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British middleweight champion Liam Williams makes his ring return on Saturday night with one final hurdle to overcome before he’s thrown in with the superstars of the 160lb division.
Williams, 28, who has won six successive fights since high-profile back-to-back losses to Liam Smith in 2017, has been the mandatory challenger for Demetrius Andrade’s world middleweight title since March.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic scuppered the Welshman’s hopes of staying active after an eye-catching stoppage victory over Alantez Fox – who had been the 12 round distance with Andrade – in Demember.
However, Williams believes victory over domestic rival Andrew Robinson on Saturday night will leave Andrade with nowhere to hide.
“[Andrade] says he is the most avoided man in boxing, but I am chasing him so he isn’t being avoided,” said Williams who stakes a genuine claim to being Britain’s most underrated operator.
“I don’t think he wants the fight, but he can’t keep hiding. It is just a matter of time and I am sure we will get to the bottom of the situation in the next couple of weeks.
“I believe it will be Andrade after Robinson, but I don’t believe Andrade wants to fight me. I wouldn’t say he is scared of me because that is probably a bit far-fetched, but he is wary.
“If he got beaten by a bigger name it would be acceptable because he could earn money from other fights. I am not a fool and understand the sport, but I am low reward, high risk for Andrade.
“I want to take a world title from the champion, but I just want my opportunity and whoever it is against I will win.”
American Andrade isn’t the only big beast of the middleweight division in the impassioned Welshman’s crosshairs.
Jermall Charlo, Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin are all targets. As is Chris Eubank Jr who became embroiled in a bitter war of words after Williams called him out on social media in lockdown.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Williams after he was beaten twice in a year by Liam Smith and lost out on a shot at the WBO super-welterweight title in the process. The nature of the defeats – the first after he was pulled out by his corner with blood pouring from a severe cut to his eye when he was on top and the second a narrow majority decision defeat – were particularly galling.
To his immense credit, Williams has quietly presided over a vicious winning streak since his move up to the middleweight division.
He parted with long-term trainer Gary Lockett to work with Dom Ingle at the revered Wincobank Gym in Sheffield and immediately reaped the rewards. He beat Darryl Sharp and Craig Nicholson before knocking out Mark Heffron in brutal fashion in December 2018.
Wins over Joe Mullender, Karim Achour and Fox followed – the latter sealing the forthcoming WBO title shot against Andrade.
A torrid 2017 proved to be the making of Williams. Moving to Sheffield and stepping up in weight were both inspired decisions at a crossroads moment in his career.
“160lb is definitely a lot more suited to me. I could still potentially do 154lb with the right camp for the right fight if a big enough fight was presented to me but realistically my future is 160lb now,” he reflected on the BT Sport Boxing Show.
Nearly three years on from his second defeat to Smith, Williams finally stands of the cusp of a world title shot but he can’t afford to slip up when he faces mandatory challenger Andrew Robinson (24-4-1, 7 KOs) behind-closed-doors.
“For me, it’s about looking good but most of all it’s just about getting the win. If you can do some real damage in the meantime, happy days,” said a confident Williams.
“I want to hurt people and that is because I just love winning and the feeling it brings.
“People are expecting me to put on a big performance and to knock him out. I’m expecting that myself, but if it doesn’t come I’m not going to be disappointed. Robinson represents a risk to me, but I couldn’t care less. I want to fight.
“I am mentally good, physically good, my weight is right and I could fight for a world title this week.
“I know I’m going to go and take care of business on Saturday night. Give me another 4-6 weeks afterwards and I’ll be ready to go again.
“It’s good to be back in action, it’s good to be back on BT Sport as always. It’s the same as every other fight for me, it’s exciting, I’m always raring to go and I can’t wait for Saturday.”
Spurred on by the memory of a botched 2017 and armed with the added punch power that accompanies fighting at his natural weight, Williams is in the form of his life ahead of a another pivotal moment in his career.
Fast forward 12 months and Britain could have another world champion. Supplant one of the current incumbents, Andrade or otherwise, and Williams will not only complete a remarkable personal turnaround but also become one of the biggest names in the sport.
Watch Liam Williams v Andrew Robinson, Willy Hutchinson v Jose Miguel Fandino and Nathan Gorman v Richard Lartey exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD, BT Sport Ultimate and online from 7pm on Saturday 10 October.