|Golden Gloves winner Tramaine Williams
Photo by Vern Williams/Register
Tramaine Williams was 53 pounds the day he showed up at Ring One boxing gym at the age of 9 with his older cousin, thinking it a colossal waste of his time.
He was rudely interrupted from a full afternoon of doing nothing at home, perfectly content in that nothingness, before his persistent cousin David Williams — who dabbled in amateur boxing — dragged him along to the gym.
That was nine years ago; half his lifetime to be exact, and more than enough time to help define Williams as a young man, and identify him as a six-time national major amateur boxing champion. Last Saturday he collected his latest jewel, winning the National Golden Gloves championship in Indianapolis.
Most of those nine years were devoted to building enough sinewy muscle to take him north of 100 pounds, and thanks to a growth spurt, he’s all of 5-feet-4, 121 pounds today.
“He has an innate ability to box,” said Ring One trainer Brian Clark, the man who dubbed Williams with the nickname “Midget” for the pint-sized wrapping around a gigantic talent. “There are certain things you can’t teach and I always tell him that I’m going to give you the outline … you color it in. I taught him a lot of fundamental stuff, and he fills in the blanks.”
The exceptional ones have that gift, known in different shapes and forms as instincts or intangibles.
During the National Golden Gloves, he fought two men who were nearly 6 feet tall, with an obvious reach disparity. In the finals, his opponent was a 23-year-old man.
Neither height disadvantage nor age was a factor, for all Williams saw was the stepping stone to the U.S. Olympic Trials, the first tangible bridge toward his dream of boxing for the U.S.A. in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The Golden Gloves champ gets an automatic qualifier for the Trials, which will be held in July in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Williams talks easily about how his life took direction that first day at Ring One nine years ago, saying he doesn’t know where he might be right now if his cousin didn’t expose him to the sweet science.
In those days, Clark used to chase Williams around the ring on his sore knees in order to halve the size discrepancy, but most of the Williams’ training was aimed at teaching him how to use his height, or lack of it, as an advantage.
That seems to defy logic on the surface, but Williams is swift and deft enough to turn the tables on taller opponents — which is virtually everyone he faces at the national level.
“I use my height to my advantage because when you punch, you want to get low,” said Williams, a student at New Horizons School in New Haven. “There’s more to it than just reach. It’s about the little things that make the biggest difference. I’ll get inside (an opponent’s reach) by moving my head side to side, up and down, and while I’m moving my head, I’m inching a little closer, a little closer, a little closer. While he’s watching me go like this (with his head), I’m moving a little closer to him … then bang, bang, bang.”
And he’s gone before his opponent can relocate the Midget.
The art of “disappearing” in a defined boxing ring, be it 16×16 feet or 20×20 is fascinating, yet it’s a strategy in which Williams excels.
“You see me here and I throw a left hand … you see me and then I roll … now I’m here,” said Williams. “And I disappear. I’m already little, so it’s kind of easy.”
Clark explains that contrary to common perception, a fighter’s length and punch really don’t have much to do with his height.
Williams, for instance, changes two, three feet in half a step, so while a taller guy is sticking his hand out to jab, Williams is already inside the reach.
“The more you miss, the harder you try to punch,” said Clark. “And the harder you try to punch, the more you miss. So when these guys start missing Midget five or six times, now they’re loading up on their first shot and opening up all the doors in the world for him. And he just goes through it. I don’t think his height is a disadvantage at all. Midget is able to frustrate people so much that they overcommit on their punches. They help him.”
Yet Midget is more than quickness, technique, and instincts in the ring.
Like most superior athletes and competitors, regardless of sport, he’s large part persecution complex.
Everything’s a slight, and when it comes to Midget’s size, he’s fueled by those who think he’s too small to be an Olympic champion. Even some people in New Haven, he said, who have watched him win four Silver Gloves titles and a PAL national championship over the years, question how far he can go. At least that’s what Williams sees and hears.
“The worst thing that anyone has ever done in any tournament is talk smack about Midget,” said Clark. “You talk junk and you’re all done. I’m serious. Anyone who has ever talked junk about Midget has gotten his butt kicked. You think it’s difficult to fight Chad (Dawson, former two-time light heavyweight champ who grew up at Ring One as well). It’s more difficult to fight Midget. Why? Because his combination of speed, intelligence and his arsenal of punches is unbelievable. He’ll find a punch where there’s nothing at all. His mind is so focused.
“Now, if Midget does not feel a challenge, he doesn’t perform as well as when he does. When he does feel a challenge, he’ll be absolutely at his best every time. With some guys, you have to calm them down. With Midget, you have to make him believe that this is the guy that can beat you.”
Williams has lost only once in the last six years … and that was by one point in the finals of the U.S. Junior Olympics.
Shortly thereafter, he avenged that loss in the kid’s home state, Texas, “which is a monster challenge,” said Clark.
Williams will compete in the U.S. Nationals in June for multiple reasons, but with his spot in the Trials guaranteed, his sights are already on the Olympics.
“I can’t wait,” said Williams. “It’s something I’ve wanted since I was little.”
He’s still little.
And that’s part of his strength.
Source: Post Chronicle