The former world title contender is brimming with confidence heading into Saturday night’s 154-pound showdown versus undefeated, unified super welterweight champion Jarrett Hurd on PBC on FOX.
He had called his adversary a “turkey,” compared him to a little girl, and questioned his willingness to take on tough fights, among other insults meant to injure a prizefighter’s pride.
It was 2016, and Julian Williams was pursuing a fight against then 154-pound world champion Jermall Charlo. Williams believed that Charlo, who had been hinting at weight troubles, was trying to duck him. So, Williams decided to ramp up the goading.
“Either step up and fight me, Jermall,” Julian Williams barked at one point. “Step up and fight me. Getting all that free money. Stop being a girl and step up and fight me. Turkey.”
Charlo obliged, thus setting up one of the most anticipated fights of that year, a coin-toss affair between two young undefeated fighters in their prime.
It would not go Williams’ way, however.
In the fifth round, Charlo dropped the Philadelphia contender with a quick-trigger uppercut from which he would never recover. A few moments later, the referee waived off the fight, and Charlo let out a cathartic howl.
“I told you so,” he mouthed.
Williams, meanwhile, lay stricken on the canvas as doctors and officials swarmed him. The image was clear enough: Williams had gotten his comeuppance. Shock and schadenfreude alike flooded the Twitterverse. Charlo had instantly transformed himself into the sport’s newest heel. Williams became something of an afterthought.
But Williams did not cower into a corner like a wounded animal licking his paws or go through a period of soul-searching, offering up mea culpas.
“I just dusted myself off,” Williams quipped. “It was just another fight to me.”
As for the belligerent words he spewed on Charlo, Williams has no regrets, though he blames a certain faction of the internet for blowing things out of proportion.
“I didn’t badmouth him,” he insisted. “Social media is going to be social media. It’s undefeated for a reason. People are going to say a lot of things. That’s why I don’t listen to them. What was I supposed to say? I was confident and I wanted that fight.
“Like I said, I just dusted myself off. Regrouped, onto the next.”
Regrouped indeed. Now, more than two years and four consecutive victories later, the 29-year-old Williams, 26-1-1 (16 KOs), has clawed his way back to a title shot, this time against the daunting and accomplished Jarrett Hurd. They square of this Saturday, May 11, at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, live on FOX (8:00p.m. ET/5:00p.m. PT).
In an era when a highly-regarded fighter’s first loss is treated like a death sentence, Williams, to his credit, did not view it as anything more than a hitch in his learning curve. Such a pragmatic mentality is something that Williams’ trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards has long stressed. A fighter just gets caught with a punch, Edwards said, and there is no need to overanalyze it.
“Your first loss is always something you gotta get used to,” Edwards explained. “I wasn’t disappointed in his performance. I thought he was doing well in the fight. I was disappointed in the outcome. There’s been fights where I wasn't happy with his performance and he won them. I thought he looked sharp that fight, but he just got hit with a good shot.”
“ ...He’s bigger than everybody else in the ring...But I’m about skills. ” Super Welterweight Contender - Julian Williams
Chief among the questions that Williams can answer against Hurd, 23-0 (16 KOs), is if his chin will hold up. After all, early in the Charlo bout, Williams had touched the canvas via a jab. That Williams is perhaps chinny, as some have posited, is an assessment that Edwards strongly disagrees with.
“There’s some good guys who have great chins and they’ve been clipped before,” he said. “I’ve seen guys that quit in the fight and the media say they got great heart. If it was another fighter the media would’ve said he had heart if he got up.
“I never brag about a fighter having a chin. Evander Holyfield comes to mind. He gets knocked out and everybody says he has as a great chin.”
If Williams has backed away from hurling insults, he remains as confident as ever. In Hurd, he does not see anything particularly threatening.
“There’s nothing I like about Hurd’s game,” Williams bluntly stated. “I think I’m better at everything.”
But if had to concede one quality, Williams points to Hurd’s size.
“That’s all he has,” said Williams, who has been sparring light-heavyweights in preparation for Hurd. “Just that he’s bigger than everybody else in the ring. That’s cool. But I’m about skills. And we’re gonna find out on May 11.”
Edwards was a bit more charitable toward Hurd.
“He doesn’t have a lot of weakness,” Edwards admitted. “He’s a good all-around fighter. He seems to have a busy work rate. He has a solid chin. But I gotta see him with my guy. I gotta see how he reacts to Julian and his accuracy and his power. But (Hurd) doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.”
One of Hurd’s signature strengths is that he can overwhelm opposition late in the fight. Fighters may be able to fend Hurd off for a few rounds, but as Tony Harrison, Austin Trout, and Erislandy Lara discovered that does not work so well in the long haul.
Still, Hurd is hardly what you would call elusive.
“A lot of the guys (who fight Hurd) get banged up,” Edwards noted, “but Hurd gets banged up, too. Look at his face after the fights. It’s not like he doesn't get hit either.”
Edwards believes his charge has the proper conditioning and skillset to pose a significant problem to Hurd.
“Julian’s a really good boxing puncher,” Edwards said. “He’s good midrange and has a good outside game. His success doesn’t depend on doing one particular thing. He just has to be sharp and to stick with his fundamentals and he can’t make stupid mistakes. He can’t let Jarrett Hurd bring him out of his fundamentals.”
Nor can Williams allow any pre-existing storylines in the media affect the way he fights. To that end, both Williams and Edwards have not approached the Hurd fight as a make-it-or-break-it proposition.
“I think it’s just that — another fight,” said Edwards. “If you get into all that outside stuff and get people to put that pressure on you, you won’t perform at your optimum level. It’s just a fight. Obviously, we want to win.”
For a closer look at Julian Williams, check out his fighter page.