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SPORTS NOTEBOOK / DICK WAGNER : Boxer Called 'Better Than Ali at 17'

June 14, 1990|DICK WAGNER

Heavyweight champion Buster Douglas was impressed with Jeremy Williams, the 17-year-old former Long Beach boxer who won a decision over Richard Bonds of Ripley, Tenn., in the Goodwill Games Challenge at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas last Saturday night.

"He's a great rising star," said Douglas, who was a commentator on the cable telecast of the fight.

It was the 40th consecutive victory for the undefeated 6-foot-2, 178-pound Williams, who has 34 knockouts and is the top-ranked amateur in the nation. In April, he won the Golden Gloves light-heavyweight title in Miami.

Since he was 7, he has been trained by his father, Charles Williams, who used to own Muhammad Ali's and Charlie's American Fitness Gym, which was on Long Beach Boulevard downtown.

At that storefront gym one afternoon six years ago--as Jeremy, 12 then, shadowboxed with grace and pounded a heavy bag with power--Charles Williams had said: "He's going to be a champion someday."

Charles Williams had intended to stay in Long Beach, but 14 months ago, behind on the gym's monthly payments, he sold it and moved his family to his hometown of Ft. Dodge, Iowa. There, he operates another gym named for Ali, the boxer he most admires.

Jeremy was taught by his father to fight mainly in Ali's method, but he also learned from studying films and tapes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson and Marvin Hagler.

"Jeremy is a little better than Ali was at 17," Charles Williams said this week from Ft. Dodge. "He'll be the greatest amateur there ever was. Nobody in the world can beat him."

The young fighter, whose career has been carefully planned by his father, will take on the world's best in the Goodwill Games running from July 27 to Aug. 5 in Seattle. Next year, he plans to compete in the Pan-American Games and, in 1992, the Olympics. He vowed two years ago to become the Olympics heavyweight champion at Barcelona, Spain.

So it will be more than two years before he turns pro.

"I don't want to rush into anything," he said this week in Long Beach, where he is staying with Dennis Illingworth, his business manager. "I want to become the best amateur first."

Charles Williams is happy back in Ft. Dodge, where he once was a window washer. After shining a building's last pane, he loved to step onto a roof, pretend it was a ring and shadowbox.

"It's a beautiful town, right in the center of America," said Williams, 46, a former amateur boxer. "Jeremy's on TV and on the radio and in the newspapers all the time. The town is excited about him."

His son is not as thrilled. "It's a good place to train but not to live," Jeremy said. "It's real slow."

A former student at Poly High School in Long Beach, he graduated recently from Ft. Dodge High, where he sang in the choir and earned all-conference honors as a linebacker on the football team.

He said he may attend college while his career, on schedule, continues to unfold.

Tark, Eddie Return: When Jerry Tarkanian coached at Cal State Long Beach in the early 1970s, Ed Ratleff was his best--and favorite--player.

Ratleff, called Eddie then, was a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 21 points a game and became an All-American.

In Ratleff's three seasons--the glory days of 49er basketball--Tarkanian compiled a 74-12 record.

Tarkanian, now coach of NCAA champion Nevada Las Vegas, and Ratleff, an insurance agent, will return to the 49er gym to coach against each other in a charity game at 8 p.m. Friday.

Ratleff will coach a team of Ram football players that is expected to include Jim Everett and Willie (Flipper) Anderson. Tarkanian's celebrity team will have former Laker Norm Nixon, rap singer Tone Loc and some soap-opera actors.

The game will benefit the 32-pupil Oralingua School for the Hearing Impaired in Whittier, whose first administrator, Lois Tarkanian, was there from 1969 to 1973, when her husband was coaching at Cal State Long Beach.

Tickets are $12.50 and can be obtained through Ticketmaster or at the gym Friday night.

Children from the Oralingua School, whose ages range from 3 to 8, will sing the national anthem.

The game was the idea of Carol Adams, Oralingua's director of development, who was a student at CSULB when Tarkanian and Ratleff were there.

Tarkanian was approached with the idea by Harvey Hyde, a 49er assistant football coach and former head coach at Nevada Las Vegas. His wife, Linda Hyde, is a teacher at Oralingua.

Women's All-Star Game: The Women's Sports Assn. professional basketball league, which will conclude its first season at the end of the month, will sponsor an all-star game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Veterans Sports Complex in Carson.

The Montebello Dolls are in first place in the league, which also includes the Carson Outlaws, the Pasadena Roses, the Los Angeles Metros and the Santa Barbara Coasters. Players are paid $100 a game, and games are played in park gyms usually before a couple hundred fans, who pay $3 for admission.

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