Jimmy Williams faces Greg Vendetti on September 24

Will Paul

They’ve shared plenty of the same spaces through the years, whether in major arenas or in the cozier confines of local gyms ripping away at the heavy bag, yet, surprisingly their paths never crossed when it counted.

Until now.

In what may be one of the most intriguing New England fights of the year, regional rivals Jimmy Williams (18-5-2, 6 KOs) of New Haven, CT, and Greg Vendetti (22-4-1, 12 KOs) of Stoneham, MA, collide Friday night, September 24, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford in a 10-round bout for the vacant WBC USNBC Silver Super Welterweight Title live on UFC FIGHT PASS®.

Williams and Vendetti are two of New England’s most accomplished active fighters, making Friday’s championship showdown all the more important; in addition to the famed green and gold belt, bragging rights are also on the line.

Friday’s event also features the long-awaited Connecticut debut of Stamford’s own Chordale Booker (16-0, 7 KOs), a rising star in the middleweight division who faces tough veteran Silveiro Ortiz (37-27, 18 KOs) of Yucatan, Mexico in the eight-round co-main event. The preliminary card begins at 6:30 pm ET with the live FIGHT PASS stream kicking off at 7, featuring play-by play from Michael Parente alongside color commentators “Sucra” Ray Oliveira and Fun 107 radio host and veteran ringside correspondent Madelyn Grimaldi.

Tickets are available at CESFights.com.

Williams and Vendetti have built strong followings in and out of New England through the years despite their careers traveling vastly different paths. Williams, 35, a former college football standout born and raised in Plainfield, NJ, began his career with 15 wins in his first 16 pro bouts, the only blemishes being a draw against Greg Jackson in 2013 and a controversial no contest against Issouf Kinda in 2017.

Along the way, the charismatic right-hander, who works as a truancy officer in West Haven, captured the WBC USNBC Welterweight Title, dominating CES stablemate and fellow New England boxer Nick DeLomba in 2017. Never one to back down from a challenge, Williams hit a rough patch between 2019 and 2020, punctuated by a devastating knockout loss to prospect Brandun Lee, but a solid performance in his comeback bout against Mexican challenger Esteban Villalba, albeit a loss, proved to be enough to lift Williams’ confidence and convince him to keep moving forward.

The decision to continue fighting was a wise one; in June, Williams scored one of the most – if not the most – impressive wins of his career, outworking former world champion and 38-fight vet Yuri Foreman to capture the UBO International Super Welterweight Title. The next challenge is Vendetti, 31, a hard-nosed, workman-like fighter whom Williams respects for his willingness to fight anyone, a characteristic both have shared throughout their careers.

“Greg is a true warrior and he comes to fight, just like myself,” Williams said. “This fight will bring out the best in me. It’s going to be a night to remember.”

Vendetti, a former plumber, is best described as a throwback fighter, one who charges his opponent from the opening bell and never lets up. In his first appearance with CES in 2017, Vendetti bullied the favored Khiary Gray to earn a majority decision win and capture the vacant New England Super Welterweight Title.

The win helped catapult Vendetti to the next level and the opportunities he kept coming. First, he cleaned up the 154-pound weight class in New England, toppling regional rivals Casey Streeter and Derek Silveira. A year later, he earned another big break on ESPN, upsetting favored Japanese standout Yoshihiro Kamegai. Vendetti continued to work hard, even after a loss to Michel Soro in 2018, and, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, got the call all fighters dream of – an offer to fight for a world title on national television.

In August of 2020, Vendetti faced one of the sport’s pound-for-pound top fighters, Erislandy Lara, for Lara’s WBA and IBO World Super Welterweight Titles. Vendetti lost the fight on the scorecards, but gained respect and notoriety for giving the highly-regarded Lara everything he could handle for 12 rounds, something few thought was possible. Even Vendetti himself said entering the fight, “When I hear the odds and I hear people’s opinions that I’m going to get killed … I would say the same thing if I were them.”

Furthermore, few could’ve predicted Vendetti would get the opportunity to face a fighter like Lara on that kind of stage when he finished a pedestrian 4-2-1 in his first seven fights, including a draw and a loss to journeyman Antonio Fernandes. To keep his composure, Vendetti continued to follow the advice of his longtime trainer Joe Ricciardi: “Work hard, and things can happen.” A lot has happened in the past eight years for Vendetti, and now he faces another New England rival on the road in his home state – just another day at the office. Simply put, Vendetti said, “My plan is to win.”

The undercard features seven more excited bouts, including the Nutmeg State debut of the 30-year-old southpaw Booker, who aims to improve his record to 17-0 following an impressive win in November against Sanny Duversonne. Booker has made a steady living on the road, upsetting Juan De Angel at the Barclays Center in 2019 live on FOX and four months later chopping down Wale Otomoso by a wide margin on FOX Sports 1.

Also on the card, undefeated super bantamweight Angel Gonzalez (5-0, 3 KOs) of Hartford, who now fights out of Florida, returns to New England in a tough six-round matchup against Dominican Republic-born challenger Juan Gabriel Medina (12-7, 11 KOs).

Featherweight Nathan Martinez (6-1, 2 KOs) of New Britain returns from a two-year layoff to face Mexican challenger Francisco Dominguez (7-11-1, 1 KO) in a six-round bout. Making his professional debut, Providence, RI, heavyweight and former college football standout Timothy Hatfield makes his professional debut in a four-round bout against Ohio’s Kaleb Slaughter (1-2-1).

Returning for the first time since 2019, New Haven super lightweight Carlos Perez (1-0) battles newcomer Tyriek Gainey of Paterson, NJ, in a four-round bout and Ramon Caraballo of New Britain makes his professional debut against Montreal’s Samuel Lajoie-Dery (1-0, 1 KO). Friday’s card also features the Connecticut debut of female welterweight Stevie Jane Coleman (0-1), a Columbia, CT, native, in a four-round bout against “Scary” Christina Barry (1-7) of Manitoba, Canada.