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Boxer ‘Big Cat’ Williams Dies

September 14, 1999

HOUSTON (AP) _ Cleveland ``Big Cat″ Williams, a boxer who was shot by police but recovered to fight Muhammad Ali for the title in 1966, died after being struck by a car. He was 66.

Williams died Friday at Ben Taub hospital. No charges were filed against the driver, who hit the ailing Williams as he crossed the street after a dialysis treatment.

Williams’ medical troubles began in 1965, when he was shot in the stomach by a Texas state trooper after arguing during a traffic stop.

The shooting left Williams with lifelong kindney trouble, but it didn’t stop him from challenging Ali in the Houston Astrodome only a year and a half later.

``I told him he was the champion before he got in the ring,″ Irene Williams, his wife, said of the Nov. 14, 1966, bout. ``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.″

Ali scored a third-round knockout and Williams was never again a serious contender, fighting only a few more years. Then the heavyweight who twice fought Sonny Liston called it quits.

In recent months, Williams underwent dialysis treatments three times a week.

``It’s a tragedy we had to lose him,″ his wife said. ``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 boxer. ``Loved people, loved children and loved to fish. And loved the sport of boxing.″

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.

A memorial service is Friday at Eternal Rest Funeral Home in Houston, with burial on Saturday at Paradise North Cemetery.

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