March 4, 2019, Los Angeles, California: Austin Williams speaks at the press conference announcing the April 26, 2019 Matchroom Boxing USA fight card that will take place at the Forum in Los Angeles, California. Photo credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom Boxing USA
Unlike most fighters set to make their professional debuts, this Friday night isn’t the culmination of a lifetime’s amount of work for Austin “Ammo” Williams but the product of a revelation he had a little more than three years ago.
“Words can’t describe how thankful I am,” Williams said at a press conference in early March. “This is a dream for me. Three years ago I started boxing and now I am here. If I wrote it, you wouldn’t believe it but I’m here. And I’m here to stay.”
Williams, 22, can tell you the exact day in which his love affair with boxing first started or you can actually read that date (8/25/2015) tattooed on the bottom of the southpaw’s left arm, placed directly beneath a fiery phoenix that signifies his personal rebirth. Every day since he first laced up a pair of boxing gloves, Williams has catalogued what he’s learned in and outside the ring within a series of journals that have helped him navigate a remarkable crash course of the Sweet Science.
“That’s three years worth of experience, trials, errors and the recollection of potent events,” Williams told RingTV.com over the course of multiple interviews ahead of his pro debut at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Streamed live on DAZN, Williams will take on Joel Guevara (3-4-1, 2 knockouts) in support of the highly-anticipated junior bantamweight rematch between The Ring Magazine/WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada. There’s a clear motive he’s had in mind all along when it comes to making a first impression.
“I want to make the impression that I am exciting,” Williams said. “I will pull in the general public. They will have a general idea of what I’m going for: I’m going for the knockout and I’m strategically trying to take a guy out. It’s not a point-getting system that I’m working off of like an amateur boxing thing. That’s pretty much what I really want to establish in my first fights coming out. Of course, I’m planning on slowing that down when I get up in the ranks and go for title fights and things like that – adjusting for other killers. But right now, I really want to show that whoever they put in the ring with me, I’m gunning to take them out. I want the fans to really be excited and happy that they bought a ticket. I don’t want them to feel like they wasted their time. I was just recently at a professional show where a couple of amateurs had their debut and you could see that they didn’t quite get the memo to change their style. They came in thinking with the point-scoring mentality and that ended up deadening the crowd. They were disengaged and that hurts you for your fights going forward. A big goal of mine is to make sure I set the standard that I’m going to take these guys out. I’m going to give you a show and I want you to be on your feet at the end of my show.”
Although it took him until the age of 19 to finally step between the ropes, Williams always had a knack for fighting. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Williams was raised there until the age of 10 when his mother’s job promotion moved the family to Houston, Texas. He remembers Milwaukee as a rough place to live, pointing out one New Year’s Eve spent in a basement because his house got shot up that night. And while moving to Houston got him out of the rough neighborhoods of Mil-Town, both experiences molded a fighter.
“Milwaukee was a very tough place,” Williams recalled. “I’m happy about my beginnings because it gave me a different type of hunger. Knowing where I come from – it made me like to fight. When I moved to Houston, it was a nice area and there were a lot of kids that would actually act like gang members. But I had seen it (already). I had a lot of cousins and family members who had to do those things. They really were involved in those things and I’d seen the realities of having to be a gang member for protection or selling drugs. When I’d see kids in the suburbs of Houston do all that, I would just want to fight them. I had a chip on my shoulder when I moved down to Houston. They also had some gang-banging activities and things like that and I knew in reality, they were good. They were taken care of and well-fed children, so they had no reason to do it. One of my goals and things was thinking those were people I could fight and exercise my passion. People would think it was because I was angry or something but really it was an opportunity to do what I love to do.
“It was like I was a vigilante taking these guys out but in reality, I just really liked to fight. It was a win-win situation for me and it kept me out of gangs because I would do it solo. Sometimes people would think it was out of anger but it definitely was because I loved the challenge of it. I loved the thrill of it. No other sport or anything could match that thrill that I got from it. That should’ve told me and my parents right away that I should’ve done something like boxing but nobody in my family did it. When I look back, it’s so crazy that I didn’t begin fighting at a young age because I really loved it. I love the build-up; I love the nerves before the first punch is thrown and things of that nature.”
Williams eventually found his way to the Main Boxing Gym in Houston before becoming the city’s caped crusader. There he found others who can actually fight, prompting the well-documented lessons over the course of the next three years. Williams’ amateur career consists of only 47 fights, twice winning the USA Boxing Western Regional as well as the Houston Golden Gloves in consecutive years to eventually become the No.1-ranked 165-pounder in the country. Normally the top amateurs would be eyeing the next Olympics before venturing into the pros; however that particular achievement wasn’t the his forecast to begin with.
“I was extremely close to going for the (2020) Tokyo Olympics but what deterred me from that was the fact that it was not my original goal,” Williams explained. “I started boxing late at 19 and to start my career at 24 would make a huge difference for me. I also made a huge name for myself through my exciting amateur fights. I knew I would still be on a learning curve when I began my professional career anyway. Amateur boxing wasn’t stimulating for me anymore.”
When speaking on his amateur career, Williams was sure to point out that being a sparring partner for other professionals and Olympians in that time had much to do with his boxing education. Regis “Rougarou” Prograis – RingTV.com’s No.1-ranked junior welterweight – was one such fighter who pushed Williams hard, even as a novice.
“They had me sparring with Regis very early and I think he always knew that I was something because he didn’t take it easy,” said Williams. “He worked, not to kill me but definitely to push me, to make me better. He wasn’t treating me like a charity case, which I think is disrespect. I see sometimes guys get in the ring with a champion and the champion treats them as a charity case. They’ll toy with them like they’re not worth their time. Regis always treated me as if I was worth his time and those things going into some of my amateur fights and going against good competition knowing that I’ve worked with him and got through rounds with him, that gave me a lot of confidence.”
“He’s a beast,” Prograis told RingTV.com. “I’m pretty sure he will be a future superstar. He started boxing, what, like three years ago? I remember we sparred at first and he learned and kept getting better and better. Of course I told my management about him. There aren’t a lot of people I would stick up for in boxing in this type of way.”
Prograis – another Houston transplant out of New Orleans, Louisiana – connected Williams with his team of Peter Berg and Sam Katkovski, who run Churchill Management in Santa Monica, California. Admittedly Katkovski was reluctant to sign an amateur fighter after going through the same experience back in 2015. They signed Abraham “Abie” Lopez out of the amateurs only to become quickly disappointed when the 20-year-old lost his pro debut and subsequently had a fallout with the team. Berg and Katkovski have always maintained only a handful-sized stable of fighters, so they’ve always been careful. That said, once they caught wind of other prominent managers seeking Williams’ signature – along with the recommendation from Prograis and trainer Bobby Benton – they decided to invest in the prospect.
“In this game, you got always want to keep learning and not think you’re already there,” Prograis continued. “There’s a lot of fighters that have beaten people they’re supposed to beat and they think they’re already there but you can’t get like that and you always gotta keep learning. Because guess what? There’s always somebody working harder than you and that’s better than you. That’s how I was. Before I was making money all the way to like 10-0, I’d see people on TV and want to come after them. Now I’m there. That’s how he is. He studies; he’s always working. He’s always looking at his sparring videos and all that type of stuff.”
Soon after the signing, Berg, Katkovski and Williams struck a deal with Matchroom Boxing, one of the bigger promotional outfits in the world. The England-based company, run by Eddie Hearn, began expanding its business into the United States last summer and, along with influencing the launch of DAZN in the U.S., Williams became another American prospect added to a growing stable stateside.
“In my second year of boxing, I lost a split decision to Nikita Ababiy and he fights on the same promotion as me – that’s crazy,” Williams recalled when talking about his amateur days. “That was a really good fight. I actually learned a lot from that fight. I felt like it could’ve gone either way but in it I did learn and it helped me win my next tournament, so I have no problem with it. He’s probably the only one where I feel like I want to get that back or that there’s a possibility we will see each other again. That’s a cool one. But I wish him the best of luck in his career and I hope we fight and make some money off of it. I know they will build him up.”
As for how he will be built and cultivated, Williams is competing anywhere between 154 and 160 pounds in the early stages and is aiming for contention in the junior middleweight division once fully established.
“I think my professional career is going to mimic my amateur career,” Williams said. “I took the chances. The better the competition, the better I fight. With the track that Eddie Hearn and my manager Sam and all those guys are trying to put me on – it’s kind of a mirror – I’m not gonna waste a lot of time with the low-level fights and opponents. I want to take risks. I’m in this sport and I know boxing doesn’t last forever. I want stories. I want a legacy. I want things to tell people, tell my children and my grandchildren. I want the names. I want to fight the best. If you feel like you’re the best, then I want to fight you. I don’t want to be protected by managers and promoters and things like that. Another thing that I really know about myself is that I’m not a fighter that is only gonna be sold by a record. A lot of fighters can only be sold by the ‘0’ they have on their record. They’re terrified to take a risk because they know if they lose, their career is over. I know people are gonna want to see me fight because I’m an exciting fighter. I will bring a fight to any fighter in my weight class and they’re gonna move me pretty quick. I’m fine with that. I love a challenge and that’s actually what gets me up. Knowing that I’m fighting a guy that I’m supposed to beat is not as fun and in life, you live for the experience.”
Come Friday night, Williams begins a journey toward a lofty goal, having already been written in the journals that have served as his primer for the fight game. Whether he is to be believed or not, there’s no further proof necessary once the unbelievable becomes reality.
“My ultimate goal is to be undisputed champ in three different weight classes,” he proclaimed.
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