Jeremy Williams faces the biggest fight of his life Saturday in Waterloo against Travis "The Ironman" Fulton- and not just because it's for the World Boxing Union heavyweight title.
Williams, a 1990 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, said he's fighting for his place in history.
"This is the most coveted title in this sport," said Williams. "It is the pinnacle. For me, it's a lot more than fighting for the world title. It's fighting for a piece of history; it's fighting to be the first-ever biracial champion of the world. There's been white, there's been black. There's been a Latino. There's never been biracial."
When Williams steps into the ring Saturday, longtime fans may notice something different - a fighter who is just as determined to win as ever but with a new approach to victory.
"I used to fight with anger," said Williams, who often spells his last name "Williamz" to differentiate himself from "the 5,000 Jeremy Williamses" online.
"I was this little mixed kid, Irish mother and a black father, growing up in a society that wasn't really accepting of me. And, I'm dyslexic, so I have a learning disability. I have a lot of things pushing back on me, and I fought with anger and rage. I fought because I wanted to hurt people," he said.
Williams' motivation and technique have changed.
"I want to prove something to myself. I trained completely differently for this fight. I put meditation into my training, and I put visualization into my training. I didn't train harder, I trained smarter," he said.
"The physical act of boxing is very easy for me," said Williams. "I've been doing it since I was walking. I can do it any day of the week, seven days a week. But the emotional and mental strain it does on me - that needs to be in a better place. And, I've learned how to get myself there and keep all the negative energies away from me."
Williams hasn't had a professional fight in about four years, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been staying in shape.
"I've been in the gym every day for the last four or five years," he said. "I've been boxing since I was 6 years old. It's not like me not to be in the gym. So when the opportunity presented itself, I thought about it. I prayed about it."
Finally, he said, he knew he would never be completely satisfied with his career if he didn't accept the fight.
At 40 years old, Williams said fighting is different but not necessarily harder.
"I really feel physically far better than I have before," he said. "I know my body now. I have that country boy strength with the mind of a mature fighter. Whether we go one round or 12 rounds, Travis and I, it makes no difference to me. I'm going to give it everything I've got for the opportunity of a lifetime that I needed in an equal, fair event. I'm going to prepare and propel myself to a win."
Willams has taken advantage of YouTube - "it's awesome" - to study videos of Fulton.
"I watch him every two days, just in case I'm missing something. I've got maybe 30 fights on YouTube, so I imagine that he's watching me as I'm watching him," he said.
Williams, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., has had plenty of time to prepare for his return to the ring.
"This fight originally started out to be in North Carolina, then Minnesota," he said. "This guy fell out, then that guy fell out."
Williams trained hard for about 12 weeks each time, only to learn the fight was postponed.
"I would train, I'd peak. Then, I'd be let down. Then I'd peak again, then I'd be let down. So, then I was like, I'm going to outsmart everybody. I'm going to take my time. I'm going to gradually build like a crescendo in music, gradually build to a culminating act."
Williams said he hopes fans from Fort Dodge will attend Saturday's fight.
"I would like to see a nice Fort Dodge presence," he said. "I'm from here. I'm fighting for all of Long Beach; I am fighting for all of Fort Dodge. This is where I'm from. It is very fitting to come back. The fight got cancelled two different times. Is that devine intervention? What is that? It's lining up all the blocks, so when it does happen, it happens at the right place and the right time for the right person - whether that be me or Travis. God willing, it's me. But I'm in a place now where, win, lose or draw, I've done everything I could do, prepared myself the way I thought I should prepare myself, and now, it's destiny, whatever happens."
Although Williams isn't looking past the fight in Waterloo, should he win, he said, he wants to fight again.
"God willing, we win this fight, I want to fight right back - 60, 90 days later - back in Iowa, probably in Des Moines. But, that's something we'll talk about later."