Austin Williams continues to work quietly since his bizarre April 2021 public dispute with promoter Eddie Hearn – good thing for second chances
Frankly, who knew if we’d ever see Middleweight Austin Williams and Eddie Hearn in the same room again? Or, did many boxing fans even care?
The sports and entertainment worlds have seen a rash of interesting breakups in recent years. Some of the splits were triggered by smaller disagreements that resulted in significant shifts of power.
After back-to-back NBA championships, an altercation during a timeout between two-time Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and Golden State Warriors’ emotional leader Draymond Green ultimately resulted in Durant leaving to join the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the 2019 season. The Warriors saw their Three-peat bid disintegrate against the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors. During the 2018-19 Finals serious injuries ended the seasons of both Durant (ruptured Achilles) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL). Golden State failed to make the playoffs the subsequent season, and lost two play-in games to miss the playoffs in 2021.
Quick note… the aforementioned Leonard, 2014 Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, forced his way up out of San Antonio in July 2018 after his relationship with the Spurs’ medical staff and five-time NBA champion coach Gregg Popovich deteriorated rapidly.
Ahead of the NFL’s 2021 season, Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers flirted with a permanent breakup. Rodgers publicly considered retirement, or forcing a trade to another franchise, as a result of his disapproval of personnel decisions made by the Packers front office. The Super Bowl winning QB didn’t suit up for any preseason games, went on to earn his second consecutive MVP award, but his No. 1-seeded Packers disappointingly lost their first playoff game at Lambeau Field.
In the NBA, former No. 1 overall pick and 2018 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons’ just ended his season-long stalemate with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers reached an agreement before last week’s trade deadline with the Brooklyn Nets that brought back guard James Harden. The 24-year old three-time All-Star was unwilling to play for last season’s top-seeded Sixers again after receiving the blunt of the blame following the team’s second round upset loss to the Atlanta Hawks last year. Simmons appeared to pass the ball on a crucial late-game play instead of scoring on an open dunk. Observers believed he didn’t want to risk being fouled, and possibly having to shoot a pair of free throws.
In the entertainment world in November, multi-platinum selling artist/producer and 22-time Grammy winner Kanye West appeared on the popular Drink Champs podcast and fired away with harsh criticisms of past collaborators Drake, John Legend, Big Sean, Talib Kweli and fellow The Blueprint contributor Just Blaze.
After being inactive throughout 2020, that September Canelo Álvarez filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against his long-time promoter Golden Boy Promotions and broadcast partner DAZN. Golden Boy founder Oscar De La Hoya eventually saw his roster’s best fighter depart. A year earlier De La Hoya patched up a bad relationship by renegotiating a new deal with fast-rising Lightweight Ryan Garcia.
Sometimes these feuds conclude with absolute dissolutions followed by long-standing rifts. Nas once rapped on “The Message”, “…But, uh—a thug changes and love changes/And best friends become strangers…”
As evidenced by the resumption of the relationship between De La Hoya and Garcia, some break-ups do actually become make-ups.
Another promising youngster in boxing, undefeated middleweight Austin “Ammo” Williams, appears to have found his way back from a nasty public outburst that was possibly attributable to some kind of mental health issues. Unfortunately, Williams’ approach to seeking some help, or working through his ordeal, wasn’t nearly as tactful as Garcia’s.
Last March, following Williams’ convincing unanimous decision victory over veteran Denis Douglin, in his home state of Texas, the then 24-year old southpaw bizarrely made some troubling statements about his promoter Eddie Hearn in an Instagram post. The one-sided performance against then 22-7 (14 KOs) Douglin hinted that Williams might be ready to take on bigger challenges at 8-0 with 6 knockouts. Instead, the Houston native’s future seemed to be in doubt.
The puzzling deleted Instagram post from Williams’ @ammowilliams account included multiple photos, and one of Hearn standing in his normal position between fighters during stare-downs. Williams referred to Hearn as a “b—h” and a “p—y.” He also said something accusatory about him thinking he could match and do whatever with fighters however he liked.
The cause of the flare up is unknown. The post was removed with 24-48 hours, and the account was totally scrubbed of all its photos and videos. The months long silence on the account suggests that the matter was dealt with internally – with respect to Williams’ inner circle and the relationship with Hearn and Matchroom – and that the young fighter stepped away from the sport to deal with whatever incited the outburst.
I actually interviewed Williams in a live appearance on my Pay Me No Mind YouTube channel during a live-stream dated April 7, 2020. The young southpaw was thoughtful, charismatic and spoke of achieving several audacious goals in boxing. He seemed to be patient, highly committed to his craft, and spoke like he had a solid grasp of the business that awaited him as he worked his way up boxing’s rungs.
In fact, his responses to my questions foreshadowed his recent Instagram post that portends all is well with Team Ammo and Hearn/Matchroom – despite the British promoter not being mentioned by name. The post’s caption reads:
@matchroomboxing is awarding me life experiences that I can never forget. I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who plays a part in turning my dreams into reality, true success requires a great team and that’s what I have, shoutout to all of my coaches, management & promotion! Thank you for helping me write history 💫 LONDON PT. 2 #AMMOINTERNATIONAL
View this post on Instagram
Williams’ hiatus received a fraction of the attention, if any at all, that was directed towards the mental health break taken by Golden Boy’s Garcia. Last April the undefeated Californian alerted his Instagram following of his withdrawal from a scheduled July 9 bout versus Javier Fortuna. After a second straight fight cancellation his caption’s message that it is “…important to manage my health and wellbeing” was met with mixed reactions from media and fans. Garcia is currently scheduled to face Emmanuel Tagoe April 9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
As for Williams, he just completed a 2-0 run, following his nine month break, after a sixth round technical knockout of Javier Maciel on February 12. The fight on the Daniel Jacobs versus John Ryder undercard was his second fight in the United Kingdom.
No, the Houston-based Middleweight hasn’t reached the height of Garcia’s profile – in or out of boxing. But, Williams’ last few fights do bode well for Matchroom. The promoter introduced a number of young U.S. talents when it launched back in September 2018. Williams’ wins over Douglin and Quatavious Cash (14-2, 8 KOs) are arguably the most notable among Matchroom-backed fighters such as Nikita Ababiy, Reshat Mahti, Raymond Ford, Diego Pacheco, Alexis Espino, Otha Jones III, Anthony Sims Jr., and Marc Castro. In fact, a couple of those names may not even return to the DAZN platform.
Williams has a ways to go before making the rankings of any of the four sanctioning bodies. He’s not on the World Boxing Council’s current list of its Top 40 Middleweights. At just 25 years old, and seemingly back on the right track, there’s a lot of time left for that type of recognition. With Williams remaining with Hearn and Matchroom, he’ll have the necessary support to keep marching forward proving himself while being guided against increasingly difficult competition. I’m just glad it’s not over for the young fighter before he ever really got started.
All of the professional athletes mentioned in the opening paragraphs have already ascended to the greatest heights of their professions. Or, especially in Simmons’ case, already amassed enough earnings to live comfortably for rest of their lives. Hell, West is reportedly a billionaire. But killing it in boxing requires a truly special kind of ammunition.
All photos by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing