Nineteen months after being destroyed in one round by Joe Mesi, heavyweight DaVarryl Williamson of Aurora, Colorado, reemerged as a top-flight prospect with a sensational second round TKO of Derrick Jefferson at Madison Square Garden on April 30.
Although the fight was short, it was a barnburner for as long as it lasted. The 6’4” Williamson and the 6’6” Jefferson went at each other like rock-em, sock-em robots and, much to his credit, Williamson, who survived a thunderous left hook to the temple, was the last man standing when referee Eddie Cotton called a halt to the beating Williamson was delivering to Jefferson in the bout’s final seconds. Williamson raised his record to 22-3 (18 KOs), and put the division on notice that he was back with a vengeance.
“I hit him more than he hit me, and the referee had to stop it,” said a jubilant Williamson, who is glad to finally put the emotional residue of the Mesi fight behind him. “I did more than enough to prove that I am a worthy heavyweight since then. I beat Kendrick Releford (TKO 9), Eliecer Castillo (W 12), Wladimir Klitschko (actually Williamson lost by a fifth round technical decision) and Oliver McCall (W 10). That’s a pretty good lineup. My fight with McCall (in November 2004) was an audition for Don (King). When I beat him, Don signed me up and promised to keep me busy.”
Although Williamson knocked down Klitschko with his vaunted right hand, the fight was stopped after an accidental butt caused a nasty gash on the Ukrainian giant’s forehead. The fight went to the scorecards, which Klitschko was leading 2-1. As far as Williamson is concerned, “I was on my way to winning that fight, and still consider myself undefeated since the Mesi fight.”
After some dark days, life is now good for the 36-year-old Williamson, whose friendly and animated green eyes and down-home demeanor belies his ferocity in the ring. “Life is a rollercoaster for everyone, but especially for someone living the life of a professional boxer,” he asserts. “I’ve learned not to get too far up, because it’s too easy to get too far down. It happened after the Mesi fight, for which I can offer no explanation. All I can say is that wasn’t me in there. And the Klitschko fight, that was a heartbreaker.”
Williamson knew that even though his encounter with Jefferson was buried on the undercard of the WBA heavyweight title fight between John Ruiz and James Toney, the fact that he was fighting a name opponent in boxing’s Mecca would set the tone for his immediate future.
One interested observer was IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd, who describes Williamson as the dark horse of the division. “I’ve had DaVarryl in two of my camps, when I was training for Maurice Harris and Andrew Golota, and I probably sparred 200 rounds with him” said Byrd. “He has the best right hand in the division. No one else even comes close. When he hits you with it, it’s scary. I wouldn’t make any assumptions about him because of the Mesi fight. He’s the real deal.”
Chances are that anyone making any assumptions about Williamson would be sadly mistaken. He is as intelligent as he is complex and intense. Most importantly, he is unique, even by boxing standards, where things are not always so cut and dry.
Born and raised on the mean streets of southeast Washington, D.C., Williamson’s mother was a drug addict and his father was a criminal. Shuttled between foster homes, Williamson, a naturally gifted athlete, found an outlet in sports. He was the starting varsity quarterback in his freshman year of high school, and he also excelled at basketball. He played college football at Wayne State College in Nebraska, where he earned a degree in recreation and coaching, and later received a master’s degree in administrative services from Northern Michigan University, which has a renowned boxing program.
When his dreams to play professional football were scuttled after failed tryouts with the Indianapolis Colts and several other teams, he engaged in a brief stint as a stand-up comedian, and then took up boxing at the age of 25 just to keep in shape. It didn’t take him long to realize that he could throw punches as well as he could throw a football.
He earned the nickname “Touch of Sleep because he stopped 103 of 138 amateur opponents. Besides garnering ten national titles, he was the heavyweight Olympic alternate in 1996, and lost in the finals of the 2000 Olympic Trials to the eventual United States representative, Michael Bennett.
Now living in suburban Denver with his wife Shalifa and two children, Dantel, 7, and Alayana, 5, he is employed as a salesman for Tortilla Mexico, a restaurant food supplier. The job provides him enough flexibility to play Mr. Mom on most days. He revels in the fact that he is able to drop off and pick up his children from school, and provide them with the type of parenting that he never received.
Moreover, he loves inviting his nieces and nephews to the house in the summer, to give them a respite from the rigors of living amid the violence in the nation’s capitol. “Like most people, I have many sides,’ said Williamson. “I like to show them Uncle DaVarryl, not just the boxing DaVarryl.”
Williamson is hopeful that his alliance with King will not just produce at least two more fights this year, but that he will emerge from the relative scrapheap of anonymity with a belt around his waist. The way he, as well as loyal friends like Byrd, sees it, it couldn’t happen to a nicer or a more deserving guy.
“I’m a family man at heart,” said Williamson. “I just happen to be a fighter. I may be 36, but I have the body of a 26-year-old and the mind of a 46-year-old. When this journey’s over, no one is even going to remember the Mesi fight.”
“DaVarryl’s got a golden arm and a great future,” said Byrd. “Anyone who thinks they saw what he’s about from the Mesi fight is sadly mistaken. He’s going to surprise a lot of people, but he’s not going to surprise me.”