There were many boxing observers who believed Jermall Charlo wanted no part of top-ranked contender Julian Williams. Charlo scoffed at such a suggestion, eventually agreed to the fight, then went out and showed why few in the 154-pound division should want any part of him.
In one of boxing’s most highly anticipated fights—one that many saw as a 50-50 tossup—Jermall Charlo (25-0, 19 KOs) proved that his power was too much for Julian Williams (22-1-1, 14 KOs), scoring three knockdowns en route to a fifth-round knockout Saturday at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles.
It was the third successful title defense for Charlo, and his 17th stoppage victory in his last 19 fights. But the Houston resident’s latest triumph didn’t come without a little post-fight drama.
Irritated by what he perceived as a lack of respect from virtually everyone outside his inner circle—including fans, pundits, the Williams camp and Williams himself—Charlo appeared to be as angry as he was elated immediately after the victory.
He even rebuffed his opponent’s post-fight, in-ring congratulations, which led many among the crowd of 5,680 to shower the champion with a chorus of boos.
Later, Charlo apologized for his unsportsmanlike behavior, and he and Williams eventually shared a brief embrace at a news conference.
“Leading up to the fight, Julian Williams talked, and I held it in,” said Charlo, who was fighting for the first time since his unanimous decision victory over former 154-pound champion Austin Trout on May 21. “He disrespected me all the way up to the fight.
“I did what I had to do to become champion of the world, and I deserve my respect. … No matter what, people have to respect my accomplishments.”
Given the verbal pre-fight barbs that they lobbed at one another, it wasn’t a surprise that Charlo and Williams greeted each other coldly when they stepped in the ring Saturday. In fact, they even shunned the pre-fight ritual of touching gloves following the referee’s final instructions.
Once the opening bell rang, though, it was clear that both fighters respected the other’s abilities. They were cautiously aggressive in a competitive first round, with each slugger attempting to set up power shots behind his jab.
Then early in Round 2, Charlo scored the first big blow of the night, depositing Williams on his backside courtesy of a stiff jab to the face. It was the first time “J Rock”—who entered Saturday having won 53 consecutive rounds—had hit the canvas in his pro career.
To his credit, the Philadelphia native quickly bounced to his feet, closed out the round strong, then got back in the fight by edging Charlo on the scorecards in Rounds 3 and 4, thanks mostly to several stinging counter right hands.
The hard-hitting, two-way action continued until just past the midpoint of Round 5, when Williams overreached on a straight right hand. Charlo blocked the shot with his right glove, then in one motion reared back with the same hand and connected with a monster right uppercut.
The pinpoint shot underneath the chin sent Williams crumbling face-first to the canvas. Although he looked down and out, Williams scrambled to his feet and barely beat referee Wayne Hedgpeth’s count.
It only delayed the inevitable.
When the fight resumed, Charlo went for blood, unleashing an unanswered, 12-punch assault, the last being a short left hook that dropped Williams for a third time. That was enough for Hedgpeth, who immediately waved an end to the contest at the 2:06 mark.
“I knew he would be a good, strong fighter,” Charlo said of Williams. “What more can you say about a fighter who is undefeated? He talked the talk, but you didn’t know if he could walk the walk. You never know. So I knew I had to be on my A-game. And he kept me on my A-game.
“But I told everyone what I was going to do since the fight was announced. He just wasn’t on my level.”
Regarding the first knockdown in what turned out to be the deciding round, Williams claims when he shot his right hand, he didn’t see Charlo loading up with the uppercut—even though his trainer, Stephen Edwards, warned him the punch was coming.
“I saw [before the fight] that Jermall was working on that shot on the pads, and I was telling Julian, ‘Listen, he’s going to try to shoot an uppercut. You’ve got to keep your weight on your back foot,’” Edwards said. “And [Williams] overshot a right hand, and Jermall hit him on the money. That happens in boxing.”
Edwards added that even though Williams battled back strong and won Rounds 3 and 4, his fighter never fully recovered from the second-round knockdown.
“Jermall is a really, really strong kid, and he hit Julian on the point of the chin in the second round, it took his legs from him, and I don’t think he ever got his legs back,” Edwards said. “So while Julian was winning rounds, the sand was running out of the hourglass.”
Although disappointed that his first world title shot didn’t end as he had hoped, Williams was nonetheless gracious in defeat.
“I don’t have any excuses. I don’t believe in excuses,” he said. “It was a close, tight fight, but he caught me with a shot, and I’ve got to live with it.
“I want to congratulate Jermall. He did his homework and fought a helluva fight.”
Williams said his desire is to get back in the ring as soon as possible and start working his way toward another title opportunity. “I still believe I’m going to be a world champion,” he said. “I’m just not going to be a world champion today.”
As for Charlo, he indicated that this may have been his final fight at 154 pounds, acknowledging that his body has outgrown the division. He hinted at a move up to 160 pounds, but left open the possibility of competing in both divisions.
Among possible future opponents, Charlo didn’t hesitate to throw out two big names: current 160-pound titleholder Gennady Golovkin, who is widely regarded as boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter, and 154-pound world champ Canelo Alvarez.
“I do have my eyes on the 160-pound division,” Charlo said. “But if we get the right guys, then I’ll stay at 154 and maybe fight in both divisions.
“I’m out here to fight the best in the world. Like I’ve said before, I haven’t dodged anyone, and everyone they put in front of me, I go out and do my job. But I’m not a matchmaker.”
For complete coverage of Charlo vs Williams, hit up our fight page.
Lipinets, Lubin remain unbeaten with big knockout wins
In other undercard action at the Galen Center, Sergey Lipinets (11-0, 9 KOs) gained an eighth-round knockout of Leonardo Zappavigna (35-3, 25 KOs) in their 140-pound world title elimination bout.
Unbeaten 154-pound prospect Erickson Lubin (17-0, 12 KOs) scored two knockdowns and earned a second-round TKO of Juan Ubaldo Cabrera (23-2, 15 KOs).
Undefeated prospect Mario Barrios (17-0, 9 KOs) floored Claudio Rosendo Tapia (28-18-4, 13 KOs) three times and won by second-round KO in a 137-pound bout.
Hugo Centeno Jr. (25-1, 13 KOs) earned a stoppage of Ronald Montes (17-5, 15 KOs), who refused to come out for the fourth round of the 163-pound bout.
And Josesito Lopez (34-7, 19 KOs) returned to action for the first time in 21 months and earned a convincing six-round unanimous decision over Todd Manuel (12-12-1, 1 KO) in a 150-pound fight.