12 Rounds With … Thomas Williams Jr.

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Former light heavyweight contender talks about his upcoming fight, dropping down to super middleweight and the tragic loss of his stepfather and trainer over the summer.

Thomas Williams Jr. has fought his entire career at 175 pounds, but is now dropping down to 168 pounds to compete in the super middleweight division. Williams’ February 17 fight against Humberto “Tito” Velasco at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas will actually be at a catch-weight of 170 pounds—allowing him to transition to the lower weight class.

The bout is on the undercard of a FOX-televised show (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) featuring a clash between former 147-pound champions Victor Ortiz and Devon Alexander.

Williams will be fighting for the first time since the death of his stepfather and trainer, Robert Peterson Jr.—who died in a car accident in July.

The native of Fort Washington, Maryland is also looking to rebound from consecutive fourth-and sixth-round KO losses to Adonis Stevenson and Marcus Browne.

“Top Dog” was storming toward title contention at 17-0 with 12 knockouts before being stopped in the fifth round by former world champion Gabriel Campillo in August 2014. He bounced back with three straight wins, including second-round stoppages of Umberto Savigne and Edwin Rodriguez.

Williams took some time out of training to talk about his life and career.

What happened to your stepfather?

My stepdad was a great man. He was leaving work at 2:30 in the morning, and a guy was leaving a club and came down the wrong side of the street with his lights off. My stepfather didn’t see him and they collided, head-on.

How has his death affected you?

I really haven’t come to terms with it. He was a great guy who had his life taken away by negligence. There is not a day that I don’t think about my stepdad. I miss him like crazy.

My stepdad was everything to me, man. I’m using my amateur coach, Andre Henderson, and from that aspect, camp has been great.

But at the same time, every time I come to the gym, I think about my stepdad and I miss him. It’s really hard, so I don’t know how it’s going to be without him because it’s never been this way.

I have a lot of frustration built up, so I guess we’ll see how it goes when I enter the ring on February 17. I have a lot of things that I need to get off of my chest, and I think this fight will help me to deal with that.

What was the thinking behind taking back-to-back fights against tough left-handers in Stevenson and Browne?

Maybe after I fought Adonis Stevenson, it might not have been the smartest thing to get right back in there against another top fighter in Marcus Browne, who is one of the toughest guys in the division.

But that’s what I wanted. I like the position of being a top fighter. I don’t want to go and just fight. I want the tough guys.

I wanted Marcus. If you look at my record, there are guys receiving praise who haven’t fought the caliber of people that I’ve fought.

What are your thoughts on the fight with Browne?

People don’t know that Marcus and I were friends, but at the end of the day, we were both trying to solidify ourselves at 175 by getting to that next level. Not to make any excuses, but I knew I would lose the early rounds against Marcus due to our styles.

I wanted to come on late, but in the second round, Marcus hit me in the back of the head with a shot. If you noticed, I wasn’t the same fighter after that. But I spoke to Marcus afterward, and he said it wasn’t intentional.

He beat me, but I feel some type of way about that fight. After losing to Adonis Stevenson, you never heard me say anything. I was in the fight. I wasn’t outclassed. Adonis just caught me, just like I caught Edwin Rodriguez.

That’s all it was. In the Marcus Browne fight, I could easily have said that I couldn’t continue, but that wasn’t in my heart, even though I was injured as a result of giving my all, and my legs felt tingly like they were falling asleep.

Don’t judge me by my losses. Judge me by my heart and the fact that I’m daring myself to be great. Former light heavyweight contender Thomas Williams Jr.

Why the move down in weight?

I’m moving down to 168 because at 175, I was eating a full breakfast every morning. I was waking up at 171 and 172, having to gain weight to make 175.

The guys were pretty much way bigger than me if you look at the fights. But I was standing toe-to-toe with them. I’m feeling great, right now. I weigh 175. I could lift up my shirt and show you.

I feel good, I feel strong, and my trainer and my sparring partners are saying that they still feel my power just like I was a 175-pounder, so it’s transitioning.

Why now?

When I fought Umberto Savigne, I entered the ring weighing 183, and he was over 200 pounds. After winning that fight, I was going to drop down to 168, but I got presented with an offer I couldn’t refuse.

That was Edwin Rodriguez. Then when I beat Edwin Rodriguez, I got the biggest opportunity of my lifetime to fight Adonis Stevenson, and I couldn’t refuse that, either.

I would have fought Adonis Stevenson at 200 pounds for what they offered me, so I had to take that fight. I’ve got three daughters ages 11, 4 and 2, and a wife all of whom mean the world to me.

I can never be away from them for too long, so much so, that after a fight, I’m right back home with them. So it was like I was stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

How do you feel about fighting in Texas, and what do you know about Velasco?

My last time there I fought in Corpus Christi [four-round unanimous decision over Kentrell Claiborne, February 2012,] and I had fun.

I love Texas. My opponent, Velasco, is about 10 minutes away, so I’m expecting him to be motivated with a large fan base. Plus, he’s facing a top guy with me, and the best person he’s ever fought.

But he doesn’t know that “Top Dog” is back, and I’m ready to challenge everyone at 168 pounds. Don’t judge me by my losses. Judge me by my heart and the fact that I’m daring myself to be great.

How long before you believe you’re ready to challenge David Benavides, Caleb Truax or George Groves?

I believe that once I fight this guy Velasco and beat him, there are a lot of interesting fights for me at 168, but that I’ll be ready for a title fight.

That’s just how I am. You have not only the champions, like Caleb Truax, but you have James DeGale, the Dirrell brothers, Andre and Anthony.

There are also some other quality guys and fights that can be made because we have the same manager, so let’s get it. When they sent me Velasco’s name, I never knew his record or anything.

I accepted it as soon as they sent it to me, and I found out later on that he was 18-1. It will be fought at a catch-weight of 170, allowing me to transition to 168.

But regardless of his record, I know that he hasn’t faced a fighter like me or been in with the caliber of opponents that I’ve fought. I’m just ready to go.

It’s going to be interesting, and you know my track record. I’m going to go balls to the wall, lay it on the line and continue to show that there I no quit in my heart.

For a closer look at Thomas Williams Jr., check out his fighter page.

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