Always a straight shooter, Julian Williams will be the first to tell you that his first world title shot is coming against the most talented and dangerous opponent he’s ever faced. And that’s just how “J Rock” wants it.
“Certain fighters require the great ones to raise their level of performance in the ring—that’s how great fighters are born,” Williams says. “We got an appreciation for how good Roberto Duran was when he beat Sugar Ray Leonard, and I’m expecting to win a shootout [and become] a new champion when I beat Jermall Charlo.”
In one of the more highly anticipated title fights in recent boxing history, Julian Williams (22-0-1, 14 KOs) and 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo (24-0, 18 KOs) will square off December 10 at the Galen Center on the campus of USC in Los Angeles (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
For Williams, the clash of undefeated knockout artists will simultaneously represent the culimation of a lifelong dream and the possible launching point for his legacy.
And while he appreciates that he’ll be going toe-to-toe with a formidable foe in Charlo, Williams won’t lack for confidence come fight night. That’s because the 26-year-old Philadelphia native is in the midst of a run of dominance rarely seen in the sport.
Since battling Francisco Santana to a six-round draw in May 2011, Williams has whipped 16 consecutive opponents, including 10 by knockout. What’s more, over his last nine fights, Williams has won 57 consecutive rounds.
It’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment—well, to everyone except maybe Charlo’s trainer.
“Julian’s a good fighter, and I’m not trying to take nothing away from him,” says veteran cornerman Ronnie Shields, who coaches Charlo and fellow 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara out of the Houston-area Plex Boxing Gym.
“Everything Julian’s been doing has been good enough for him to beat everybody he’s fought. I don’t want to disrespect him in any way. But I don’t know if he’s really been tested.”
“ Canelo [Alvarez] has basically said he’s no longer fighting [at 154], so I think the winner of this fight will be the king of the division. ” Julian Williams
Shields’ opinion is debatable, but this much is not: Williams has been imposing his will on his opponents for more than four years, and his talents haven’t gone unrecognized. In fact, no less an authority than Naazim Richardson—the legendary Philadelphia trainer and longtime cornerman for Bernard Hopkins—has called Williams “one of the top prospects in the sport.”
As for his level of competition, well, a quick tabulation of Williams’ last seven foes reveals they entered the ring with a combined record of 142-17-5. Among the victims were Eliezer Gonzalez (14-0, eight-round shutout loss); Joey Hernandez (24-2-1, 10-round whitewash); and Luciano Cuello, a steel-chinned veteran who lasted all of 93 seconds against “J Rock.”
To put that latter result into perspective, Cuello’s prior setbacks were against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Willie Nelson and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, three experienced fighters who were a combined 90-1-1 when they faced Cuello. And Cuello took Chavez and Nelson the 10-round distance and lasted until the sixth round against Alvarez.
Still, Williams and his trainer, Stephen Edwards, know the powerful Charlo—who has stopped 16 of his last 18 opponents—presents a uniquely different challenge than any of his previous opponents.
That’s why Edwards during training camp has rotated Williams against a blend of veteran and youthful sparring partners, including former 147-pound champions Kermit Cintron and Mike Jones.
Williams also has been working with Philadelphia prospects Kieran Hooks (1-0, 1 KO) and Elijah Vines (3-0, 3 KOs), as well as Shakeem Hodge (3-0, 3 KOs) of Reading, Pennsylvania, and Ian Green (10-1, 8 KOs) of Paterson, N.J.
“The different looks keep me on my toes and my intensity up, so I don’t simply start dominating [my sparring partners],” Williams says.
Except for the birth of his 1-year-old daughter, Zara, Williams calls his first title fight “the biggest moment of my life to this point.” It’s a moment that becomes even bigger if you believe Williams’ assertion that the Charlo-Williams winner will vault to the top of what is a loaded 154-pound division.
“Canelo has basically said he’s no longer fighting [at 154], so I think the winner of this fight will be the king of the division,” Williams says. “A lot of hard-core fans are excited about us fighting, and I’m confident of what I can do to become the junior middleweight champion of the world.”
For complete coverage of Charlo vs Williams, head over to our fight page.