[ MIXED MARTIAL ARTS ]
Former boxer comes back from KO to try new sport
Jeremy Williams was ready to be boxing's next great heavyweight champion.
Sporting a 41-4 record with 35 knockouts, Williams strutted into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in December 2004 to fight undefeated Samuel Peter for the vacant NABF heavyweight title.
He was confident and cocky. He said he didn't deserve to fight in a boxing ring again if he couldn't beat the Nigerian.
ICON SPORT: ALL IN
Tomorrow, at Blaisdell Arena
185 lbs.: "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler vs. Trevor "The Experiment" Garrett
185: "Charuto" Renato Verissimo vs. Kris Fleurestil
205: Jeremy "Half-man, half-amazing" Williams vs. Derek Thornton
HW: Scott "Punk Haole" Junk vs. John George
HAWAII STATE TITLE FIGHT
145: "The Eastside Strangler" Chico Cantiberos vs. Bronson Pieper
170: Mark Moreno vs. Sam Jackson
150: Mike Balasi vs. Jerome Kekumu
HW: Randy Lueder vs. Ron "Killing" Fields
195: Kekoa Baker vs. Kala Kolohe Hose
145: Sadhu Bott vs. Peni Taufa'ao
160: Justin Bucholz vs. Brandon Pieper
HW: Allen Lau vs. Richard Desforge
135: Duane Haney vs. Jay Bolos
140: Isaiah Cobb-Adams vs. Devon Chong
Twenty seconds into the second round, a left hook knocked him out cold. He lost consciousness and can't remember the punch after being out on the canvas for more than 3 minutes. If the violence of the hit didn't cause the concussion he suffered, his head bouncing off the canvas like a basketball did.
For most people that'd be it. Williams hasn't competed in a boxing ring since, but certainly not because he can't take a punch.
He simply traded in his boxing gloves for the fingerless weapons favored by mixed-martial artists.
The man nicknamed "Half-man, half-amazing" will take part in his second professional MMA fight tomorrow night, when he faces Derek Thornton on the main card of the Icon Sport: All In event at the Blaisdell Arena.
"I fought over 400 fights and only lost nine times," Williams said. "Being knocked out once or twice isn't anything to me if you play the numbers game."
Williams was already thirsting for something else prior to his final boxing fight. A state high school champion in wrestling, Williams also practiced karate every Saturday while growing up. But it wasn't until a celebrity charity event a few years ago when Williams really began to think seriously about changing sports. It was there he met a man named Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
"It was funny because people were making a big deal out of him there and I had no clue who he was," Williams said. "I began to talk to him and he told me what he does and I remember thinking this guy is crazy, I would never do anything like that."
Jackson was a star in the PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan at the time, and just last weekend made his UFC debut by knocking out Marvin Eastman in the second round. Jackson and Williams became close friends and eventually started training together in California. Williams spent three days a week training with Jackson for his UFC debut.
"He's good at what he does -- wrestling, defense, and slamming people, and I was very good at punching, so we've kind of come together and helped each other out with our strengths," Williams said.
A boxer at heart, Williams was slow to convince himself of the importance of learning a wide variety of techniques that make MMA fighting such a well-rounded sport.
"I even started training some Muai-Thai kickboxing," Williams said. "I always thought kicking was for girls until I got kicked by somebody."
While training in California, Williams became good friends with former Icon middleweight champion Jason "Mayhem" Miller and now finds himself training with Miller and Jackson, as well as famed jiu-jitsu black belt Eddie Bravo. It was Miller that got Williams his first professional fight with Icon when he stopped Ron Fields by TKO three months ago in a debut he wasn't especially proud of.
"When I took (Fields) down I got myself into my own trouble," Williams said. "Had I just went out there and boxed the guy, I would have knocked him out in seconds.
"I won't be making the same mistake this time."
With top-level fighters in the UFC now making millions of dollars, Williams has dreams of one day competing on the sport's biggest stage. He owns the label of being the first well-known professional boxer to make the transition to mixed martial arts, but knows that his window of opportunity won't be open very long.
"I'm the only boxer who is really taking it serious," Williams said. "What we do as MMA fighters now we make a good living and we'll do pretty good, but the next-level guys are going to be outstanding. They'll learn to blend everything from such a young age without even thinking about it."
In the main event, another former Icon middleweight champion, "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler, can take a major step toward getting a shot at regaining the belt if he can defeat Ohio's Trevor "The Experiment" Garrett. A Lawler win would likely set up a title fight between him and current champion Frank Trigg at the next event.
Tomorrow night's card will also feature the Icon debuts of "Charuto" Renato Verissimo and Scott "Punk Haole" Junk and a 145-pound Hawaii state title fight between champion Chico Cantiberos and Bronson Pieper. Tyson Nam (fractured wrist), Ikaika Choy-Fu (pneumonia), Marshall Harvest (strained neck) and Kolo Koka (elbow tendinitis) had to be pulled from the event.
Doors open at 7 p.m., with the first of 14 scheduled fights set to begin at 7:30.