Two of boxing’s most determined warriors meet in a battle of wills when undefeated, unified super welterweight champion “Swift” Jarrett Hurd faces Julian “J-Rock” Williams Saturday night on FOX.
For every boxer’s homecoming appearance, there exists an opponent fully intent on ruining the celebration.
The undefeated Hurd, 28, will defend his WBA and IBF Super Welterweight titles against Philadelphia’s Williams at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va.
The bout headlines the latest edition of PBC on FOX (8:00p.m. ET/5:00p.m. PT), a platform on which Hurd won his first world title. What’s been missing has been the opportunity to defend in his home region.
“There’s so much going on here in the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia), so to know I get to defend my world titles here is a blessing,” said Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs), whose hometown of Accokeek, Maryland is situated in the greater D.C. area. “Boxing in this area hasn’t been this big in a long time. It’s such a good feeling to bring my titles home.”
For the defending champ, it’s the first time fighting at home since his 13th pro fight, when he was still a rising prospect but hardly on anyone’s radar. Beginning with a breakout, fifth-round knockout of Frank Galarza in a Nov. 2015, Hurd quickly emerged as one to watch.
Still, lacking any significant amateur credentials or major profile upon turning pro discounted any chance of being groomed for stardom. Hurd had to fight his way to the top. It’s a career path that can be appreciated by his upcoming title challenger.
Williams (26-1-1, 16 KOs) has long served as the boogeyman of the 154-pound division. The fighting pride of West Philadelphia has been forced to settle for opportunities he fought for, having endured longer-than-desired inactive periods as most of his peers looked the other way the moment he breathed their names.
Even his first crack at a world title didn’t come without first testing his patience. Williams became the mandatory challenger to then-unbeaten IBF titlist Jermall Charlo in March 2016 yet faced several delays before the title shot finally materialized later that year, months after his promised due date.
The event resulted in the lone loss of his career, via fifth-round KO in an otherwise competitive affair. Four wins have followed, including a 12-round nod over Nathaniel Gallimore in their title eliminator last April, on the same Las Vegas show which saw Hurd become a unified champ in a thrilling split decision win over Erislandy Lara.
“ It’s such a good feeling to bring my titles home. ” Undefeated, Unified Super Welterweight Champion - Jarrett Hurd
One year later, Williams has got another title shot; the 29-year-old’s patience rewarded with a trip to his opponent’s backyard.
“I’m not worried about going to D.C.,” insisted Williams, who scored a second-round knockout of Francisco Castro last December to extend his current four-fight win streak. “That’s what I have a team for, I let them worry about that. It’s a fight; everything will take care of itself.”
A neutral location was initially discussed, but the fight ultimately landed on Hurd’s turf. None of it changes the hard work put in by the visiting challenger ahead of his second chance at a lasting impression.
This is the first time Williams has fought in the DMV area during his nine-year pro career.
“I think it's a good opportunity; I never really thought too much about how difficult it would be to fight him in his hometown,” the well-traveled Williams revealed. “I just need an arena and some gloves.
“Just ring the bell. I didn't really think too deep into having to fight him in his hometown.”
Hurd last fought in December, stopping England’s Jason Wellborn in three rounds. Despite being afforded the opportunity to fight where he trains, the defending champion isn’t putting too much stock in having homefield advantage.
“We’re preparing for this fight as usual, 12-round prepared,” Hurd promised. “It’s easy to get caught up in fighting locally. Being around people you know can come with a lot of distractions, everyone wanting to be involved.
“So, we’re focused on (Williams), not on the event. We trained for Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, who’s coming (to D.C.), looking to take my titles and my unbeaten record.”
Of course, once fight week hit Hurd couldn’t help but proudly represent the DMV. The charismatic champ has embraced his home region, sporting a “SWIFT” headband in the colors of the NFL’s Washington Redskins for which he serves as a proud ambassador.
Thursday’s visit to the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital was more than just a photo-op. For the DMV’s own, it was an opportunity to teach others that they too can climb to the heights he’s reached.
“I was always told that I couldn’t do something, that I couldn’t become a world champion and be in the position that I am in today,” Hurd revealed to a crowd of young fans from the area on Thursday. “I never listened to them. Stick to whatever it is you want to be. Don’t ever listen to someone telling you ‘No.’”
Fittingly, his opponent lives by those very words, location be damned.
“I knew 100% that I would get another shot,” Williams stated. “I just knew I had to get back in there and just keep fighting. You just get back up on the horse. You just can't stay down too long.
“So, I just got back in there and got (four) wins. I knew this time would come, even if I have to go to (Hurd’s) hometown to make my dream come true of becoming a world champion.”
For a closer look at Hurd vs Williams, check out our fight night page.