Williams and Lockett praise Olympian Whittaker’s character and talent

Liam Williams and Ben Whittaker have been getting in great work ahead of their respective upcoming fights – by sparring one another.

Former world title challenger Williams and Olympic silver medallist Whittaker have banked some sessions and 5-0 light-heavyweight prospect Whittaker is first to box out of the two, when he fights France-based journeyman Khalid Graidia in Wembley on Saturday.

Middleweight contender Williams, 31. fights a week later, also in London, against Hamzah Sheeraz at the Copper Box.

Whittaker is trained by SugarHill Steward and is being tipped for big things, but the at-times divisive 26-year-old has left a good impression on Williams and his trainer Gary Lockett, not just with how he boxed but how he carried himself outside the ropes.

“He’s got very good backing with Sky [Sports], everybody seems to be on the bandwagon and I’m pleased for him,” Williams said. “Because with Ben – from the outside – when I said I was going to spar with him a few people were like, ‘Give him a hiding, he’s a prick’. But he’s not. I knew he was sound because I sparred with him a while back in the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, but he’s just a down to earth guy, he’s a really nice guy. He’s obviously very confident and rightly so.”

Locket agreed, and went to discuss Whittaker’s character ahead of his craft.

“First of all, he’s very different to how he comes across on the TV,” Lockett explained. “He’s a very respectful, very humble young man and I’ve really enjoyed his company and enjoyed the sparring between him and Liam. It was possibly some of the best I’ve seen in my lifetime, really. The levels were incredible from both. He’s also very confident, but why wouldn’t he be? He can obviously back it up, can’t he?” 

Williams added: “I’ve had a couple of good spars with Ben. Really, really high quality, as you’d expect. Really enjoyed it and good for both of us. He’s very good. Technically one of the best that I’ve been in with and he can stand and have a go, box from the outside and he can move very well.”

Williams is the underdog against Sheeraz but the Welshman only wants big fights and needs challenges to stay motivated, whether it’s in training or in the prize ring. 

Lockett is always reserved on making bold predictions about how far fighters can go as he has seen plenty fall by the wayside.

But he agreed that Whittaker has an X-Factor.

“Absolutely,” Lockett added. “Liam said on the way up [to spar] that Ben’s a nice man because he sparred him before, but if you look every time Sky post, or every time there’s an article, if you look at the comments, a lot of them are very, very negative. That just comes from society. It’s getting worse and worse. The comments are just incredible, but society itself is very negative but on the whole so far he [Whittaker]’s looked very, very good and seeing him in the flesh, he’s very much the real deal."

Can Whittaker go all the way?

“I never answer that question because there’s a lot that can happen in boxing,” Lockett added. “Never say never, there’s lots that can happen, but he was an Olympic silver medallist, why can’t he go one further in the pros?”

Lockett was grateful that his middleweight charge got good, solid rounds on before he steps into the away corner against the touted Sheeraz. 

“Against Ben, he [Williams] knew that if he was reckless, he was going to walking into his punches and I think for that reason he went back to the old Liam Williams from 2016 and 2017 and boxed, was aggressive on the front foot, and wasn’t too reckless,” Lockett concluded. “I’ll be honest, it was the best I’ve seen him.”

Williams has 25 wins (20 early) against four losses and a draw. Sheeraz is unbeaten in 18 bouts with 14 victories by stoppage.