LAS VEGAS – Vladimir Hernandez did it again Saturday night, this time in career-changing fashion on a grand stage.
The largely unknown Mexican southpaw upset heavily favored Julian Williams by split decision in a 10-round middleweight match on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard at T-Mobile Arena. Hernandez upset 38-year-old Alfredo Angulo in his previous bout 13 months earlier, but Williams is a 31-year-old former 154-pound champion who remains in his physical prime.
The rugged Hernandez withstood Williams’ strong start, wore down the former 154-pound champion in the final four rounds and won on two scorecards. Judges John McKaie (96-94) and David Sutherland (97-93) scored their closely contested fight for Hernandez, who lost 96-94 according to judge Lisa Giampa in a fight ESPN2 and FS1 televised.
Philadelphia’s Williams (27-3-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) lost a second straight fight. He hadn’t boxed in the 20 months since Jeison Rosario upset him by fifth-round technical knockout to take Williams’ IBF, IBO and WBA titles in January 2020.
Williams was listed by Caesars Sportsbook as a 12-1 favorite over Hernandez (13-4, 6 KOs), of Stockton, California.
He had difficulty dealing with Hernandez’s pressure and too often fought off the ropes. The result was a stunning setback for Williams, who had hoped to defeat Hernandez and fight for a 154-pound championship in his following fight.
Williams went to the canvas 40 seconds into the 10th round, but referee Kenny Bayless determined that he was pushed down by Hernandez. Hernandez was the aggressor again throughout the 10th round, when Williams held and moved his way to reaching the final bell.
A right hook by Hernandez rocked Williams early in the ninth round. Hernandez pounced on the vulnerable Williams and continued to unload on the former champion.
Williams rallied toward the end of the ninth round, but Hernandez nailed him with a straight left that stopped him in his tracks.
Hernandez roughed up Williams toward the end of the eighth round, which Hernandez seemed to win.
Hernandez landed two left hands early in the seventh round. Williams caught Hernandez with a right hand that connected with 30 seconds to go in the seventh round.
Hernandez fell to his gloves and knees just after the halfway point of the sixth round, but Bayless ruled it a slip. Hernandez landed back-to-back left hands with just under 30 seconds to go in the sixth round.
Williams connected with a short right hand 25 seconds into the fifth round. Hernandez kept pressuring Williams throughout the fifth round, but he didn’t land many clean shots on him.
Hernandez also suffered a deep cut around his left eye in the fifth round, which left him with lacerations above both eyes.
Hernandez fell to the canvas just 10 seconds into the fourth round, but Bayless ruled it was the result of a slip. Williams seemed intent to trade with Hernandez during the fourth round.
Williams landed an eye-catching right hand with 40 seconds to go in the fourth round.
Hernandez pressured Williams for much of the third round and had some success when he backed Williams into the ropes.
Williams drilled Hernandez with a right hand barely a minute into the second round. Though that shot staggered Hernandez, it didn’t stop him from coming forward for most of the remainder of the second round.
Williams nailed Hernandez with a right hand 1:10 into the first round. One of Williams’ punches also opened a cut around Hernandez’s right eye in that opening round.
Williams fought for the first time since Rosario surprisingly beat him by fifth-round technical knockout in January 2020. The Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-3-1, 14 KOs) won the IBF, IBO and WBA 154-pound championships from Williams in a fight FOX televised from Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Williams’ hometown.
Williams was supposed to box Brian Mendoza twice before he agreed to face Hernandez. Those two fights – the first one scheduled for December 26 and the second scheduled for June 26 – were respectively scrapped because Williams contracted COVID-19 and suffered an elbow injury.
Hernandez’s layoff was shorter than Williams’ 20-month hiatus, but he hadn’t fought in more than a year before Saturday night, either. He upset 38-year-old Alfredo Angulo by unanimous decision in a 10-round super middleweight match in August 2020.
Hernandez took that fight on just days’ notice, once Angulo’s original opponent, former IBF super middleweight champ Caleb Truax, withdrew due to an illness.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.