Sledgehammer fists, flawless footwork, a steel chin, the stamina of Secretariat—all are vital characteristics for top-level boxers. But there’s another trait that’s just as important: confidence.
It’s a trait Thomas Williams Jr. seems to possess in abundance. Just ask him about his mindset leading up to a fight, such as Friday’s 175-pound showdown against Umberto Savigne: “Every time I get in the ring,” Williams says, “I believe I have the capabilities to knock my opponent out.”
To understand this isn’t simply idle bravado, one need only rewind to September 17, 2011. On that date, in his fourth pro fight, Williams scored a first-round knockout of Lee Lee Pender, kicking off a stretch of nine stoppages in 10 fights—including a string of six consecutive knockouts from May 2012 to March 2013.
What’s more, of those nine stoppages, five occurred in the first round.
Like any quality boxer, though, Williams understands there are going to be nights when the knockout punch fails to hit the mark. Which is why the southpaw nicknamed “Top Dog” isn’t at all concerned that he’s had to go the distance to earn three of his last five victories.
Matter of fact, Williams believes that being pushed to the finish line can often be to a fighter’s benefit.
“Getting your opponent out of there quick is great,” Williams says. “But I always train to go the distance if need be. Going rounds is always good.”
The 28-year-old from Fort Washington, Maryland, certainly proved in his most recent outing that he’s capable of handling an extended workload, earning a 10-round unanimous decision over Michael Gbenga on December 12. In that contest, Williams won all but one round on the judges’ scorecards.
The impressive showing was much needed, as it followed the only defeat of Williams’ career: Facing former champion Gabriel Campillo on August 1, 2014, Williams suffered a cut over his left eye in the fourth round, and prior to the start of the sixth, the ringside doctor instructed referee Ray Corona to halt the fight.
Williams took the fight to Campillo and dominated the first three rounds, but after getting tagged with shots that opened the gash and bloodied his nose, his approach shifted from aggressive to tentative.
“Anyone can overcome a loss. It’s just something that happens,” Williams says. “But you definitely don’t want to dwell on the past. You move forward and stay focused.”
Focus is something Williams will need to maintain Friday against Savigne (12-2, 9 KOs), a hard-punching Cuban now living in Miami.
Although Savigne has been stopped in both of his defeats—including a second-round TKO loss to Craig Baker on February 20, his lone fight this year—the 36-year-old has proven he can deliver a finishing blow. He’s done so in 75 percent of his victories, including four of the last five.
Williams plans to be ready to counter Savigne’s assault with good old-fashioned boxing skills, which he says have eluded him at times in recent efforts. For instance, in his first-round TKO victory over Cornelius White in January 2014, Williams scored a quick knockdown, then hit the deck himself before rising and finishing off White.
“I’ve gone back to boxing, using every tool in my toolbox—ring generalship, foot movement,” Williams says.
One thing seems clear, at least from Williams’ perspective: If Savigne is to hand him his second career defeat, he’s going to have to do so convincingly—which the “Top Dog” insists wasn’t the case with Campillo.
“I didn’t get stopped,” Williams says emphatically. “The fight was stopped [because of] a cut in a fight that I was winning. I didn’t get knocked out. The doctor stopped it, and I had to roll with it.”
For complete coverage of Williams vs Savigne, visit our fight page.