Cleveland "Big Cat" Williams
(June 6, 1933 – September 3, 1999) was an American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...
who fought in the 1950s through the 1970s. A Ring Magazine
poll once rated him as one of the finest boxers who never won a title. He made an imposing figure, tall with an impressive athletic broad shouldered build.
Williams turned professional in 1951 and fought many of the best heavyweights of his era. He is best known for the two brutal bouts he had with Sonny Liston
Charles L. "Sonny" Liston was a professional boxer and ex-convict known for his toughness, punching power, and intimidating appearance who became world heavyweight champion in 1962 by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round...
. Critics felt the second match was overrated and quickly over. Liston often said Williams was the hardest puncher he ever fought.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s the 6 ft 3 in Williams was a top-rated heavyweight. His quest to obtain a title fight, however, was consistently derailed. First he was knocked out by Liston on April 15, 1959, after hurting Liston early and breaking Liston's nose.
Williams recovered from the Liston fight to score more wins, but was again stopped by Liston in 2 rounds in their rematch on March 21, 1960. His quest for the title was later stalled when he was held to a draw by Eddie Machen
Edward Mills Machen was born in Redding, California, on June 15, 1932. Machen was a convict turned boxer. His 64-bout career began on March 22, 1955, and he went on to win his first 24 bouts....
on July 10, 1962, and when he dropped a split decision on March 13, 1963 to Ernie Terrell
Ernie Terrell is an American singer, record producer, and former World Boxing Association heavyweight boxing champion. At , he was very tall, by the standards of the day....
, a fighter he had previously knocked out in 7 rounds in 1962. During this time frame he defeated Billy Daniels.
Williams had been inactive the entire year of 1965 while recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered at the hands of a police officer arising out of a traffic stop. Boxing reporter Jerry Izenberg adds "...shot for no apparent reason." Williams was shot with a .357 Magnum in the abdomen, barely survived, and suffered permanent kidney damage, a loss of over ten feet of his small intestine, and nerve damage from the bullet which affected his left leg above the knee, causing it to atrophy as a result. Williams didn't however bear the policeman any malice. Some thought he had resisted arrest on suspected drunk driving.
It was in the above greatly diminished physical condition, Williams fought for the heavyweight championship against Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist...
on November 14, 1966 and was stopped in the third round. Many Fans consider it one of Ali's best showings. Ali himself, interviewed much later on TV in 1976, by Reg Gutteridge
Reg Gutteridge, OBE was a boxing journalist and television commentator.Gutteridge was born into a boxing family in Islington, London. His grandfather, Arthur, was the first professional boxer to appear at the original National Sporting Club...
OBE said he felt his own 3rd Frazier win was his own best as 'Frazier was much rougher and tougher'.
Williams retired from boxing after the Ali bout, but later made a comeback. Although able to defeat journeymen fighters, he suffered several knockout losses before retiring for good in 1972. Williams finished his career with a record of 78 wins (58 KOs), 13 losses and 1 draw. In 2003, he was ranked 49th in Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Ring Magazine in the 80's reported he drove a forklift truck later for a while as a job.
In 1999, Cleveland Williams was killed in a hit and run
Hit-and-run is the act of causing a traffic accident , and failing to stop and identify oneself afterwards...