Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
WBA/IBF junior middleweight champion Julian “J-Rock” Williams, 27-1-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC, defends his world titles Saturday night in a homecoming bout against Jeison Rosario, 19-1-1, 13 KOs, at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. The twelve-bout mega show, promoted by a conglomeration (King’s Promotions, Sampson Boxing, and TGB Promotions) for Premiere Boxing Champions will be broadcast live on Fox, with much of the undercard aired live on Fox Sports 1.
As the fight neared, Williams held an open media workout for the press, but as usual, was rather secretive about the true nature of his preparation for the very first defense of the title. The media was allowed to watch some basic mitt work and shadow boxing, but not so much as a glimpse of his sparring session was permitted.
It’s not unlike Williams to keep things close to the vest. As he prepped for his title-winning fight against Jarrett Hurd last May, there were no interviews let alone open media workouts. But his method is working for him.
Williams won the belts against Hurd with a perfect performance in the ring, and an equally perfect fight plan designed by his manager-trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards. Their preparation was on point, and ultimately reaped the rewards.
He was an underdog against Hurd, but Williams proved himself a force to be reckoned with at 154 pounds. However, that victory and the bright future it has promised Williams won’t change his attitude or his recipe for success. Becoming a champion hasn’t seemed to change him a bit.
“(Winning the title brought me) a little more notoriety, that’s all,” Williams said. “To be honest with you, I stopped thinking about it. I want to stay focused on the task at hand, and the task at hand is becoming the pound for pound best in the world.”
“I’m not just satisfied with being the best junior middleweight in the world. I’m just not satisfied with being the unified champion of the world. Why sell myself short when I’ve got the ability and the drive to be the best pound for pound best fighter in the world? I’d be selling myself short. I’d be leaving millions of dollars on the table.”
“Sometimes when guys make it – and I can say that now because I think I’ve made it – I think guys get a little bit complacent and lose their hunger.”
And Williams refuses to fall into that trap.
“Right now I’m kind of in the thick of things,” Williams said. “I’m focused on the fight. I’m not trying to worry about the good parts of this (being champion) because it could turn bad in a second if I’m not focused. Especially with a hometown fight, people start pulling you in different ways. It’s crazy. So I just try to block myself from the world.”
Becoming champion hasn’t even afforded him the luxury of admiring his brand new title belts very much.
“I don’t even look at the belts to be honest with you,” Williams said. “I just took them out the case and put them inside my entertainment system. But I don’t look at them because I don’t want to get caught up in the bright lights. Also, I haven’t gotten them engraved. My coach keeps telling me, “Go get your God Damned belts engraved”. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t cherish the belts. I do! I worked my whole life for them. But I’m focused on the task at hand, and the task at hand is more history, more money, and becoming a great fighter.”
One would think he might take more time to enjoy his ride at the top.
“It ain’t about enjoying. It’s about winning,” Williams said. “I don’t care about enjoying. You ain’t supposed to enjoy camp no way. It’s supposed to be a grind.”
“I pride myself on being down to earth,” Williams said. “Nobody is better than nobody. White, black, Puerto Rican, smart, degreed, no degree. Nobody better than nobody. I’m not the same person at 29 that I was at 23. I think in order to reach new levels you have to evolve and catapult into a different person because you’re growing. Everybody should be growing every day.”
His relationship with Breadman Edwards also remains a constant.
“Me and Breadman got a real good relationship,” Williams said. “It ain’t no love affair though. Me and Bread clash heads sometimes. But he’s normal and I’m normal, and we’re both men, and we’re strong men at that. I’ve got him around for a reason. I trust his opinion and judgment on a lot of things that aren’t even boxing-related. So I take his advice on a lot of stuff. And I hear from him when I need him the most, whether it’s boxing or not. He’s like my big brother.”
To remain champion, Williams must turn back the challenge of Jeison Rosario, a little-known Miami-based Dominican who has won five in a row.
“I ain’t going to kid everybody. I don’t think it’s a difficult fight,” Williams said of his opponent. “You know what he brings to the table? Ambition. I think he’s an ambitious kid. I just think it’s a matter of being focused and on top of my game, and I think I’ll take care of him. I don’t think he’s difficult though. He’s a decent fighter. We ain’t going to make him out to be Ray Robinson. He’s put together a good string of wins. And he’s tough and he’s coming to win. That’s more important than anything. He has the ambition to win. So, you can’t underestimate him.”
When Williams earned his belts, he became just the 32nd Philly fighter to claim a world championship. An elite club to be sure.
“It’s a special group,” Williams said. “I hate to say it, but a lot of Philadelphia fighters were good but they never got over the hump. That was the biggest relief of my entire life. Getting over that hump. Because, I see a lot of fighters from Philadelphia turn pro, go 18-0, 19-0, and not everybody can make it, so I’m not pointing fingers or talking crap about anybody, but some guys just get to a certain point and get stagnant and after you know, they lose one or two fights and they (become) just another folk tale. They could-a, should-a, would-a. I was so petrified of being that could-a, should-a, would-a fighter. 27-3, the record looks pretty but I never got my shot. That was my biggest fear, but I don’t have to worry about that no more. My gravestone will say, ‘Former Unified Champion of the World’.”
“I’m one of three (recently) that can say they were the unified champion. The other two are Danny Garcia and Bernard Hopkins. (Recently) there have only been two Ring titles in the city – Danny Garcia and Bernard Hopkins. I’m chasing that. That’s my next goal.”
Joining that elite group reheated the age-old question of why Philly fighters are so special.
“I just think it’s just the grind of Philadelphia in general,” Williams said. “It’s not just West Philly. The same thing is going on in West Philly is happening in North Philly, uptown, South Philly. It’s just a Philadelphia thing in general. Seeing the things I seen it made me hungry. It made me want to get out and make a better life for myself. All you have to do is walk outside along Lancaster Ave. If that ain’t motivation for you, then nothing will (be). So it wasn’t hard. Just go outside and look around. Look in the fridge. Look at your bank account. (Laughs) I’m easily motivated.”
After his homecoming fight, there are other good matches at 154 for Williams that he and fans can look forward to. He is interested in further unifying the title, but also offered one tease about his not-so-distant future.
“(Making weight) ain’t been easy since I was 18,” Williams said. “It’s just that I’m disciplined and I know how to do it. I know how to drink the water. I know how to cut the weight and eat at the proper times. But it’s not easy. I’m going to be going up soon. To answer your question, I’m going up soon.”
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.PhillyBoxingHistory.com.