By Shaun Tate
Julian Williams (27-1-1) returns to the ring tonight to make the first defence of his IBF and WBA 154lb titles against the Dominican Republic’s Jeison ‘Banana’ Rosario (19-1-1). If the lure of seeing ‘J-Rock’ put his titles on the line for the first time isn’t enough for fans, it will also be the first time in nearly a decade that Williams appears in a contest in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Williams made headlines in 2019 when he dethroned Jarrett Hurd in a fight-of-the-year contender to become a two-belt unified champion at his second attempt as a professional. Williams had lost his first attempt at world honours back in 2016 when he was stopped by Jermall Charlo.
It was bump in the road for the touted prospect, who like many boxers are written off or fall under the radar after a tough loss. But Williams proved he isn’t one to lie down, and has quickly demonstated why a singular loss isn’t the end of the road. He now sits at the top of the division with some huge fights on the horizon should Rosario fail to upset the applecart.
Should Williams win, the name Charlo will again be connected to the Pennsylvanian- but this time it will be Jermall’s twin brother Jermell who holds the WBC portion of the light-middleweight title. Charlo was victorious in retaining his title against Tony Harrison last month, and Williams walking out of the Liacouras centre victorious tonight will surely put them on a collision course for a further unification.
Whilst all that may be in his future, it’s the present that Williams is focused on as Rosario, although an underdog, is the next hurdle to overcome. Rosario has some similar statistics to Williams in that he has one loss and one draw on his record, the loss coming by way of mid-fight stoppage and the draw coming in a six-round bout. Rosario does have a slightly better KO ratio with 13 KO’s from 19 fights, though Williams has fought a higher level of competition in his career to date.
But stats aren’t the only similarities of the pair. Rosario’s sole loss came to unheralded contender Nathan Gallimore back in 2017. Gallimore would go on to fight Williams just under a year later losing via mixed decision. Both fighters have admitted to growing up on the streets and getting into street fights quite often and both men started boxing at the age of twelve. The pair only narrowly avoided getting an early taste of each other last year as sparring partners in preparation for Williams’ challenge of Hurd, but Williams decided against it, acknowledging that Rosario may end up being a future challenger to the Philly pugilist.
If there is one likeness that may prove to be the biggest factor in this fight, it could be the heart that both men share in the ring. Williams has overcome challenges both inside and outside the ring and was awarded for his resilience and determination to reach the top when he defeated Hurd. Rosario now steps into Williams’ shoes as the hungry underdog and will be looking to emulate the same characteristics in himself as the ones that made Williams a champion.
The fight itself should prove to be a fan friendly affair, as Rosario will come to fight and aim to put pressure on the champion. But most will be expecting Williams to come out on top in his hometown and continue to write his own name into the Philadelphia history books, adding to the richness made by legendary boxers such as Joe Frasier, Sonny Liston, Bernard Hopkins, Tommy Loughran and Lew Tendler, to name but a few. Williams will be hoping his name one day stands alongside such icons, and dispatching Rosario is the next step to doing so.
The fight is promoted by TGB Promotions, but under the banner of Premier Boxing Champions. The undercard also offers up a very intriguing fight between a highly regarded prospect in Chris Colbert (13-0) who will be opposed by former world champion Jezreel Corrales (23-3).
Colbert is one of the fighters expected to break out as top star in the next few years and has looked very much that in his fights to date, including solid victories in his previous two fights against Miguel Beltran Jnr and Alberto Mercado. Corrales has been in mixed form, losing two of his last three fights (to Ladarius Miller and Alberto Machado – not to be confused with Mercado).
The fight should tell us everything we need to know about Colbert at this stage of his career and a win over Corrales would certainly send a message to those ranked ahead of him in the lightweight division.
Julian Williams by KO or TKO between 9-12
Chris Colbert by points decision.