CONYERS -- William Williams would like nothing better than to box in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, and he's taken a novel approach to reaching his long-held goal.
The 20-year-old Williams, who was born in New Jersey, raised in Lithonia and now calls Conyers home, is competing in the new World Series of Boxing, an international boxing league created last year by the International Amateur Boxing Association "to reunite the broad boxing world and its grassroots foundation, provide a bridge between Olympic boxing and professional boxing and to grow the sport's fan base in the United States and throughout the world."
"If you win in the (season-ending) tournament, you automatically qualify for the Olympics," the 5-foot-9, 155-pound middleweight said Wednesday. "If I can win my next fight, I have a shot to go to China and the playoffs. I'm really looking forward to that opportunity."
Assigned to the Miami Gallos franchise (which is one of the North America-based teams, along with Los Angeles, Memphis and Mexico City) of the WSB's Americas Conference, the middleweight is 3-1 this season.
The WSB is divided into three conferences. Besides the Americas, there's the Asia Conference (which includes the Baku Fires, Astana Arlins, Poehang Poseidons and Beijing Dragons) and the Europe Conference (with Paris United, Milano Thunder, Istanbuls and Moscow Kremlin Bears). The two top teams from each division qualify for the playoffs.
Williams is expected to be on the card this Sunday, when the Gallos host the Memphis Force at the Solare Coliseum. Both Miami and Memphis are 3-7 in the Americas Conference standings.
Although he's eligible for bonuses for ring victories and receives a stipend while he trains, Williams -- a national Golden Gloves champion in 2009 and 2010 -- and his teammates retain their amateur status, thus allowing them a shot at the Olympics. Matches are fought and scored professional style, with fighters eschewing headgear or vests, and Williams said the top-notch competition has helped him elevate his game.
"I've really improved a lot," Williams, who signed with Miami last July, said. "I'm much sharper with my punches and I've learned a lot about the pro style. This is the first time I've fought without headgear and I don't mind -- I can actually see better.
"You're competing with the top guys here. Some of these guys have fought in the Olympics before -- it's not guys from off the street. It's top amateurs fighting pro style. I'm getting some good experience."
After earning a silver medal in a national Police Athletic League tournament last year, Williams was surfing Boxing USA's website when he saw information posted about the WSB and its search for amateur boxers. Intrigued, he applied to be part of the association's inaugural season but didn't learn he'd been drafted by Miami until it was almost too late.
"I got drafted and didn't even know it," he said. "They never called and only sent e-mails -- I wasn't regularly checking my e-mail then, but I check it every day now. When I got to the gym one day, my coach told me I'd been drafted. When I finally got in touch with (Miami officials), they said they'd been trying to reach me for months. I almost lost my chance."
The son of Deanna and William Williams of Conyers, Williams said he first flirted with the sweet science at the tender age of 2.
"My dad would put his hands up and I'd punch them," Williams, who has six sisters and three brothers, said. "And it just kind of grew on me. I'd watch fights with my dad when I was real young and it just came natural to me. Every Christmas, all I wanted was boxing stuff."
He started his training at the age of 8 at the famed Paul Murphy Boxing Club in Doraville. Williams admits it's a pretty fair distance between boxing in armories and gymnasiums and fighting in Miami's American Airlines Arena, where LeBron James plies his trade.
"Before my first match, the nerves really kicked in," he said. "The lights. The crowd. It was in the American Airlines Arena, where the (Miami) Heat play. But after that first round, I was back to normal. It was like, 'I'm in a ring. I know what to do.'"
For more information on William Williams, the Miami Gallos and the World Series of Boxing, visit www.worldseriesboxing.com.