 in the senior division (119 pounds). Each had his take on the impact of Williams Jr.:

        Bennett: “I'd like to be like him someday. He's a nice person and a good fighter. He's slick. And he's a southpaw like me. I got in the ring with him once. I tried to hit him. He had his hands down, but I couldn't hit him. He kept ducking me. That shows how quick he is.”

        Walker: “He's Slick Rick. Everybody in Cincinnati likes him. He's representing (us). I went to his fight at Cintas Center. He looked good, and he's always in shape. I see that, and I say, "I'm going to stay in the gym. I'm going to do my running.' I try to copy his footwork. He studies his opponent, gets them down pat and then goes in after them.”

        Broner: “He's real fast. He takes good care of us. He likes to play with us. I want to be a pro someday like he is.”

        Also going to the nationals are Cincinnati boxers Keontey Leatherwood, 13, and Brandon Keith, 14. One of the top members of the local contingent is Rashid Warren, 15, of Colerain Township, who has won four national Silver Glove titles.

        “A fifth would tie him with Ric Jr.,” Stafford said. “That's high-class company, and all the kids know it.”

        Williams Jr. said he remembers what it was like to have an idol working in the same gym.

        “I idolized Ravae Springs — still do,” Williams Jr. said.

        He said he will attend Springs' title bout.

        “It feels great to be fighting at home,” Williams Jr. said. “People are always asking me, "When's the next time you're going to fight at home?' I usually have to say, "I don't know.' But now I can say: "At the Gardens, Feb. 24.' That's a good feeling.”

       



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