Lee Groves

10: Greatest “above and beyond” performances

4. Danny Williams KO 6 Mark Potter – Oct. 21, 2000, Conference Centre, Wembley, London, England

Injury: Separated right shoulder

At the tail end of 2000 Williams was a heavyweight on the rise as he carried a 22-1 (17) record into his first defense of the Commonwealth title against Mark Potter (14-2, 10 KOs), a bout that also was for the vacant British belt. Not only were titles on the line, so was neighborhood pride as East London was pitted against South London and the action that unfolded reflected the extra passion that stirred within both combatants.

A left-right to the jaw appeared to drop Williams just seven seconds into the fight but veteran referee John Coyle waved it off because Williams’ legs looked to have slipped out from underneath a split second after Potter’s combination landed. The second round saw a stunning case of deja vu in reverse as six seconds in a solid jab and a grazing right sent Potter to one knee, a tumble Coyle saw as legitimate. Williams lost a point for repeated low blows later in the round but “The Brixton Bomber’s” problems soon would become much more than numerical.

In round three Williams fired a long right that dislocated his right shoulder and produced a tell-tale knot at the top of the shoulder blade. As Williams circled the ring his arm hung awkwardly at the side but despite the pain that shot through his body he concealed his duress so well that Potter appeared unaware that anything was amiss. Williams initiated a clinch and tested the shoulder by rolling it. Seeing it was indeed damaged he implemented a pattern of survival: Throw a jab, then clinch until the referee separated them, all the while running time off the clock in an effort to get back to his corner.

It took nearly a minute for the ringside commentators to notice Williams’ distress, but once they did they called for him to pull out of the fight.

“Williams should just walk to the side,” said ex-lightweight champion Jim Watt. “This is a show of courage he could do without because if he gets knocked out here no one else would listen to the excuses later. He’s unfit to box. If that shoulder is gone he’s unfit to box and he should just walk to the side and declare this over because nobody would hold anything against him.”

But Williams chose not to yield and during an ensuing clinch he worked the shoulder back into place. The knot had disappeared and the arm had regained full function. His corner tested the range of motion by pulling his glove so that it touched the opposite shoulder and Williams did so without pain. As he awaited the fourth round bell he lifted his arm into proper defensive position.

His problems weren’t over by any stretch. Another low hook to the body that floored Potter caused Coyle to issue a two-point penalty and in the fifth three huge uppercuts plunged Williams into a world of trouble. After Williams fought his way out of the woods to survive the fifth, Williams’ shoulder popped out 25 seconds into the sixth as a result of another winging right. This time Williams couldn’t conceal the pain as he stiffly held his arm away from his body and retreated in almost crab-like fashion. With his arm hanging by his side Williams weaved his body side-to-side to compensate for his defenseless right side.

Potter, for whatever reason, didn’t swarm the stricken Williams and he was hit with several flush jabs. But whatever success Williams produced was mitigated by the fact he was racing against time. The ringside physicians were poised to stop the fight the instant the round ended, so if Williams were to snatch the brass ring he had to act – and fast.

With 55 seconds left, a dramatic fight turned into one for the ages.

As Potter moved in to launch another right, Williams uncorked a perfectly timed left uppercut that felled Potter like a giant oak. The astonished crowd cheered wildly at this unthinkable turn of events. Potter was flat on his back at ring center but courageously climbed to his feet by Coyle’s count of nine with blood pouring from his nostrils. Williams rushed in behind a left that missed over Potter’s head but a second one hit the button and Potter fell again. Again Potter arose at nine and just 26 seconds remained in the round – and, from Williams’ perspective – the fight.

A cuffing left had just enough mustard to fell Potter for the third and final time just four seconds later, and, for Williams, sudden death turned into sudden victory – a victory that was as courageous and hard-earned as any ever achieved.

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