Featured image courtesy of Empirical Photographic Arts.
Heroism is not an exclusive club only available to those who have done brave things like giving the Heimlich to a stranger or saving a little old dear from being hit by a car. Heroism can be a private adventure to many who hesitate to let their good works be known. Saving a life can present itself in the most interesting of ways.
Case in point: Bill Williams.
If you don’t know who Bill Williams is, that’s okay. Other than being an active parent in the raising of his daughters, and a long time employee at Sunoco, you probably wouldn’t come across his name. Unless you are taking about the sweet science of Boxing – which would then mean you are very aware of how amazing this local man is.
In the ‘Black Eye Boxing Club’, the truth is that Bill wears many hats: coach, manager, event organizer, chief cook, and bottle washer. Outside the club, Bill is a quiet, unassuming man with a slim build. The former pugilist betrays his age by a good decade. He is quick to smile, and loves to laugh. He loves his daughters – one of which chose to fall in love with the sport of boxing a well. The night Amber Williams boxed at the Brant 90 legion created an important memory for Bill, as it was where he too boxed while competing many years before.
His first real fight was when he was 9, the opening bout for a boxing event held at the Army base his father was stationed at in Germany. He knew then how important it was to train and be properly trained in this gentlemanly sport. It has stuck with him his entire life. He was called Tiger Williams Jr. that night; in honour of his father who also boxed and became quite well-known in the circuit.
What makes Bill a hero? There are a few things many people don’t know. Going beyond training the kids who come to him to learn how to box, Bill makes sure they get to competitions, even if he has to take them himself. He is a support system for them. Sometimes an ass-kicker, sometimes a pseudo-father, Bill will never truthfully answer how many times he has used his own money to get a kid some gear or get a fighter to a bout. Any kid who really wanted to compete, and was willing to work hard for it, got the chance.
Nobody’s fool, Bill is very clear on his requirements: live clean, train hard, show up for sessions, and love the sport as much as he does. Not a bad trade-off for the years of experience and knowledge he has to offer.
But for all of Bill’s efforts there are a few small regrets – the club being one of them. The physical manifestation of the club itself embodies the true meaning and substance of the sport. The club is exactly what one would think a boxing club should look like. A little derelict on the outside, but very cool on the inside, it is something you would expect to see in the meat packing district of Manhattan or the fishier part of east Chicago. The club’s weekly fitness regimes are available to all, and at any given time you can see up to 40 people training under the guidance of some die-hard coaches.
However, word on the street is that the club needs a lot of work and the landlords aren’t willing to do it. Bill will deny that. He doesn’t like to make waves. But Bill has tried many different avenues to find a new home for the club, always ending up getting mired in politics. It’s becoming a source of aggravation he admittedly does not want to take on.
Additionally, although the regulations to keep the boys and girls safe and the profession clean are completely understandable, the division is monitored and heavily governed by one bureaucrat under the Ministry of Health Promotion. Local MPP Dave Levac has written many letters, imploring a ‘Who’s watching the Watchmen’ request to look into the event overseer. Slowly, dates are being cleared – opening up times for UFC bouts instead – all at the expense of the boxing events some of us still prefer.
For a guy who only wants to coach some kids, see a good fight or two, and then go home and have a beer, the cogs in the system become tiresome. Planning and executing competitions, getting licensing, sponsors, venues, and volunteers must be a weight that becomes pretty heavy all the time. Bill doesn’t often complain though. It is just not in his nature.
But Bill is not a man who will let time simply march on. Heroes don’t sit still.
The call of the beautiful land, people, and the general congeniality of the boxing sport in Eastern Canada beckons. The idea of moving back home to Prince Edward Island and doing simple things like fishing, hanging out with his mother and sister, and being part of a thriving boxing community is like a siren song. He is most definitely going to go home – and it’s happening sooner than later. To be honest, I am surprised we were able to keep him here this long.
Every added year is a bonus to this community. If you don’t think that there are kids out there, right now, living and breathing and also being a positive part of this community because Bill Williams was a part of their lives, then you are wrong. There is no award for the way Bill has saved lives; that kind of heroism is singular.
The act of saving a life can come in a thousand different forms. Bill figured it out. Our own true, quiet hero.