Davarryl Williamson, Pro Boxer Denver, CO
By Rae Ainslee, BAC Magazine Writer
“People are a sum of their totals. They are the product of every experience. The good and the bad, and the thousands of interactions they will have throughout their lives. Although some of these experiences will be more meaningful, some people more influential, and some interactions more powerful…no one single event will, or should define a person. It’s the mosaic of the whole human-being that ultimately makes the difference.”
– Bill Wright.
Strength, power, determination, and grace. These four words stamp the website of Davarryl Williamson’s’ gym. Strength, power, determination, and grace. Four words that define the man that could put a competitor to sleep with a swift right-handed punch to the jaw.
Davarryl wasn’t raised to use violence to maneuver his way out of an indecent situation. While he was born to a heroin-addicted mother in prison which led to him and his sister Demetria spending the following nine years in the foster home of Dot and Bill Addison, he hasn’t used those situations as excuses to lead an off-kilter life. In fact, he has used them as reasons to succeed.
Once Davarryl was released back to his father, Willie who later passed away from cancer in 2000, his life began to turn around. While he was still below the middle class he had a parent that would fight for him, a parent that would pick him over anything or anyone else, even his wife—which he did. Davarryl, growing up, didn’t necessarily agree with his father’s firm-handed approach to raising him. But he’s grateful for it today. If it weren’t for that discipline that kept Davarryl from going down an unsanctioned path, or the after-school programs put together by the mayor of Washington D.C. at the time, Davarryl might not be defined by strength, power, determination, and grace today.
Or at least not in the way that Davarryl chooses to define those four words.
In high school he fell for his first love, football and basketball, “I loved them before I ever loved a woman.” It’s easy to fall in love with something that takes you places and helps afford you shiny badges of honor such as Davarryls master’s degree in administrative services. Which he took steps to earn while playing football and basketball at Wayne State College in Nebraska.
Boxing was never on his radar in terms of how he would earn a living throughout his life. Which makes Davarryls right-handed swing sting a little extra for his competitors. It was something he stumbled upon, a hidden talent buried far beneath his football helmet and pads. While picking up a pair of gloves to stay in shape while exhausting his final years of football, he realized that a life of sport wasn’t completely off the table.
While playing a small stint for the Arizona Rattlers football team, and an even smaller stint as a Stand-Up comedian in the early 1990s he was invited to the US boxing championships where he truly realized his passion. While opening for comedians such as Chris Tucker and Tommy Davidson was something he enjoyed, he didn’t get the same rush that came with dancing around the canvas with opponents such as Floyd Mayweather, and Antonio Tarver. Boxing gave him a rush, “Ah yes, this is what I want to do.”
At the Olympic festival in 1994, Williamson came in large, he was popular, but he wasn’t the best. He lost in the finals but was still asked to be the National teams alternate in the 1996 Olympic Games amongst teammates including Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather, Zion Raheem, Davy Read, and Antonio Tarver.
The games were a life-changing experience for Davarryl. As they are to all contenders. But for Touch of Sleep, they made him believe that anything was possible. It was the first time he was mentioned next to people like Sugar Ray Robinson, and that created an unbreakable thought that the sky was the limit. “I stayed for three months [with the Olympic team.] It was a priceless experience. I knew anything was possible and I had a stake in the world. I mattered. I made a splash. It was pretty huge.”
Davarryl is a perfect combination of strength, power, dedication, and grace. Because he doesn’t take the words at face value. He doesn’t apply the words to one specific section of his life, mainly because no section in his life was more important than another. Most successful people view the path of their life this way. They see it as a mosaic rather than pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit.
Touch of Sleep judges strength as more than just a punch at your opponent, “My coach always taught us: intelligence first, bravery second. Out-think your opponent. Man up later.” He uses the same type of coaching. He realizes that strength comes in many fashions, whether it is stepping away when it is necessary, the strength it takes to love a family through any trouble that comes your way, and in the gym he reminds his athletes that they don’t need to bench press the entire world, they just need to bench press their own weight.
Davarryl has confidence in his power. Not in an arrogant way, but he is very proud of his make-up and the way he has lived his life. In 1988 he was at a park in Minnesota, a young woman came up to him and shared with him a word he carries with him today, finesse. She loved the way he carried himself with a humble sort of confidence, it was the attitude he carried his entire life and one that he brings to the table today. “I try to make my children and athletes understand that power isn’t something that you stumble upon. It comes the same way you earn respect, the vibes you share with the world and the way you carry yourself project to the world who you are, and what they want to give you regardless of whether or not you deserve it.”
Life is a mosaic. Davarryls mosaic has led him to be able to afford young people the same type of afterschool programs that saved him growing up. He began a youth boxing program in September 2015 with Alysa and Ron Levine, Touchstone Youth Program. He has a huge passion for kids and making sure their lives can be better after stepping foot in his gym. Back when the program started with the students from Englewood Middle School there were nine children involved. Today there are thirteen. They come in twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday to complete a fifty-minute workout with Davarryl which is followed by an hour of whatever type of homework they need help with. “I couldn’t be happier with this program. This is what kept me out of trouble growing up.”
Touch of Sleeps gym has been open since 1999. He has coached alongside Jameson Bostic and Greg Jackson. He prides himself on his coaching style, “Kind of like Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans. I am loving them but making sure to push them out of their comfort zone when it’s necessary.” He explains that you need to know your audience and make sure that they leave knowing that they accomplished more than they thought they originally could. “Leave them with a little motivation to go after more next time.” Tough love and all, Davarryl still get messages like the one he received during our interview, “You’re the best coach. I promise I’ll get them tomorrow.” He claims he isn’t doing anything special, “I’m just being me and loving people. But the things I’ve done in the past have come back to haunt me in a good way. So now I’m paying it all forward.”
Dedication is a key ingredient of any successful athlete. Davarryl is no exception. He’s up and at his gym by 4:45 every morning. He has been a successful boxer for nearly two decades. He holds his lack of taking shortcuts in high regard, something he wishes to pass down to his children and peers. “Be diligent. Be motivated. Be dedicated.”
While grace is the fourth word on the website, it could easily be the only word. Davarryl is the epitome of grace. “It has been a wonderful ride. As a man coming from nothing and to have what I have now. I am so fortunate and so blessed. People dream about my life. And instead of saying I’m content with where I am. I continue to strive for success. My goal is to leave this world and put back in more love than what I have taken from it.” Not only is he an amazing athlete, but he is truly an amazing human being. He came from nothing, and he used all of that nothing to turn not only himself but everyone around him into something more. He strives to make his community and family better. He is a touch of grace.