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July 20, 2019

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Tarver’s trainer shares tips, wisdom

Jimmy Williams has been around the game 60 years, says he has plenty more to share


Steve Marcus

Trainer Jimmy Williams, center, listens to speakers with former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, left, and trainer Buddy McGirt, right, during a news conference at the Hard Rock hotel-casino Thursday May 7, 2009. Tarver will try to regain the IBF title when he meets IBF champion Chad Dawson for a rematch at the Hard Rock on Saturday. Both fighters are of the U.S.

Tarver-Dawson News Conference

IBF light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, left, and former champion Antonio Tarver pose during a news conference at the Hard Rock hotel Thursday, May 7, 2009. Dawson will attempt to retain the title that he took from Tarver when the boxers meet for a rematch at the Hard Rock on Saturday.  Launch slideshow »

Tarver-Dawson weigh-in

From left: Trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad ,IBF light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson boxing promoter Gary Shaw, trainer Jimmy Williams, and former champion Antonio Tarver pose during an official weighin at the Hard Rock hotel-casino Friday, May 8, 2009. Dawson will attempt to retain the title that he took from Tarver when the boxers meet for a rematch at the Hard Rock on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

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.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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