“We had a big fight, supposed to be coming up. I’m sorry that it got pushed back. But you know, that’s alright. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. They told me there’s a very slight chance of walking because the spine was, like, crushed or whatever.
“I should be able to sit up on my own, but, as far as me walking and all of that, it’s all on me. I’m going to be walking. I know that. That’s how I feel. If I can’t walk then, oh well, ‘Hakuna Matata’ [no worries.] I’ll be on a boat fishing.” Paul Williams, during an interview with 11Alive News from his hospital bed at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Ga.
Goossen was informed by Williams’ manager and trainer, George Peterson, that the former two-time welterweight titleholder’s accident, which occurred in Marietta, Ga., near Atlanta, had rendered the boxer paralyzed from the waist down.
“For about two days, I couldn’t sleep, because Paul Williams is such a nice person. He’s a gentleman. Respectful. Loyal. Paul Wiliams has all of the qualities that you want in a person,” said Goossen of Williams, 30.
“And then you hear about it, and you’re devastated and you’re shocked. But I turned the corner on Tuesday when I could finally speak to him and hear him. He was so positive, that, you know, he made me feel good.”
Known as “The Punisher” for his crowd-pleasing, relentless, high-volume punching style, Williams has been as upbeat concerning his condition as he was unapologetic and uncompromising in the ring.
“I’ve turned the corner on it after speaking with Paul and speaking with George. He’s just got such a tremendously special spirit of looking at this from the perspective of overcoming,” said Goossen. “There’s something to be said about that that makes you realize that we need to have that same attitude as he does.
Peterson told Goossen that an initial surgery that was scheduled for Wednesday and which is intended to stabilize the healthy upper half of the Williams’ spine, has been “tentatively scheduled for Friday,” according to Goossen.
Williams told local news station 11Alive that he will walk again, if not fight again.
“If I can’t walk then,” said Williams. “Oh well, Hakuna Matata, I’ll be on the boat fishing.”
Peterson, who has spent much of the past few days at Williams’ bedside, corroborated the initial report that Williams’ crash occurred on Sunday morning, severing his spinal cord after he was thrown from his motorcycle — an assessment of Williams’ condition that was made by a doctor who examined him.
“Paul said he was riding his bike and he and this car were going around a curb. Paul had the outside lane and the car had the inside lane,” said Peterson.
“But the car, Paul noticed, couldn’t make the turn without coming over into his lane. So Paul tried to give him the room that he would need so that he could avoid from getting hit. That’s when he noticed an on-coming car.”
Peterson said Williams, whom police have indicated was driving too fast, tried to elude an impact with the opposing vehicle.
“Paul had the choice of hitting the oncoming car head-on, or to go across the highway and down the embankment and down the roadway about a hundred feet,” said Peterson. “Paul landed on his back and that severed his spinal cord. As a result of that, he was paralyzed from the waist down.”
Peterson said that the man who “lost control of his car and swerved over into Paul’s lane, he actually stopped and called 911” and waited for the ambulance and paramedics to arrive and to assist Williams.
Williams (41-2, 27 knockouts) had signed to challenge WBC junior middleweight beltholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs) on Sept. 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions are now considering other opponents, including James Kirkland.
“[Williams] said, ‘Mr. Peterson,’ he said, ‘If I never box again, then I’ll do some standup comedy,” said Peterson, during an interview with 11Alive from Marietta.
“I know that he’s a warrior, and I know that obstacles such as this, when there were many, many times where people doubted him, he was able to come back.”
Williams has split bouts with RING middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and former 147-pound beltholder Carlos Quintana. Williams has also won a disputed majority decision over Erislandy Lara last year, and is coming off a unanimous decision over Nobuhiro Ishida in February.
Williams’ victory over Lara in July of last year helped him to rebound from a second-round knockout loss to Martinez in November of 2010.
A dangerous boxer because of his height — standing nearly 6-foot-2 — high punch output, athleticism and general talents, Williams had a difficult time finding opponents, even as he has called out high-profile opponents, such as Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and former undisputed middleweight beltholder Kelly Pavlik.
Williams earned his first belt in July of 2007, dethroning Antonio Margarito as WBO welterweight titleholder by unanimous decision at a time when Margarito was among the sport’s most feared fighters.
After winning the WBO’s interim junior middleweight by stopping Verno Phillips in eight rounds in November of 2008, Williams handed former junior middleweight champ Winky Wright the most lopsided loss of his career in a middleweight bout. Williams outpointed Wright, 120-108, on one judge’s card, and 119-109 on the other two in April of 2009.
“Paul is, what — 6-foot-2, and has arms like a giant? And he throws a billion punches a round? [That’s why] a lot of people just don’t want to fight him. The point was, ‘Could I catch him?’ That’s was my whole thing. I just wanted to catch him. From the early rounds, I said, ‘Let me just work him, try to make him get tired,” Wright once said of Williams.
“But he stayed fresh. Shorty just kept throwing punches, kept throwing punches, kept throwing punches. So I’m like, ‘Let me pick off some of his shots, and then, maybe I can catch him and hurt him.’ But he was rolling with a lot of punches. He really wouldn’t let me get in that one, good shot.”
As a middleweight, Williams vanquished Martinez by majority decision in December of 2009 prior to Martinez’s scoring a unanimous decision that dethroned then-WBC and WBO 160-pound titleholder, Pavlik, in April of 2010.
“Walter Mathese was 25 fights with 24 knockouts. Nobody wanted to fight him. Paul fought him and stopped him. Antonio Margarito was most feared. Nobody wanted to fight him. Paul got in there and beat the breaks off of him. Then it was Winky Wright,”said Peterson, after Martinez replaced Pavlik after the latter pulled out of their scheduled bout.
“This goes on and on. Paul will fight anybody from 147-to-160 right now — whether it’s Manny Pacquiao, or Miguel Cotto, or Andre Berto, or Shane Mosley. It doesn’t matter. I can’t understand why everyone calls everyone else out, but nobody calls out Paul Williams. All that we want to do is to get their butts into the ring.”
Williams still vows that he will return to the squared circle.
“If Paul believes that he can overcome this, then I believe that he can overcome this. Despite or regardless of where that all leads to,” said Goossen.
“Because, call it whatever you want, Paul Williams believes that he will overcome this. When I say ‘overcome,’ I mean, he is dealing with it. It’s special. It really is, under circumstances that I couldn’t fathom the first few days.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Craig Bennett, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]