Story and photos by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Philadelphia’s Julian Williams has taken the slow and steady route in his boxing career.
Over the past four years, he has quietly built his record (14-0-1, 8 KOs, 1 NC) and developed into one of the Philly’s best prospects by fighting and beating an increasingly tougher parade of competitors.
After an excellent 2013, “J-Rock” is on the verge of a big breakthrough in the junior middleweight division.
Tonight, Williams fights in Boston against Mexican veteran Freddy Hernandez (30-6, 20 KOs) at the House of Blues. The ten-rounder is the main event of a “Golden Boy Live!” event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.
“He’s a tough vet,” Williams said of his opponent. “He’s a real tough vet. He’s been in there with the best of them.”
Hernandez has fought a steady stream of 147 and 154 pound contenders.
Because of that tough schedule, Hernandez has lost five of his last six bouts, but did beat Luis Collazo – the current WBA International welterweight titleholder – during the same stretch. He has also scored wins over world title challengers DeMarcus Corley, Ben Tackie, Mike Anchondo, and Jesus Soto Karass.
So despite his recent hard times, he should be capable of giving Williams a solid test.
“(Only) Andre Berto blew him out in one round,” Williams said of Hernandez. “He just got caught, and that can happen to anybody. He’s a very tough guy. I’m looking forward to a good fight.”
Another good win for Williams will keep his momentum moving forward in what figures to be a critical year for the young fighter.
He really began to make his move last year, fighting five times, posting four wins, three by knockout, and had one very frustrating No Contest that he appeared poised to win. The five vets he faced in 2013 had a combined record of 105-18-7, and his progress in such deep water confirmed his potential as a pro.
For those who watched Williams grow up in the Philly amateur boxing circuit, it is no surprise that the 23-year old is on the brink of big things. Even back then, in his early days at the Mitchell Allen Boxing Gym and later at his current home, the Shuler Boxing Gym, Williams always appeared to have the ability to go far. But lately local boxing fans haven’t seen very much of him.
Williams has only fought twice in Philadelphia, at his pro debut and fight number nine. All of his other bouts have been out of town, as close as Atlantic City and as far as California.
“I was just telling ‘Dynamite’ (fellow Philadelphian fighter Karl Dargan) that I want to fight in Philly so bad,” Williams said. “(But) right now, I don’t have the luxury to sit back and pick and choose to be a main event in Philly. I don’t have that luxury. So I have to do what I have to do.”
What Williams has to do tonight is seize the opportunity to show his skills on his first nationally televised main event.
“It’s a good thing,” Williams said about fighting on Fox Sports 1. “I don’t see too many fighters that are 14-0 whose main event occurs on TV. So big ups to my management team.”
Team Williams consists of his trainer/manager, Stephen “Bread Man” Edwards and high-powered advisor Al Haymon, who consistently navigates his boxers into major fights, big paydays, and more oft than not, world titles.
“You have to get with the right people,” Williams said. “If you get with the right people, it’s going to be smooth sailing. A lot of things stagnate a fighter’s career – injuries, bad promotion, bad management. Unfortunately I had to go through that the first two years of my professional career. But I never got down about it. I never stopped working. I just kept pressing forward. The professional game can be tough, but you have to weather the storm.”
That storm has kept him almost exclusively out of town on fight night, and made his rise fairly obscure to local fans whose radar is fixed on other Philadelphia fighters.
“I don’t worry about attention,” Williams said. “I figure if you’re doing the right things, and you stay winning, stay undefeated, they have to take notice. I don’t really get into who’s getting more attention than me. But I definitely want to fight in Philly more.”
For now, Williams will focus on matters in Boston. The Hernandez fight will close the show before a predictably rowdy and green-beer-filled St. Patrick’s Day crowd in the city that perhaps knows best how to celebrate the holiday.
“I expect it to be fun,” Williams said about fighting before a hard-partying crowd. “There are going to be a lot of Irish fans there. So it’s going to be fun. I’m excited about it.”
Hernandez is experienced and tough, but Williams believes he will come out on top.
“There’s only one thing he can do,” Williams said of his opponent. “He’s not faster than me. He’s not a better boxer than me. So, he’s going to try to swarm me and throw a bunch of punches. So, we’re prepared. I feel good. I’m in great shape, and I’m ready to put on a good performance.”
Williams’ career is progressing pretty much as he expected it would. But like most young fighters, he is eager for more.
“I definitely expected to have more fights than I have,” Williams said. “But I had a dry year in 2012, when I fought, I think, one time. You know, things happen, but I think I’m in a good position. I’m in a better position than a lot of other guys that are 14, or 15-0.”
And his hard work is starting to pay off.
“I looked at the WBC rankings the other day and they had me ranked #20,” Williams said. “People are really taking notice. I just got to keep working.”
If Williams can stay on the course he started last year, his immediate future should be eventful, and that world ranking will begin to rise.
“Just pick up where I left off,” Williams said of his ambitions for 2014. “Keep winning, keep improving, and fight good competition. The stiffs that the other prospects are fighting aren’t going to do nobody justice. So I just want to keep raising the level of competition because it’s going to make me better.”
And if “J-Rock” continues to improve, he will certainly get where he wants to go.
“I think I’m going to get a major fight before the summertime,” Williams predicted. “And I’ll have a title shot before the end of the year.”
As much as he wants that title opportunity. Williams is more concerned with the steady and careful improvements that have become his trademark.
“As long as I’m 20-0 by the end of the year,” Williams said. “I think I can be 20-0 by the end of the year.”
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.PhillyBoxingHistory.com