By Shaun Tate
2020 got underway with a stark warning to the champions that upsets will continue to be on the cards as Jeison ‘Banana’ Rosario stopped Saturdays hometown favourite Julian ‘ J Rock’ Williams in five at the Liacurous Centre in Philadelphia.
J Rock had been the victorious underdog less than a year earlier when he commandeered Jared Hurds WBA and IBF unified championships away from him in a hard-fought points victory. But he was to feel the underside of an upset on home soil in his very first defence as Dominican Republic’s Rosario came to let the world know he shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Rosario immediately pressed forward and landed a nice straight right from the opening bell, getting Williams’ attention early. Williams took note and fired back, landing his own hard backhand in return and edged out the opener.
In the second, Williams looked to up his pace as he pushed forward and became more aggressive fighting behind the jab and striking down to the body, but Rosario was composed and always poised to return as he threw with Williams’ punches. By the end of the round, the home fighter had been stung with a hard right and was cut on the left eye, with Rosario landing a hard combination to see out the round.
From here the fight exploded into life as the pair traded in the centre of the ring. If there was any warning for the direction the fight was heading, it came from a beautiful right straight from Williams which couldn’t have landed any sweeter, but didn’t seem to have much of an effect of the Dominican. In the fourth Rosario landed his own right, almost a replica of the one Williams had landed a round earlier, but this one seemed to stop Williams in his tracks.
The end came in round five when the pair were trading and Rosario landed a hard pin-point left hook that had Williams visibly shook. Rosario jumped in for the kill and after another hard left, Williams found himself thrown to the ground. Ascending back to the upright position, Williams motioned he was ready to fight on, but was immediately caught with a venomous uppercut that staggered Williams against the ropes and saw Referee Benji Estevez Jr. jump in to stop the fight.
Rosario, now a unifeid champion, has put himself at the top of the division alongside WBC champion Jermell Charlo, opening up the possibility for a further unification that would excite the boxing world. However, it seems likely that Williams will look to cash in his rematch clause before we see anymore unifications.
The division as a whole is extremely hot currently with a plethora of great fights and rematches to be made. Charlo himself has just turned around an upset loss to Tony Harrison and there is intrigue left in a rubber match between the pair. Jarret Hurd hasn’t fought since his loss to Williams but returns at the end of the month to face off with Francisco Santana. A win there will put him back in line for a big fight later this year.
You also have veteran Erislandy Lara and Brian Castano who fought to a draw in 2019 and would both be excellent contenders for any of the current champions. Ericson Lubin, Patrick Teixeira, Austin Trout, Michel Soro, and Sergio Garcia are just some of the other fighters that are currently sitting around the top ten of the divison and could be called into championship fights.
Whatever matches end up coming to fruition, we know they will be fights worth staying up for. For now, we have a new champion in Rosario who has a fan-pleasing style and a stubborn willingness to fight. I and plenty of other fight fans can’t wait to see him perform again.