Eugenia Williams Calls Her Scoring Of The Holyfield-lewis Bout Fair. Boxing Judge Defends Decision

Posted: April 06, 1999

ATLANTIC CITY — She took up boxing as a girl, Eugenia Williams says, to learn to defend herself against an older brother. And she used it when necessary.

Decades later, on the sweaty third floor of the local Police Athletic League (PAL), she is a familiar presence, volunteering in her spare time to help spin the delicate web of ambition and discipline around the young boxers.

At City Hall, she handles a busy job as principal accounts clerk in a rent-control office that sorts out complaints from both landlords and tenants.

And she serves on the Atlantic City Juvenile Conference Committee, working with first-time offenders to come up with resolutions that keep them out of the criminal justice system.

This is the same Eugenia ``Jean'' Williams who since March 13 has been vilified around the globe by everyone from New York Gov. George Pataki to Muhammad Ali. This is the same veteran boxing judge whose scoring that night favoring Evander Holyfield over Lennox Lewis in a heavyweight title bout was denounced before 1.4 million television viewers as ``fraudulent,'' spawned four separate investigations, and brought the weight of the international media to the door of her pretty rowhouse across the street from the PAL building.

No, there is nothing flashy about this Jean Williams, the one so familiar around her neighborhood a few blocks from City Hall. Nothing particularly mysterious, either, except perhaps her age and the vague reason she gives for keeping it a secret.

This Jean Williams has raised two children, now 26 and 28, and is a grandmother, too. This Jean Williams is so busy shuttling young boxers to out-of-town tournaments that her Christmas door foil was still shining in the pre-Easter sun, and her plastic Easter flowers have been known to hang on until the summer sun melts them.

Jean Williams says it is ridiculous to believe that she would ever do anything improper as a boxing judge, and the people to whom she devotes her life agree, even the ones who believe she blew the judging in a big, though honest, way.

``They know it's a joke for someone to assume I would take money for something I love doing,'' Williams said in a recent interview in a local casino. ``If it was true, I know they would probably just . . . it would be hard for them to take, by the way I've carried myself all this long. There's no way.

``The night of the fight, I scored exactly what I saw and I stand by that,'' she said.

``She's fair and honest,'' said Howard Hurt, 43, a trainer at the PAL center who has known Williams for 17 years. ``I believe she called it as she saw it. It was a big fight for her. I don't have anything bad to say about her. She put up with a lot to get to where she's at. She would never take a bribe, I know that. Lennox Lewis might have won the fight, but anytime you fight for the championship, you have to win impressive.''

Darrian Hudgins, 24, an amateur boxer who last weekend was shuttled to a weigh-in in Philadelphia by Williams (nobody talked about the fight), also vouched for her.

``She's a good person. She's always up here working,'' Hudgins said during a break from a workout. ``We all think Lewis won, but I can't criticize her. They want to make it like she's a bad person. We're really just up here trying to do something for ourselves. She gives us good advice. She's a good person.''

Williams denies all the speculation about the fight being fixed and about her being the main instrument of the fixers. She did declare bankruptcy six weeks before the fight, but that is irrelevant, she says. She collected a fee of $5,100 for the fight - the same as the two other judges.

She was put up in a not-particularly glamourous hotel across from Madison Square Garden in New York, and she spent the night before the fight wandering in and out of shops by herself. She says she has never been in contact with promoter Don King, who gets a rematch for his boxer, Holyfield, as a result of the draw.

She is now awaiting the outcome of the investigations, including one expected soon from the New York State Athletic Commission. The Manhattan district attorney, the New York attorney general and State Sen. Roy M. Goodman are investigating, amongst others. She has agreed to speak with the FBI, according to her lawyer, Louis Priluker, in an investigation into the Newark-based International Boxing Federation, the sanctioning body that selected her as one of three judges for the fight. But Priluker says the FBI has assured him that Williams is not a target. It has been reported that the FBI is looking into whether the IBF sold rankings and took kickbacks for arranging fights.

Williams, who has nine years of experience judging professional fights, said she was taken aback by the reaction to her scoring. The fight ended in a 12-round draw. Williams gave Holyfield a 115-113 win on her scorecard. Judge Larry O'Connell of England scored it even at 115-115. South African judge Stanley Christodoulou gave Lewis a 116-113 advantage.

The world, however, saw Lewis, the WBC champion, give Holyfield, the IBF and WBA champ, a thorough pounding vividly captured by a variety of camera angles. Williams, stationed at ringside, said her scoring reflected what she saw throughout the fight. She said she pushed aside a photographer who at times got in her way. Her view of the much-debated fifth round was blocked at times by Lewis' back.

She is convinced that the reason her integrity has been attacked so vehemently is at least in part because she is a woman.

``They've never attacked an official like I've been attacked myself,'' Williams said. ``I think it's all blown out of proportion. I was never tampered with. I'm very qualified and I know I did a good job. They don't care what the other judges scored. They're just focusing on me. I believe it was truly because I was a female.''

At this point, Williams says, she does not care what anyone thinks. Her family, coworkers, and proteges at the gym know who she is. She is just tired of the nasty phone calls to her workplace and to her home in the middle of the night, the cameras outside her home that made her afraid to go visit her grandmother in the hospital, and the high-level scrutiny into personal matters.

For now, Williams is mostly back into her routine: fielding calls and keeping records straight from her desk at City Hall decorated with pictures of her children, volunteering at the gym every day at 4:30 p.m., worrying about the two older generations and two younger generations of her family, which all depend on her, and spending her weekends driving to boxing matches.

``I enjoy boxing,'' she said. ``When I go to the gym and watch the guys, it's relaxing. I try to encourage the youth, period, because the more boxers that are in the gym, the less boxers on the street. We don't need anything negative.''

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