From highs to lows to highs to contentment, that might characterise the incredible life of William Butler, better known as the Bahamas boxing sensation, Yama Bahama. How did this Bimini boxing prodigy go from fisherman, to an incredible fighting career by 1960, to standing trial for an attempted bank robbery by just 34 years old in 1967, to becoming a successful business owner in Bimini by 1983, is simply sensational.
By 1956, William Butler, a former fisherman from Bimini, now a middleweight boxing sensation, named Yama Bahama, had just won his 23rd straight fight. It was nationally televised across the United States. Crowds in Madison Square Garden in New York City, were on their feet in excitement, on Friday 29th June 1956, as he was declared the winner by a unanimous decision. After 10 rounds, he defeated Gil Turner of Philadelphia.
“…And the winner is Yama Bahama”
(The Illinois Register News, 30 June 1956)
1957Yama Bahama robbed of victory. His manager Bob Melnick was outraged but Yama, they say was as calm as a department store floor walker, after the decision went to his opponent.
(The Miami News, 06 June 1957
In 1958, Yama Bahama fought two brutal fights in the ring back to back.
18th June 1958, in another nationally televised fight, millions watched Yama Bahama defeat the odds favourite, former welterweight king Kid Gavilan, the Cuban Hawk, in a bitter fight to the finish in the Miami Beach Auditorium.
This would be Yama Bahama’s 49th win, against just 8 losses and one draw.
(The Illinois Register News, 30 June 1956)
Before Yama could even catch his breath to recover from the brutal fight in June, he was fighting again by Tuesday October 7th, 1958. He won! A decisive knock out of his opponent in the 10th round gave him the victory, but Yama was badly bruised from the fourth round. He needed four stitches to close the wound.
(The Florida News Tribune, 08 October 1958)
By 13th March 1959, Yama Bahama, continuing with a brutal schedule of boxing matches across the United States, had just defeated another opponent. At 26 years old in 1959, Bahama had defeated the Canadian champion, Willie Greaves.
Yama Bahama’s record was now an impressive 52 wins, 9 losses and 2 draws.
It was time to eye bigger international fights. His manager was looking at challenging the Nigerian born, London fighter Dick Tiger.
By the 29th of April 1959, Yama was fighting again. This would be his 53rd win in 64 professional boxing matches.
(The Ohio Tribune, 30 April 1959)
By July 30, 1960, Yama was training hard, in preparation for his fight against Hawaiian boxer Stan Harrington. By this time, some sports commentators were writing about Bahama in the past tense. Bahama had lost a fight in March 1960 against Victor Zalazar. Bahama has fought in six months prior to the Zalazar bout. Both the press and ringside commentators gave the fight to Bahama. The fight judges disagreed. Zalazar was given the match in a 5-4 decision.
(The Advertiser 02 August 1960)
In the end, Yama defied his critics. Bahama took the lead from the very beginning and won over the favourite Harrington.
By July 1963, William Butler, fighting under the name, Yama Bahama had retired from the ring. He went back to North Bimini and opened a place called “Yama’s Rest.” It was a bar, pool room and restaurant with a juke box and rooms above available for rent.
By 1967, Yama Bahama’s record was 78 wins out of 94 bouts.
February 15, 1967, Yama Bahama was on trial at the Supreme Court in Nassau for the November 4, 1965 attempted robbery of the Royal Bank of Canada at Alice Town Bimini. Bahama it was claimed had organised the entire scheme. The claim was made by three convicts already serving time nine months terms, for the attempted robbery. Bahama said, during his 90 minutes in the witness box that he had no idea what the men were talking about.
By 1967, Yama Bahama had not fought in two years. He had been suspended by the Miami Boxing Commission for failure to fulfil a contract to fight in Miami.
(The Miami News 15 February 1967)
Only a few months later, with all his legal troubles behind him, by April 1967, Yama stages a comeback to the fight ring.
By 1983, Yama Bahama was fishing more than fighting. Now a local successful businessman in Bimini, William Butler, the sensational Yama Bahama, was now most definitely, a world boxing legend.