Junior middleweight contender talks about earning another title shot, possible matchups with Erislandy Lara or Japan’s Takeshi Inoue and staying mentally strong.
Julian Williams watched Shawn Porter’s unanimous decision victory over Danny Garcia to claim the WBC’s 147-pound title from the fourth row of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on September 8.
Williams was seated behind a pair of unbeaten fellow 28-year-olds he soon hopes to challenge in IBF/WBA and WBC 154-pound champions Jarrett Hurd and Jermell Charlo. Adjacent to Jermell was his twin sibling, Jermall, a current 160-pound titleholder who owns a three-knockdown, fifth-round stoppage of Williams as a then-154-pound king in December 2016.
Williams has two potential opportunities at Hurd and Jermell Charlo. He’s in line for a November bout — and the right to face Hurd — with Japan’s Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1,7 KOs), a 28-year-old whose unanimous decision over Yuki Nonaka in April ended the winner’s three-fight stoppage streak.
Or else Williams could earn a shot at Charlo should he get beyond a WBC-mandated bout opposite left-handed former titleholder Erislandy Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs), a 35-year-old split-decision loser of an April unification bout to Hurd.
The loss to Charlo ended “J’Rock’s” run of three-straight knockouts, 53-consecutive rounds won and 16-consecutive victories (10 by stoppage) since a six-round draw against Francisco Santana in May 2011. As a result, Williams spent his past three victories answering critics regarding whether or not his psyche was fragile.
Williams was maligned as “J-Pebbles” and “not tough,” before his last victory in April—a majority decision over Nathaniel “No Problem” Gallimore, who had vowed to secure his eighth-straight stoppage. Prior to Gallimore, Williams earned a seventh-round TKO of previously once-beaten Joshua Conley, who was stopped for the first time in his career in June 2017 to end his knockout streak at three.
In November, Williams (25-1-1, 15 KOs) overcame Floyd Mayweather-promoted Ishe Smith, earning a unanimous decision win over the steel-chinned, slick boxing former world champion before “Sugar Shay’s” energized hometown fans in Las Vegas.
How would you characterize the pressure, your growth and generally what you’ve taken away from your past four fights?
As far as the Ishe Smith fight, there was always the pressure of going into a guy’s hometown. But then, this was not just any guy. This was a guy who is a tough, veteran ex-world champion who had never been stopped.
Ishe’s promoter and the promoter of the show was Floyd Mayweather, and that’s like “Team A” and “Team B,” which meant that I had to be on point and try to dominate. But all of Ishe’s fans were there and his wife and children were in the front row.
That was a big motivation for him, and that was definitely a pressure fight for me. So even though I thought that I won by a landslide, and the judges agreed, I don’t think I dominated all the way through. I didn’t do the job that I could have and should have.
I lost focus a little bit in the fight and got away from the game plan. So that was a learning experience, and we’re looking at getting back into the ring against Inoue in November. I’m in camp, full swing, going 100-percent, on a diet, boxing and running every day.
Was Mayweather’s presence or his aura a factor?
I didn’t allow that to cross my mind, because, if I did, it probably would have bothered me. So, no, that was something I can’t control. That’s helluva thing to stress over something you can’t control, like life in general. That’s out of my hands.
There are some things that I could have done better, but I thought the judging was fair, and Ishe put up a really good fight. My career was on the line, so I just focused on winning the fight. It was a great learning experience.
What about Nathaniel Gallimore?
Well my lack of focus sort of carried over into the fight with Gallimore, who was a loud, smack-talking dude who had a lot of knockouts, and a lot of people thought he was gonna beat me. Some boxing writers and people on Twitter were saying that I was going to get knocked out.
I was Gallimore’s meal ticket because if he would have won, there was an opportunity to make more money and there were bigger things in store for him. His career would have taken off. But, obviously, whenever you have people thinking you’re going to lose, it’s more pressure, so I had to deliver.
Given that Gallimore lost his next fight by unanimous decision to Patrick Teixeira, do you think you took something out of him?
Absolutely. I had watched three fights on Gallimore, the fight that he lost to by split-decision (to Virgilijus Stapulionis in June 2016), and his upset wins over Jeison Rosario (sixth-round TKO in April 2017) and Justin DeLoach (fifth-round stoppage in July 2017).
One thing I noticed about Rosario and DeLoach is that they were young fighters, 23 and 24 years old. They were babies, and he manhandled, bullied and walked to them and beat the s—t out of them. I thought Justin DeLoach was doing pretty well, but he fought a stupid fight.
Watching the fight that Gallimore lost (to Stapulionis), he fought a grown man who was a journeyman with a solid record. The guy wasn’t afraid of Gallimore, was physically strong, and he just walked to him, let his hands go and beat him up.
Gallimore got over on the young guys because he was stronger and more of a man at this stage in his career. He overpowered those kids, but he couldn’t do that with me. I felt like I boxed Gallimore easily over the first few rounds before going inside on him.
That’s because I had seen (Stapulionis) walk to him, go to his body and push him back, so that’s what I decided to do in the midst of the fight. From watching his last fight on Facebook, he looked like one of those tame lions in a zoo. He looked lifeless, like he really didn’t want to be there.
I got into Gallimore’s head and took something out of him. When a guy like Gallimore’s so high up and they take a loss, in this era of social media and all of these opinions, you see their lack of mental toughness. He had no fire, and allowed the loss to break him. That had to do with me. I ruined his confidence.
How did you avoid allowing that same thing to happen to you after losing to Jermall Charlo?
It bothered me that I lost, but everybody’s different. I’m not a Nathaniel Gallimore. I’ve been through worse s—t than losing a boxing match. What I didn’t do is cry, complain and I didn’t point any fingers. They say that you’ve gotta be like a quarterback in the NFL, you know?
Sometimes, they get burnt, give up a touchdown, and they’ve gotta just say, ‘F—k it,’ go back to the sidelines or get back in the huddle. Eventually, they just forget about it and get back into the game. But if you’re on social media all day, you’re going to see people’s opinions.
Some, if not, most of them, you’re not going to like. But this is boxing, and it depends on how strong you are mentally. It takes a special individual, but you have to learn to get over it. In my case, I looked in the mirror, prayed about it and let it go. Then I went back into the gym and went to work.
What was it like for you being ringside for Porter-Garcia behind the Charlos and Hurd?
I haven’t really been thinking about anybody but the next man in front of me, Inoue. I’m focused on him, but I think this is a very tough division and everybody’s so close.
I’m definitely motivated to mix it up with either Jermell Charlo or Jarrett Hurd. When these fights begin to happen, people will be able to see and determine who is the absolute best.
“ I think I’m in the best position out of anyone who doesn’t have a world title. I’ll take the first available date with Inoue, but I think a fight between me and Lara is good for boxing. ” 154-pound contender Julian Williams
Being ranked No. 1 for Jermell’s crown, No. 2 for the WBO owned by Jamie Munguia, and also potentially in line to face Hurd or Charlo should you defeat Inoue or Lara—is there any preference to which comes first?
I like the position of being able to face any one of those guys, because you never know what will happen. People can decide to move up or someone can get hurt.
I think I’m in the best position out of anyone who doesn’t have a world title. I’ll take the first available date with Inoue, but I think a fight between me and Lara is good for boxing.
I expect to go out there and to take care of business against Inoue in November so that I can consider the landscape and take a serious look at which one of these guys’ titles I’m going to be taking.
What are your thoughts on the rise of Jarrett Hurd, and his belief that he will knock you out and do the same to Jermell Charlo in a fight?
All of these guys are competition. I look at all of them like food. But if you don’t like what Jarrett has done in his past three fights, then you’re a hater. So I think what Jarrett Hurd’s doing is great.
I mean, he’s on a really good run right now. Time will tell what happens when he gets into the ring with me or Jermell, but nevertheless, I’m impressed.
What did you think of Jermell’s last performance against Trout, who was stopped by Hurd and beaten by his brother, Jermall?
I don’t know if Jermell was off or not, but I thought he won the fight a little more cleaner than the judges had it. You never know what the judges see. Some judges like a guy who is coming forward, others favor boxers.
I mean, Jermell scored two knockdowns and one of the judges still scored it a draw. That means that without the knockdowns, he might have lost, 7-5, on that judges’ scorecard. One judge had my fight with Gallimore a draw when I thought I won it, 8-4.
What is your assessment of Munguia’s third-round stoppage of Brandon Cook on September 15?
Jamie Munguia is as green as grass, so I don’t think that I’ll ever get that fight. The only way I’d get Munguia is if I became the mandatory. In addition, how does Brandon Cook get on pay-per-view as a co-main event? That’s strange.
Now I’m not saying that Jamie Munguia is a bum or anything. Jamie Munguia is a big, strong kid. Nevertheless, he’s just very green when it comes to his experience. (The fact that the broadcasters) never mentioned (Williams, Hurd or Charlo) means they know that he’s not ready to fight any of us top 10 guys.
What do you know about Takeshi Inoue?
I know he’s a little bit shorter, a fast guy and a mover. He only has 13 fights, so there’s not that much tape on him. I don’t think he’s similar to many of the guys I’ve faced.
There’s always pressure to win. I’ve been just focusing on self-improvement and I’m just preparing for anything.
How does a fight break down between you and Lara?
Lara’s a terrific boxer with a lot of guts, and I think he’s definitely one of the best junior middleweights in the world.
So I think that a fight between me and Lara is a great matchup. To defeat a man like Lara would be just another tremendous step-builder for my career.
For a closer look at Julian Williams, check out his fighter page.