By Elliot Worsell
TWO years ago, Liam Williams’ vulnerability, particularly to a left jab, was exposed by Chris Eubank Jnr, a fighter so shocked by the ease with which he had success with this punch that he failed – almost forgot – to capitalise on flooring Williams four times and secure a stoppage.
Tonight, however, there was, for Hamzah Sheeraz, no such surprise and therefore no such failure. In fact, one might go so far as to say the whole idea of pairing Sheeraz with Williams in the first place, two years after that Eubank Jnr fight, was to achieve the very outcome Sheeraz tonight achieved. In other words, whereas Eubank Jnr somehow let Williams off the hook having knocked him down with a jab early, the aim here, in the case of Sheeraz, was to not only beat Williams but do everything in beating the Welshman Eubank Jnr was unable to do.
If that was indeed the mission, it was well and truly accomplished, for in just two minutes and 36 seconds Sheeraz managed to drop Williams twice, buzz him with seemingly every shot he landed, and eventually force Williams’ compassionate trainer, Gary Lockett, to throw in the towel in the very first round.
It was, on reflection, a complete and utter domination from Sheeraz, a middleweight whose record now reads 19-0 (15). Taller than Williams by several inches, Sheeraz looked imposing when the two boxers came head-to-head to listen to the referee’s instructions and then looked all the more imposing as the first bell sounded and punches started to fly. His, thrown straight and with a stiffness, required very little effort to have an impact on Williams and the first jab Sheeraz landed clean, just seconds into the fight, had the effect of putting Williams on the seat of his pants for the first time.
He got up quickly from this knockdown, more embarrassed than anything, but the speed with which he then returned to the canvas on the instructions of his trainer – just to take the full count – suggested both that his head was not as clear as initially thought and that his corner team were concerned about his dwindling punch resistance. If true, they had good reason to be concerned as well. This regression was something shown not only in the aforementioned fight against Eubank Jnr in 2022 but confirmed tonight, with Sheeraz rocking Williams with the next jab he landed, another stiff one through the guard, before dropping him for a second time in the fight on account of a left hook. Now it was clear Williams was already in survival mode and that survival for him, at this stage, concerned merely getting to the end of the round – the first, don’t forget – rather than the end of the fight.
As for Sheeraz, he would have sensed, and quickly, that the perfect performance and result was there for the taking. After all, in choosing Williams as an opponent, he would have wanted to do more than simply beat him; that is, replicate the win secured by Eubank Jnr two years ago. No, ideally, Sheeraz would have wanted to separate himself from Eubank Jnr, steal a march on him, and do so by beating Williams in a way different than Eubank Jnr managed two years ago.
By stopping him with 24 seconds remaining in round one, that is precisely what Sheeraz did tonight at the Copper Box. He beat an opponent many expected him to beat yet, crucially, beat him in a manner very few would have predicted beforehand. Indeed, while yes it’s true most were picking Sheeraz to defeat Williams, and by stoppage, the prospect of him stunning Williams with every shot he landed, dropping him twice, and forcing Gary Lockett to intervene in the first round was hardly something being discussed on the TNT broadcast, or around the arena, at ten o’clock.
That it happened like that can perhaps be attributed to two things: one, the fearsome punch power and all-round poise of the 6’3 Sheeraz, which, when he’s firing, makes him a problem for most at middleweight; and two, the fact that Williams, seven years Sheeraz’s senior at 31, had been seasoned and in many ways prepared for Sheeraz to deal with him as he did.
In that respect, although Sheeraz will of course have tougher fights, bigger fights, and more meaningful fights, this fight with Williams could be compared to his left jab, for both possessed perfect timing and managed to say a lot with very little.