Paul Williams may never fight again, but clearly, the fight has yet to leave the lanky ex-world champion.
Injured seriously in a motorcycle accident in Marietta, Ga., on Sunday and unlikely to walk again, Williams is already plotting his future. His close friend and long-time trainer, George Peterson, said Williams has no movement beneath the waist and likely will be paralyzed the rest of his life.
The good news, though, is that Williams seems prepared to bring the same intensity and will to succeed in his rehabilitation efforts as he did during an ultra-successful boxing career. Williams, 30, is 41-2 with 27 knockouts and has won world titles at welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight.
In his darkest hour, as he lies in a hospital bed unable to move the lower half of his body, it is undoubtedly a good sign that Williams has retained his sense of humor.
"We want his fans to know he's going to be all right, and he'll be back," Peterson told the Associated Press. "He said if he wasn't going to be boxing, he's going to be a stand-up comedian."
If anything is an indication that Williams will beat the odds and walk again, it's that positive can-do attitude.
Williams was scheduled to fight Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas in a pay-per-view super welterweight bout that has now been canceled. Speculation about his fight career, though, shouldn't be where the focus is now.
Promoter Dan Goossen has worked with Williams for several years and is hoping against hope that the dark news he was given Monday turns out to be incorrect.
"George was very firm when he said that Paul wouldn't walk again," Goossen told Yahoo! Sports. "I haven't spoken to the doctors yet, but I know Paul Williams and I know the kind of fight and willpower and mental capacity he possesses. If he puts his mind to it, he can overcome the largest obstacles and odds against him. That's not a medical opinion; it's my personal opinion from knowing him as long as I have and seeing the kind of person he is."
Peterson, who trained and managed Williams, is a long-time former narcotics investigator for the Washington, D.C., police. A 17-year-old Paul Williams pleaded with Peterson in 1999 to help him. Peterson, though, didn't acquiesce right away. He told Yahoo! Sports in 2007 that he had soured on boxing because of a fighter he'd worked with who threw a fight. Peterson was eager to get back into the game as a result.
It was hard to resist Williams, though, who so desperately wanted to be a world champion that he'd pretty much do anything he was told to reach that goal.
In a 2007 interview with Yahoo! Sports, Williams told the story of how he had to plead with Peterson to help him.
"He told me about himself and all the things he had to do and how he couldn't waste his time on a kid who wasn't serious," Williams said in 2007. "He made the impression on me right away. I needed him because he was the smartest [boxing] man around me and he told me what it would take [to become champion]."
He upset Antonio Margarito to win the World Boxing Organization welterweight title on July 14, 2007, peaked at No. 3 in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings and along the way defeated luminaries such as Winky Wright and Sergio Martinez.
He'll undergo surgery on his spine Wednesday in Marietta. Goossen said it's unclear whether Williams has medical insurance, and Peterson couldn't be reached Monday for comment.
However, Goossen said if there is a chance to walk again, he's certain that Williams will do so.
"George is strong, and Paul is very strong," Goossen said. "They're ready to fight this head on, just like they would in the ring. That's the best way to be, to go out and keep that attitude of fighting."
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