By Jake Donovan
With potential future opponent Austin Trout calling the action from ringside, unbeaten super welterweight contender Julian 'J-Rock' Williams sent a message to help set up a possible future clash.
The Philly boxer jumped on Argentina's Luciano Cuello from the opening bell, not letting up until referee Gary Rosato jumped in to stop the contest midway through round one of their main event on Premier Boxing Champions' " PBC Toe-to-Toe Tuesday " on Fox Sports 1, live from Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Williams had no intention of offering a feeling out process, which wasn't a good look for Cuello, who seemed to have no intention of letting his hands go. From the moment the punches began flying, Cuello hid behind an earmuff defense that only proved to make him a sitting duck for the incoming.
The downfall for the visiting Argentine came midway through round one. A pair of right hands had Cuello shook, and Williams—way too savvy a fighter to let up—unloaded with power shots while his wounded prey was pinned along the ropes. The barrage came to a halt only after the referee intervened to rescue Cuello from any additional punishment.
The official time was 1:33 of round one. Cuello falls to 35-4 (17KOs). His lone other knockout loss came five years ago to then-unbeaten 20-year old Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, who stopped him in six rounds.
Williams improves—in every sense of the word—to 21-0-1 (13KOs). Along with the draw (which came versus Francisco 'Chia' Santana in his 7th pro fight) is an unresolved No-Contest from two years ago, when he outfought Hugo Centeno for three rounds only for the night to end on a cut from an unintentional headbutt. Because the action did not reach the end of round four, both fighters had to settle for a draw.
Centeno remains stuck on the prospect level, while Williams is on the verge of kicking down the door to a title shot. The Philly product has exchanged several words with Trout through the media - and directly through social media - but chose to issue a blanket warning to anyone in and around the 154 lb. division.
"I'm looking to make a statement that I'm here in the junior middleweight division," Williams told Fox Sports 1 correspondent—and reigning middleweight titlist—Daniel Jacobs, who was perhaps thankful he's not currently looking six pounds north. "I will fight anyone in the division. I will fly to Houston tonight and sign a contract for (recently crowned 154 lb. titlist) Jermall Charlo right now."
Williams did eventually make his way to the broadcaster's table, where he and Trout were able to explain pleasantries and briefly discuss the possibility of facing one another. Trout actually responded to Williams' earlier challenge in his own recent win, knocking out Joey Hernandez in the inaugural installment of PBC Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays and afterward leaving the door open for a head-on collision if the fight made sense.
Both fighters are still up to the task, but at the same time will step to a title fight if that opportunity comes first. Both have expressed an interest in facing Charlo, and there's also the possibility of fighting for a vacant belt once Floyd Mayweather finally gets around to releasing the pair of 154 lb. titles he's presently holding hostage along with his welterweight hardware.
Whatever the future has in store, Williams promises an even better version, as terrifying as that may seem to any other top fighter in the division.
"I'm the best junior middleweight in the world. My coach (head trainer and BoxingScene.com's own Stephen "Breadman" Edwards) wants me to pick my shots more, but I'm the strongest guy in the division and can walk through any of these guys."
Time will tell to see who's first in line to challenge that claim.
Moises Flores maintained his unbeaten record, forcing a 12th round stoppage of a brave Luis Cosulito in the opening bout of the telecast.
The bout was a brutal slugfest, with neither fighter giving an inch at any point during their furious slugfest. Flores was non-stop in his attack, but Cosulito would keep him honest with occasional power shots upstairs.
Both fighters were hurt at separate points in the fight, but it was Flores who came on late and was consistently landing the harder shots at a more frequent rate. The incoming eventually took its toll on Cosulito, who was running on fumes as the fight entered the 12th and final round.
The well-schooled Flores—trained by red-hot rising trainer Herman Caicedo—picked up on this, immediately going on the attack. Cosulito wasn't throwing back, but was responsive and doing his best to defend himself. It wasn't enough in the eyes of referee Benji Esteves, who immediately stopped the contest.
The official time was 0:57 of round 12.
Flores advances to 24-0 (17KOs) with the win. The secondary title he owns would put him in the running for a showdown with Scott Quigg, but the volume puncher from Mexico instead called out another fighter who fits that very bill, unbeaten featherweight Leo Santa Cruz.
In televised swing bout action, Caleb "Sweethands" Plant cruised to a unanimous decision over Jamar Freeman over eight rounds at middleweight. Scores were 80-71 (twice) and 79-72.
Plant forced Freeman to take a knee following a combination towards the end of round three. As it became clear that he would have to go beyond the 4th round for the first time in his career, Plant began to have fun - perhaps too much fun at times, as he offered his version of the Whip and Nae Nae at random times in the fight.
Freeman attempted to punch his way back into the fight in round six, but Plant managed to crack him with enough power shots to avoid a momentum shift.
Plant improves to 10-0 (8KOs) with the win. The decision ends a seven-fight knockout streak, but proves to be a valuable learning experience for the unbeaten middleweight from Ashland City, TN.