In its decades of existence, the All-Marine Boxing Team, based in Camp Lejeune, has produced some of the top boxers in the country.
So when the famed unit, which disbanded in 2012, created a hall of fame in 2016, there was no shortage of viable candidates. After 50 former Marine boxers were inducted in the inaugural All-Marine Boxing Team Hall of Fame class a year ago, another 49 made the walk to immortality on April 1 in Goettge Memorial Field House at Camp Lejeune. Among them were Wilson resident Leslie “Apollo” Williams, who served in the U.S. from 1986 to 1993.
“It’s very exciting!” Williams said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s like I was a celebrity when I came onto base, because when I came into the field house I felt like I was ready to run through the tunnel and jump in the ring!”
Williams, now 50 years old, was a three-time All-Marine champion at 119 pounds or bantamweight between 1986 and 1989. He won the Interservice title at 106 pounds in 1988 and was a National Golden Glove champion in 1986 and 1987. He made the U.S. national team in 1987 and participated in the trials for the U.S. team for the Olympics in 1988 but didn’t qualify for the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea. Williams said he also was the Eastern Regional champion at the Olympic Sports Festival in Raleigh.
He said he went 33-1 as a Marine, losing only to Zrinell Webster, and 67-6 over the course of his boxing career.
Williams said his most memorable fight as a member of the All-Marine Boxing Team was against R.W. Michaels for the All-Marine championship in 1989.
“That was a hard one,” Williams said. “It was supposed to be hard but I made it a breeze!”
Williams, who was born in Newark, New Jersey, grew up in Wilson and attended Beddingfield High before moving back to New Jersey to finish high school. He joined the Marines in 1986 and underwent basic training at Parris Island, the legendary boot camp in South Carolina.
“That’s where the real Marines come from!” Williams said.
Williams, who rose to the rank of lance corporal, spent most of his Marines stint of 7-and-a-half years at Camp Lejeune as well as Camp Pendleton in California. He then served in the U.S. Army Reserve and boxed briefly as a professional.
“I had a lot of stuff going on with my family and I never got back in to it,” he said. “My grandmother got sick and that’s why I got out of it.”
His last fight came in 1993.
Williams, who now works at Absolute Plastics in Wilson, was accompanied to his induction ceremony by his parents, Etta and Roland Williams of Wilson, and his girlfriend, Kim Wilson of Newark. Williams and his 48 fellow inductees were presented with a Hall-of-Fame blazer, a medal, a certificate and a gaudy ring signifying their accomplishment.
Williams was reunited with many of his former boxing colleagues, including Michaels, who was a member of the hall of fame inaugural induction class.
Another charter member of the All-Marine Boxing Team Hall of Fame that Williams was glad to see was his old friend Leon Spinks, an Olympic gold medalist in 1976 who went on to defeat Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title in 1978.
“I met Leon when I first started fighting,” Williams recalled. “He used to come to the ‘Snake Pit,’ where we fought in the gym, all the time. He used to say ‘You can slither in but you can’t slither out!'”
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