Standout Philadelphia boxer says he has rebounded both mentally and physically from his stunning stoppage loss to Jermall Charlo last December and plans on putting his top contender pedigree on display when he faces former world champ Ishe Smith Nov. 18 in Las Vegas.
Julian Williams was among the most feared boxers in a deep 154-pound division last year. His trainer Stephen Edwards considered the unbeaten Philadelphia slugger to be “high-risk, low-reward” for opponents.
That acclaim took a hellacious hit with a fifth-round stoppage loss to Jermall Charlo last December. Charlo, who was then a 154-pound champion, floored Williams with a stiff jab in the second round. Then dropped him again with a right uppercut in the fifth. Charlo finished Williams off with 12 unanswered blows that concluded with a left hook at 2:06 of the round.
It was a stunning loss for Williams, who had never hit the canvas before the Charlo match. He had scored three straight knockouts, won 53 consecutive rounds and 16 fights in a row (10 by stoppage) since a six-round draw against Francisco Santana in May 2011.
“I was controlling the fight and got impatient. He caught me with a good shot,” said Williams. “In boxing, when you fall down, you get back up and keep fighting.”
Williams has rebounded from the loss to Charlo, who has since abandoned the division to move up to 160 pounds. Williams scored a seventh-round TKO victory over hard-punching Joshua Conley in June. After that he went straight back to the gym—spending three weeks in Big Bear, California, as chief sparring partner for 160-pound world champion Gennady Golovkin before his September match with Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez.
The 27-year-old Williams took a philosophical approach to the first loss of his career.
“No need for panic mode,” said Williams. “Hiccups happen. It’s behind me. Life goes on, and so does my career.”
The road back doesn’t get any easier as “J-Rock” Williams (23-1-1, 15 KOs) leaves his native Philadelphia for his next fight. He will take on 39-year-old steel-chinned, slick boxing former world champion Ishe Smith (29-8, 12 KOs) in his hometown at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Bounce TV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) on Nov. 18.
“ No need for panic mode. Hiccups happen. It’s behind me. Life goes on, and so does my career. ” 154-pound contender Julian “J-Rock’’ Williams
Smith became the first Las Vegas-born champion following a unanimous decision against Cornelius Bundrage in Bundrage’s hometown of Detroit on Feb. 23, 2013. Smith lost his first defense that December by split-decision to Carlos Molina in Las Vegas, where he is 15-2 with five knockouts. Molina and Vanes Martirosyan are the only two fighters to defeat Smith in Las Vegas.
“Ishe’s a solid, all-around veteran, so there’s pressure when your margin of error’s so small,” said Williams. “But I’m expecting another win by shutout. My mission is complete domination of Ishe in his back yard on his promoter’s card (Mayweather Promotions), but I’ll let my fists do the talking.”
Hailing from Philadelphia, which spawned resilient champions Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Steve Cunningham and Danny Garcia, the versatile Williams drew praise from legendary Philadelphia trainer—and Hopkins’ longtime corner man—Naazim Richardson as well as Philly middleweight icon, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, father of 168-pound title challenger Jesse Hart.
In his comeback fight Williams ended a three-fight knockout streak by Conley (14-2, 9 KOs), who was stopped for the first time in his career. He was fighting on the same card as Denis Shafikov, who was taking on Robert Easter for the lightweight world title. Shafikov lost, but Williams made a new fan. His performance impressed Shafikov’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, who recruited Williams to spar with Golovkin in preparation for his match against Alvarez.
“We used Julian more than anybody else,” Sanchez said. “Julian’s a talented and skillful fighter, overall, and his speed, smarts and rhythm gave us a look we needed.”
Williams found the Golovkin experience “priceless and educational.”
“I learned a lot. Gennady can definitely punch, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle," said Williams. “I did a lot of things that surprised him. It was great for both of us inside and outside of the ring. I’ll show my improvements when I beat Ishe before moving on to bigger and better things.”
Williams versus Smith follows this month’s 154-pound championship tripleheader featuring successful defenses by Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs), Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs).
Williams is anxious to get back into the world title picture.
“We’d take any of those fights, but we have to beat Smith. If not a title shot, we’ll look over the division’s landscape for a tough fight in February or March with one of the better guys,” said Edwards, who is training Williams at the SNAC facility San Carlos, California.
“Hurd would be a brutal matchup with his impressive chin and ability to wear down and beat guys into submission. Julian has a great chance to beat Lara, being quicker and more offensive than Gausha. Julian definitely wants revenge on both Charlo brothers. We’ll fight any of them.”
For a complete look at Smith vs Williams, visit our fight page.