|Tuesday, September 14
Williams dies after auto-pedestrian crash
HOUSTON -- Cleveland "Big Cat" Williams, who reached the pinnacle of his career with a 1966 bout against world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, has died of injuries he suffered in an auto-pedestrian accident.
Williams, 66, who battled a kidney problem and diabetes for years, died Friday afternoon at Ben Taub Hospital. He was struck by a car as he was crossing a Houston street Sept. 3. No charges were filed against the driver.
Williams overcame tremendous odds to reach the bout with Ali in the Astrodome.
A year and a half before stepping into the Astrodome ring, the fighter quarreled with a Texas state trooper during a traffic stop. The officer shot Williams in the midsection, leaving the boxer with lifelong kidney problems.
But after the miraculous recovery, Williams' career came to an anticlimactic finish: He lost to Ali in a three-round knockout and was never again considered a serious contender.
Williams was born in Griffin, Ga., and raised in Houston. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Commerce, Calif., in 1997.
"I told him he was the champion before he got in the ring," Irene Williams, his wife, said, referring to the Ali fight. "That was a fight we didn't think would ever happen.
"He fought Ali with one kidney and only half of his intestines. He was the people's champion."
Williams fought professionally only a few more years after the Ali fight. Then the boxer who fought Sonny Liston twice called it quits.
In recent months, Williams underwent dialysis treatments three times a week at a Medical Center hospital in the Medical Center.
Williams was returning home from a dialysis session when he was fatally wounded.
"It's a tragedy we had to lose him," said his wife. "It's hard to take. The shooting couldn't take him. Diabetes. None of that took him out."
"He was a good man," said Reuben Williams, the only child of the retired boxer. "Loved people, loved children and loved to fish. And loved the sport of boxing."
Memorial services will be Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. ET at Eternal Rest Funeral Home in Houston. Burial will be Saturday at 11 a.m. ET at Paradise North Cemetery in Houston.