The perfect record. The nine stoppage victories in his past dozen fights. The more than two years that have passed since he last lost a round. Yeah, you pretty much need to look through a microscope—with binoculars—to find so much as a scratch in Julian Williams’ armor.
But the 154-pound contender is quick to admit he’s hardly perfect. In fact, there’s one flaw Williams readily cops to: “I’m not really the most patient guy in the world.”
Williams speaks not so much about in-ring patience, when a boxer sometimes has to bide his time and wait to capitalize on an opponent’s mistake. Nah, Williams possesses that kind of patience in spades.
Rather, the hammer-fisted Philadelphia native has had a difficult time dealing with the waiting game that’s inherent to his chosen profession. See, Williams wants to fight for a world title, and if he had his way, he’d have done so yesterday.
Problem is, it takes two to tango, and it appears the top 154-pound fighters aren’t all that eager to give a guy with Williams’ credentials—to say nothing of his highlight reel—the opportunity he desires. Hence, the impatience.
“He’s young, and young guys are full of vigor,” says Stephen "Breadman” Edwards, Williams’ longtime trainer. “He’s 25; I’m 39. So I’ve had to learn patience also—in life and in boxing.
“And I told him, ‘You’re still in the prime of your career. There are guys who have had to wait longer than you to get to the pinnacle of the sport.’ So even though it’s not a perfect situation, we’re definitely not in a bad spot.”
Says Williams: “[Patience] comes with maturity, it comes with age and it comes with experience. It’s something you have to practice, and I’m practicing it.”
The good news for Williams is that practice is close to paying dividends. Tired of waiting for a championship opportunity to come to him, Williams decided to press the matter and worked his way into a title-eliminator situation.
So on March 5, Julian Williams (21-0-1, 13 KOs) will square off against Italy’s Marcello Matano (16-1, 5 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round fight at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
The stakes are as significant as they are easy to comprehend: The winner is guaranteed a shot at the title, most likely against current 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo.
“ [Patience] comes with maturity, it comes with age and it comes with experience. It’s something you have to practice, and I’m practicing it. ” Julian Williams
For Williams, the bout against Matano will end a ring absence of more than five months. And when you consider he barely broke a sweat in his last fight, that stretch of inactivity—one of the longest of Williams’ 5½-year pro career—looks even more stark.
With many of his fans having made the short trek from Philly to Bethlehem on September 22, Williams obliterated Luciano Cuello in 93 seconds. The victory wasn’t surprising, but the manner in which it happened was: Cuello was 35-3, had been stopped just once previously and had lost a disputed 10-round decision to top contender Willie Nelson just 2½ years earlier.
The way Williams swiftly and devastatingly dismantled the 31-year-old Argentinian got the full attention of his 154-pound rivals, inasmuch as Williams suddenly had trouble finding a willing next opponent.
“The last thing people remember about Cuello was him damn near beating Willie Nelson, then I get in there with with him and take him out in 93 seconds,” Williams says. “It was kind of like, ‘Wow!’
“I don’t think anybody had me losing that fight, but I saw a lot of people say he was going to take me the distance and push me a little bit, maybe steal a few rounds. Then I got in there and knocked him out so early, and [potential opponents] said, ‘You know what? I don’t think I want that fight right now.’”
After a fight with former 154-pound champ Austin Trout fell through, Williams and Edwards went the title-eliminator route. Once Williams secured his spot, Edwards says Frenchman Michel Soro, the boxer who stood atop the rankings list, was given the first crack at fighting Williams.
Soro declined. So did the next six guys on the list.
It wasn’t until they got to No. 8 that someone finally said yes, and that someone was Matano. The fact the little-known Italian readily stepped forward when so many others stepped back got the attention of Williams’ coach.
“It didn’t take a lot to convince [Matano] to fight Julian,” Edwards says. “As they say, volunteers make the best soldiers, so you gotta understand that we’ve got a fight on our hands come March 5.
“Julian is going to have to mentally and physically discourage this kid, because he’s confident, he wants to win, he wants to be a world champion, and you can’t measure someone’s ambition. You can’t measure what somebody’s willing to put themselves through to win the fight.”
Williams goes so far as to call Matano “definitely dangerous,” and says he’s been preparing accordingly. He understands that all it takes is one careless misstep to eliminate all the hard work he’s put in to get to the point where a world title is within reach of his fierce fists.
“If I don’t beat this guy,” he says, “then all those title dreams will go down the drain. So I’ve got to take care of business on March 5.”
Assuming that happens, Williams will finally secure the championship opportunity nobody has willingly wanted to give him.
“You can’t force guys to get in the ring with you. I wish you could, but you can’t,” Williams says. “But everything is taking shape just how it’s supposed to. Like I said, I just have to have patience.”
For complete coverage of Williams vs Matano, head over to our fight page.