Paul Williams held his son Paul Williams Jr. as he and his trainer George Peterson celebrated defeating Winky Wright in a unanimous decision in their middleweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center April 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- From his hospital bed in Marietta, boxing champ Paul Williams told 11Alive news Tuesday that he wants people to know how grateful he is for their support as he battles the toughest fight of his life -- suddenly being paralyzed from his waist down, as a result of his motorcycle accident on Sunday.
Paul Williams said he feels good, and because of the love and support of his family and fans, "I'm going to make it."
Williams called 11Alive's Jon Shirek on a cell phone from WellStar Kennestone Hospital Tuesday night.
He was joking, in good spirits.
But he's heard doctors tell him that there is nothing they can do.
Williams' motorcycle accident in Marietta damaged his lower spine, and doctors told him Sunday that he will not walk again.
Listen to Paul Williams talk, and you hear the voice, the heart, of a champion -- the professional boxer who has won three world titles as a welterweight and a light middleweight.
Thirty years old -- he will be 31 on July 27 -- Williams is 41-and-2 in the ring.
And he was training for his next fight, in September.
"We had a big fight -- supposed to be -- coming up," Williams said. "I'm sorry that it got pushed back. But that's all right. That's the way the cookie crumbles."
Williams talked with optimism, not despair.
"[Doctors] told me there's a very slight chance of walking, because the spine was, like, crushed, or whatever," he said. "I should be able to sit up on my own. But as far as me walking, and all that, it's all on me. I'm going to be walking, I know that. That's how I feel."
Williams quoted "The Lion King":
"If I can't walk, then, oh well, hakuna matata [No Worries]," he said. "I'll be on a boat fishing."
He laughed a bit as he spoke, a man insisting he is at peace despite his dire circumstances.
Williams' long-time manager, George Peterson, has been at his bedside constantly and will not leave it, except for brief breaks. During one of his breaks he agreed to talk with 11Alive News, because, Peterson said, even he is amazed at the way that the "warrior" in the ring, the warrior he's known for more than a decade, has emerged outside the ring, now.
Peterson said Williams told him: "'If I never box again, I'll do some stand-up comedy.' I know that he is a warrior. And I know obstacles such as this -- many, many times, when people doubted him, he was able to come back. Paul Williams will be all right. And he's fine. He really is. And his mindset is ready to get back out there and get back in the ring."
Williams will have surgery on Thursday aimed at protecting his upper spine.
Then his recovery, his rehab, will begin.
"He's not suffering at all," Peterson said. "He's absolutely without pain. No broken bones, no scratches, no bruises, or anything of that sort. So, for the most part, he's all set, and he's ready to go. The doctors mentioned that he would never walk again. The first thing he told me is, 'Mr. Peterson, I'm just sorry, I'm just sorry that this happened,' he said. 'But I'll get ready and I'll get back to camp. In a couple of days I'll be in and out of here.'"
Peterson said that in the time he's spent with Williams in the hospital, he's already putting his money on Williams recovering fully.
"You're expecting this guy to be half-way dead, but this guy is a long ways from being there," Peterson said. "What he plans to do still, yet -- in his mindset -- he wants to get back in the ring. He made a believer out of me by becoming a champion as many times as he has, he's made a believer out of me. I've got to go with him. I can't go against him."
On Tuesday, Marietta police released a statement saying that Williams had been driving his motorcycle "at a high rate of speed.... too fast for conditions."
The investigation is continuing, and charges against Williams "are pending."
Here is the complete statement from the Marietta Police Department's Public Information Officer David Baldwin:
The Marietta Police Department Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (S.T.E.P.) is currently investigating a serious injury accident which occurred on South Marietta Parkway near Atlanta Road on Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 7:35AM.
The on-scene investigation revealed that a modified sport motorcycle driven by Paul Williams of Grovetown, Georgia was traveling east on South Marietta Parkway near Atlanta Road at a high rate of speed. The motorcycle, which was travelling too fast for conditions, could not negotiate a curve and left the road way. The motorcycle crashed into an embankment and Williams suffered serious injuries.
Williams was transported by Metro Ambulance to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in serious condition.
Charges are pending at this time, however this case remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer David Auld at (770)794-5352.