By Jake Donovan
For years while on the way up, Julian “J-Rock” Williams carried something of a boogeyman aura into his fights. The super welterweight contender from Philadelphia still finds it difficult to find willing in-ring participants, gladly accepting any fight that comes his way.
It led to a slow-moving process from prospect to contender, and even more so while finally waiting on what would become an overdue title shot. His Dec. ’16 clash with then-unbeaten 154-pound titlist Jermall Charlo didn’t go quite as expected, as Williams was competitive early before getting caught and eventually stopped in five rounds.
The loss didn’t knock him too far down the divisional rankings, but it didn’t change the viewpoint of his divisional peers being in a hurry to meet him in the ring.
“I don't know if I got forgotten, but I don't see too many guys coming to pick me,” Williams (26-1-1, 16KOs) noted of his post-title fight run, in which he’s won his last four starts. “Nobody's beating down my door. So, I think maybe a little bit underrated, yes.
“Have I been forgotten? I'm not going to say forgotten, like some of these sports writers or experts might say. I wasn't going to let that happen. I know how boxing works. Losses happen. Knockouts happen. Just because you take a loss that doesn't mean you can't come back and be a great fighter.”
Williams will have that very chance in his next fight versus unbeaten, unified 154-pound titlist Jarrett Hurd (23-0, 16KOs).
The bout will take place May 11, live in primetime on Fox from EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va., less than 30 minutes from Hurd’s hometown of Accokeek, Md. The event will mark the first appearance for Hurd in the greater Washington D.C. area since his days as a rising prospect, returning home not only as a local hero but as a rising star within the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) circuit.
Hurd has been prominently featured in several segments of Fox Sports’ Inside PBC Boxing series and continues to be groomed for a three-belt unification bout with the winner of the forthcoming rematch between Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo.
Williams’ inclusion in promotional events leading up to fight night has been limited to sharing the spotlight with Hurd. It’s a fate he accepts, fully expecting the industry to come correct should he prevail on the road.
Just don’t expect him to lose sleep over any of it.
“I'm motivated by the glory, the titles, and the money; that's it,” Williams insists, not paying any mind to the extra attention being afforded to his opponent or the dismissal of his own chances in this matchup. “Everybody has an opinion, so I don't really care or dig too far into people's views on the fight.
“I can't get into that because if I do, I'll be on social media until 3 in the morning every night. I have to take those things in stride. And after I win the fight on May 11th, then everybody's going to run back and say "he's a great fighter." I just want to cash my check and see my kids. That's it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox