Fighting

Former boxing champ Paul Williams returns to sport as trainer

Paul Williams, right, celebrates his win over Carlos Quintana in the WBO welterweight boxing title bout in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday, June 7, 2008. Williams defeated Quintana with a knockout in the first round.
Paul Williams, right, celebrates his win over Carlos Quintana in the WBO welterweight boxing title bout in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday, June 7, 2008. Williams defeated Quintana with a knockout in the first round. AP

The fighters featured Friday night on Showtime’s telecast from Miami, Oklahoma, might play secondary roles to the notable retired champion who will work one of the corners.

Former welterweight and super-welterweight titleholder Paul Williams will make his first national TV appearance in more than four years. Williams’ fighting career was tragically cut short after injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

But Williams overcame those dark first months after the accident. Thanks to arduous physical therapy and a willingness to contribute again to the sport, Williams has become a trainer. Williams’ top pupil, super-welterweight Justin De Loach, will fight Dillon Cook in the Showtime telecast.

“What’s happened has happened,” Williams said in a statement released by Showtime. “This is my first time stepping back into the world. I love boxing.”

Before his accident in May 2012, Williams, 35, was considered among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Now, Williams, who lives in his hometown Aiken, South Carolina, is providing guidance to fighters such as De Loach, a 22-year-old with a 13-1 record and seven knockouts.

Although he now enjoys his new path, Williams initially had minimal interest in returning to the sport.

“I guess I was being selfish at first,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to deal with the fight game. I wanted to be the one fighting. But that changed.”

Repeated encouragement from his former trainer and manager, George Peterson, eventually won over Williams from his initial reluctance.

“Everything is about timing,” Williams said. “I started thinking about it. George kept asking me and messing with me about it. One thing led to another and I finally said I’d take a stab at it.

“I’m scared all over again — like this is my first fight. Now I have to think about everything that [Peterson] was thinking about when I was fighting. I have to try to try and teach Justin what I knew what to do.”

AROUND THE RING

▪ Miami resident Sullivan Barrera will take a substantial step in his six-year professional career Saturday night. Barrera, a native of Cuba, will face super-middleweight champion Andre Ward in Ward’s hometown Oakland, California.

Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) solidified his status as a light-heavyweight contender following his fifth-round knockout win over former contender Karo Murat last December.

Before his number of fights decreased dramatically four years ago because of injuries and promotional conflicts, Ward (28-0, 17 KOs) was considered one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters. Ward made his light-heavyweight debut with a ninth-round TKO win over Paul Smith last June.

Barrera, who is training for Saturday’s bout in Big Bear Lake, California, finds motivation in his perceived role as a Ward steppingstone. Ward already is being considered for a 175-pound title match with part-time Fort Lauderdale resident Sergey Kovalev later this year.

“Those predictions [of a Kovalev-Ward fight] just motivate me to work harder in the gym,” Barrera said before a recent workout. “My goal is to shatter those predictions.”

▪ Miami resident Niko Valdes will make his professional debut April 15 in Los Angeles. Valdes’ opponent in the scheduled four-round super-middleweight bout has not been announced.

A Gulliver High graduate, Valdes, 22, enjoyed a successful four-year amateur career that exceeded 70 bouts. Among Valdes’ amateur accomplishments was a state Golden Gloves championship. Valdes also reached a No. 3 ranking in the light-heavyweight division.

As a result of Valdes’ achievements, Golden Boy Promotions signed him to a contract.

Coming up

Friday (10 p.m., Estrella TV): Antonio Orozco vs. Miguel Acosta, 10, welterweights.

Friday (10:30 p.m., Showtime): Dillon Cook vs. Justin De Loach, 10, super welterweights.

Saturday (9:45 p.m., HBO): Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera, 12, light heavyweights.

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