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Local 37-year-old woman set for chance of lifetime

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

Shirevell Williams doesn't expect to be a household name, but tonight in Mississippi she will come as close as ever.

In her first fight since beating Jacqui Frazier-Lyde in the most publicized event in the short history of sanctioned women's boxing, and a few months removed from left shoulder surgery, Laila Ali has tabbed Williams to be her first opponent on the comeback trail.

For Williams, a 37-year-old St. Petersburg security officer, it will her eighth professional fight against the biggest name in the women's game at the DeSoto Convention Center in Southampton, Miss.. She will earn more for the fight than she normally makes in a month, and is being presented with a chance to launch herself into the heights of boxing.

"This is a one-in-a-million opportunity," said Williams, a former Northeast High student. "I've been looking for my big break. This is it. It's huge."

Williams (4-2-1) trained for the past three years at the South Syde Boxing Gym under Ray Milton, whom she credits for teaching her the craft. But after her last loss, a controversial one to Ann Wolfe, she decided to go with different management to land bigger fights, and her recent move to the Arena Boxing Club is paying off.

Under Milton, Williams gained a reputation for being a hard-hitting, steel-chinned brawler. Just 5 feet 6, Williams always has fought bigger opponents and usually has to go through their punches to get inside and pound the body, which she said is her forte.

That style, combined with her slow starts, lends itself to taking some hard shots, but Williams never has been knocked down. After winning her first four fights, she lost for the first time to highly rated Marsha Valley in a six-round decision (she said she knocked Valley out in the final round, but the referee helped her to her feet).

Her last fight against Wolfe was stopped in the first round.

"I wasn't even on the ropes," Williams said, though she admitted to being rocked early.

Williams said new trainer Jason Byers has made a few adjustments to her style, and starting slowly is a habit she thinks she has broken. She'll need every advantage she can get.

Ali (10-0-0) has the best left jab in the game -- surgically-repaired left shoulder or not -- and while she isn't the brawler and doesn't pack the power Christy Martin or Lucia Rijker do, she is more skilled than Williams and is expected to dominate.

"She's taking this fight because I'm smaller than her, and she probably looked at my last two fights," Williams said. "She's looking at those two advantages."

Because she is unknown, and because Ali isn't, and because she thinks she has been robbed her last two fights, there is no mistaking what Williams believes she has to do tonight.

"She's a superstar," Williams said. "She's got to be totally knocked out and can't get up if you're going to beat her. There's no way they're going to let me come in there and get a decision. I definitely feel like I have to knock her out to win. If I do that ... it would make my career."

Tyson weighs in at second heaviest of his career

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Tyson weighed in at the second-heaviest weight of his career Thursday for his heavyweight title fight with Lennox Lewis.

Tyson weighed 2341/2 pounds, 161/2 pounds more than for the "Bite Fight" with Evander Holyfield. Tyson weighed 239 for his last fight against Brian Nielsen.

"I'm just ready to get it on, crush this guy's skull," Tyson said.

Lewis, meanwhile, weighed 2491/4 pounds, compared with 246 for his last fight with Hasim Rahman.

Lewis, wearing a black hat, weighed in three hours ahead of Tyson, part of a plan to keep the fighters apart until Saturday night's bout.

Tyson chewed gum and flexed his biceps to the crowd at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

"I know Mike is not that heavy," Tyson trainer Ronnie Shields said. "I don't think Lennox is that heavy, either. It's got to be something with the scales. Maybe the platform was crooked or something."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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