Former 154-pound champion Ishe Smith looking to prove he has a final title run left in him, while young contender Julian "J-Rock" Williams aiming to prove first loss of his career was a fluke as he continues his own pursuit of a world title this Saturday night on Bounce TV.
If Julian “J-Rock” Williams and Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith are at must-win status as the critics would suggest, such word apparently hasn’t made its way to either boxer’s camp.
That said someone will have to win (barring a draw) in their super welterweight crossroads battle this Saturday at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event between a veteran contender on the mend and a former world champion of the belief that a second title reign is very much in his future airs live on Bounce TV (9:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 p.m. PT) and streams live on the Brown Sugar App.
Does that sound like desperation time to you? We didn’t think so.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction to any unbeaten boxer suffering his first loss—especially by knockout—is for the defeated athlete to go back to the drawing board and rebuild. If the court of public opinion marked the final say, you’d think boxers are incapable of dusting themselves off and continuing to charge forward in the face of adversity or even a major setback.
Just don’t tell that to Philadelphia’s Williams (23-1-1, 15KOs), who seeks his second consecutive win following the lone loss of his career. The 27-year old contender suffered his first defeat last December, getting stopped by KO in the fifth round by then-154-pound champion Jermall Charlo.
It was a night of firsts for Williams, though mostly for all the wrong reasons. His maiden trek as a title contender also saw the first defeat of his career preceded by his tasting the canvas three times after having previously never been down as a pro.
The end of the evening wasn’t at all how he envisioned things playing out, but that’s not to say it set him all the way back—or even at all. While he understands the importance of winning and looking good against Smith in his Las Vegas hometown, what a victory will define in his career might not match what it would mean to those watching with curious eyes his every next move.
“Beating Ishe would be a solid win,” said Williams, who returned to the win column with a 10-round decision over a disengaging Joshua Conley this past June, also on Bounce TV. “I never lost confidence in myself so I can't say what it will represent to everyone else. But I'm really looking forward to the fight.”
“ Beating Ishe would be a solid win. I never lost confidence in myself so I can't say what it will represent to everyone else. But I'm really looking forward to the fight. ” 154-pound contender Julian “J-Rock’’ Williams
So, too, is his opponent whose search for redemption actually comes on the heels of a win.
The 39-year-old Smith (29-8, 12 KOs) made hometown history when a road win over Cornelius Bundrage in 2013 made him the first-ever Las Vegas-born boxer to win a world title. The title reign was short-lived. He lost the belt in his hometown in his first defense, a 12-round loss to Carlos Molina in Sept. ’13.
A 17-year ring veteran, Smith’s career has since been filled with ups and downs, as he is 4-2 in his last starts. While losses to Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan were bitter pills to swallow, it was his 10-round win over Frank Galarza that left a bad taste in his mouth.
Smith edged Galarza by majority decision, although the bout came with the taint of his missing weight and ultimately fighting a less-than-perfect training camp. Despite having won two straight, he entered this camp not only cognizant of the stiff challenge which lies ahead, but the work necessary to leave nothing to chance by the opening bell.
"This camp is definitely different than my last one, in the sense that I feel more prepared," said Smith. "I have been conditioning my body to go the distance like I have with all fights. With my experience, coupled with my trainer Rafael Ramos, who has been great in preparing me for any and all curveballs my opponent may try and hand me, I'm ready.”
Further preparing him for Saturday’s clash is his own ring life experience.
"Julian Williams is tough, one of the toughest in the division," said Smith. "I don't overlook his talent and what he brings to the sport. I've been in boxing going on 17 years, so I've seen a lot. Williams hasn't been tested in all the ways I have. Unlike my opponent, I've been in the ring with all levels of fighters: world champions, rising prospects and former world champions. I've seen it all."
Williams might not have yet seen it all, but had to fight through more than just a prior loss in his last outing. The still-very relevant contender wanted to make a statement in the ring this past June but was presented with a disinterested challenger in Conley, which made for a slow-moving match and an outcome akin to ‘win today, look good the next time.’
“I felt good it was a win. I was a little agitated because he wouldn't fight back but that's his problem,” said Williams. “Obviously I'm still growing as a fighter. So you can always improve every time you get in the ring. I made some minor adjustments as far as my preparations and you guys will see them Nov. 18th.”
For a complete look at Smith vs Williams, visit our fight page.