Our interview was conducted over the phone, and Phil “The Drill” Williams didn’t answer when I called. I left a voice mail and waited for him to call back. When the phone finally did ring, he was apologetic: “Sorry I didn’t call you back right away, but I had to get the kids sat down for supper.” A fellow dad…I like this guy already.
Introductions and formalities aside, I asked Phil to tell me a little bit about himself. After all, for all the hype that accompanies his 8-0 (8 kayos) record, little is known about the Drill. First off, he was born in Queens, New York. He was named after his mother’s father at Grandpa’s request – it seems Grandpa had no sons, and wanted a namesake. His mom took him and moved away when he was about six years old, and after some side trips to North Carolina and Chicago, they settled in North Minneapolis not long after. So Williams is New York bred but Minnesota raised, and that makes him a real Minnesotan. As a youth Williams says he was always athletic, and he was enthusiastic in his pursuit of basketball and football, but admittedly “didn’t have the grades to participate as a student.” As a young man he went to barber school and found a good job working in that field. But then he began to think, he was always a pretty good fighter, how good could he really be? Pretty good, it turns out.
Williams walked into the now defunct Glover’s Gym in NE Minneapolis (at Lowry and Central), and although he was a late starter, he blossomed right away, winning three state titles (’03-’05) and two Upper Midwest Golden Gloves titles (’04 and ’05) at light heavyweight on his way to compiling an amateur record of 31-4. He’ll tell you matter-of-factly that he had plenty of power even as an amateur, but he’s had some really spectactular moments as a professional. Most notably, his destruction of Marcus Upshaw in June (which was posted to YouTube) has gotten him some real attention. This summer he’s heard from Richard Steele and Buddy McGirt, and even traveled to spar with Andre Dirrell in July. How did that go? Williams is both philosophical and cryptic: “That was a good experience…the only thing about it is that when they bring you in to spar, they want you to be sparring partner, not a fighter. And I’m not a sparring kind of guy; I’m a fighter.” So was it a good experience? “Yeah, I learned about techniques and different ways of training and whatnot. The way they do their sparring and training, and I like to learn other ways of doing things…I want to pick up good things from different people and places.” Williams is still managed by Chuck and Pete Daskiewicz, and they’ve decided that for now Williams needs to focus on the task at hand, which he is doing.
The task at hand is a headlining appearance on August 29, on the Seconds Out show at Grand Casino Hinckley. He’ll be facing 13-0-1 (10 kayos) Marcus Oliveira of Lawrence, KS. I mentioned to Phil that he is wasting no time in going up the ladder. “No sense in going backwards,” he laughed. He explained that with his unexpectedly rapid rise in the Boxrec rankings and the attention he’s been getting, he couldn’t see fighting a man with a 4-11 record at this point in his career. In fact, he had thought for a long time that his goal would be a match with Minnesota’s reigning light heavyweight king Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters (23-2 with 18 kayos) of Duluth, but now he’s focusing on other things. “I actually wanted to fight Rubin “Mister Hollywood” Williams, and I told Tony G to get him for me, but when Tony called me back and said that Oliveira was available and he’s unbeaten, I agreed to fight him.” I asked what Williams knows about Oliveira and he deadpanned: “His name.”
By this time in the interview I was thinking that this dude is one of the most earnest, upbeat, and positive people I’ve talked to in boxing, and then he took it to another level.
“I have got a grand plan,” he confided. “I want to start a DRILL foundation, a DRILL movement. DRILL is an acronym for Directly Related to the Inner city with Love and Loyalty.” Here the Drill began to get animated. “In this part of town young guys give up when they get into trouble, or when they aren’t doing well in school. They feel like failures, and as a result they get into whatever’s going on around them, they’re misdirected. But I have some influence, in this neighborhood: when I talk people listen to me. They come to the shop or they come play basketball with me. They respect me, I talk to them and they hear positive stuff out of me. They hear me, and they understand me, but they don’t have the means of doing it. You can talk about positivity till you’re blue in the face, but when they go home it’s a different reality for them. So I want to help them find the means to do the good things they want to do.” How can he do this? “Through boxing. Boxing has helped me to find discipline and focus, to really connect with that discipline that I found in the gym, and I want to share the blessings with other people. I want to open my own gym someday, I’ll call it ‘The Drill Camp,’ and our team will be ‘The Drill Team.’ And we’re gonna have some positive stuff going on.”
The Fistic Mystic says: Phil “The Drill” Williams is a very passionate guy, full of his message and excited about life. Keep an eye on this man, because he’s headed for big things, both in and out of the ring.