Saturday, May 9, 2009 | midnight
- Second time is Tarver’s charm (5-9-2009)
- Dawson-Tarver weigh in (5-8-2009)
- Talk is cheaper this time around (5-8-2009)
- Tarver eager for rematch (5-7-2009)
- ‘Bad Chad’ not mad at rematch (3-21-2009)
- For both Dawson and Tarver, it’s personal, again (3-21-2009)
- Injury postpones Dawson-Tarver bout (2-18-2009)
- Domineering win unleashes Dawson's ambitions (10-13-2008)
- Dawson wins by unanimous decision (10-11-2008)
He’s trained champs and chumps.
Kids, like Antonio Tarver made it all the way to the top. Others lay dead in the streets. Jimmy Williams’ message of a better life couldn’t save them from some of mankind’s biggest pitfalls: drugs and violence.
Williams was a contemporary of Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson.
But all accolades and accomplices aside, the 81-year-old’s illustrious career, which also saw him perform a stint as a professional dancer, is best defined in the ring.
Boxing is and always has been at the heart of Jimmy Williams.
“I’ve always loved boxing,” Williams said. “The one-on-one aspect of you versus your opponent, man vs. man. It’s been very, very good to me.”
But Williams has also been very good to the sport.
The two have coexisted for 60 years.
Early on, Williams realized his niche was on the outside of the ring, rather than in it. He fought a couple of times professionally, but he’s left his legacy of building up both pros and troubled youths.
Saturday night Williams’ most-prized pupil, Tarver, will once again try to make his trainer proud.
“He’s really like a son to me,” Williams said of Tarver, who will try to regain his IBF/IBO titles against Chad Dawson Saturday night at the Hard Rock.
“Antonio is so committed for this fight. He knows exactly what he has to do and I’m confident he will do exactly that Saturday night.”
While Dawson’s camp is confident that he will put on an even more spectacular display than he did in his unanimous decision win last fall, they can’t help but pay their respects to the man in the other corner.
“Oh, much respect for sure, he’s a legend,” Dawson’s trainer, Eddie Muhammad, said of Williams. "He’s a complete teacher of the game. He’s very serious about what he does and that shows in all his fighters.”
For Tarver that education came first-hand from Williams, who left his native Brooklyn in the early 1970s to travel to Florida to be closer to his mother and started a Boys and Girls club-style gym to teach area youths “how to be a man.”
“He’s been with me from the womb to tomb. He laid the foundation, taught me all the ins and outs about boxing,” Tarver said. “The skill and the talent you see in me today, he is the one who honed those skills.”
Tarver said while he could never repay Williams in financial terms for all that he has showed him, he thinks the biggest sign of respect is to follow in his legendary footsteps.
“You never can turn your back on the people who have taught you the most, and Jimmy has done that for me,” he said.
“He understands what it takes to be a champion in and out of the ring. The man has more knowledge about life than anything in the ring.”
Williams said he is humbled by the compliments, but said win or lose Saturday night, Tarver’s mantra is the real key to his success.
“He’s a complete man now. He’s at a crossroads in his career, but he knows that and he’s gonna show it," he said.
As for his own future, Williams said you can find him near the ring.
“A lot of people tell me 'I'm this or I'm that,' but I never think about it like that,” Williams said. “I’ve always been humble guy and that’s how I approach each and every day.
“Yeah, I’m 81, but age is nothing but a number. When I hear death on my doorstep I tell him there’s plenty of people next door ready for him. I’m not yet, I’ve got too much to do still.”
Arguably one the coolest joints in town, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino houses some of Vegas' best entertainment, restaurants and nightlife.
At Hard Rock, it's all about the music. From the light fixtures made out of drum cymbals and guitar shaped door handles to stage costumes and tools of the trade of legendary musicians displayed on the walls, the hotel screams rock and roll. The Hard Rock's Joint has hosted some the biggest names in music — from The Who to Bob Dylan to hometown heroes, The Killers.Aside from the music venues, the pool at the Hard Rock is one of its biggest attractions. Spread out over 4.7 acres, the pool area features swim-up blackjack, a bar and grill, private cabanas, a bevy of secluded nooks, a waterfall and an extensive live music venue with a dance floor. During the summer, the pool transforms into the Rehab club on Sunday afternoons.
The resident nightclub Body English fuses European elegance with a rock star bachelor pad and it often a hot spot for visiting celebs and popular DJs. Vintage rock memorabilia lines the walls at Wasted Space, Hard Rock's anti-club.
Restaurants at Hard Rock are just as hip as the rest of the casino. Pink Taco serves up Mexican dishes, as well as a Central American and Caribbean menu. Nobu, one of five worldwide Japanese-specialty restaurants from famed Nobu Matsuhisa, satisfies a different taste. For round-the-clock cuisine, Mr. Lucky's 24/7, is sure to ease your appetite even after a Vegas-all-nighter.
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.