Philadelphia’s Julian Williams led his small, capable team down to Washington, D.C. Saturday night, and ambushed unbeaten champion Jarrett Hurd in his backyard
Saturday night at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena friends, family and fans eagerly rose to their feet to take in the well-orchestrated spectacle that was hometown unified champion “Swift” Jarrett Hurd’s ring walk. A Washington Redskins band performed a routine that set the tone for the Accokeek, Maryland native’s short stroll to the ring as his brother Justin Hurd performed a song. The moment was a well-deserved celebration of Hurd and his unheralded team’s rise to prominence in a talented weight division.
Although Hurd’s brother has a professional record of 3-0 with 2 knockouts, the Hurds aren’t the traditional fighting family. Over the last few years Hurd stormed his way up the rankings, as well as to the top of Premier Boxing Champions’ priority list among the fighters on its roster. And gradually he started picking off the right opponents to become an undefeated 22-win IBF and WBA Super Welterweight champion that had folks marveling at his ability to slim his 6-foot 1-inch frame into a formidable 154-pound bolt of lightning on fight night.
Former Lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. hosted two title defenses in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Olympic bronze medalist and undefeated Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder hosted four fights in his home state of Alabama after winning his titles.
Saturday was Hurd’s reward. His signature blonde-toned ever-evolving Mohawk, his highly personalized ink and sartorial excellence in his choice of color schemes for his fight kits all combined with his action-packed wins over Anthony Harrison and the division’s longest reigning champion Erislandy Lara to make him an attractive draw to headline a PBC on FOX card.
In the opposite corner one-loss challenger Julian “J Rock” Williams and his chief second Stephen “Breadman” Edwards rarely even took a look at the ceremonious entrance. Williams bounced around to stay loose, the cornermen made their last second checks and Williams and Edwards appeared to go over a few final instructions.
Williams looked unfazed by the fanfare, and as the fighter and chief second shared their last moments before the fight the exchange hearkened back to a memorable quote from the final battle scene of the movie Conan The Barbarian: “All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important!”
Shortly into the bout another notoriously slow start for Hurd started to look like his slower pace was a function of what Williams was doing to him – as opposed to just some bad habit. The challenger stepped forward to engage Hurd, and champ laid back, up against the ropes in some moments. Hurd opted to jab to Williams’ body, but the visitor landed the more telling jabs, up top, to close out the round.
A brief skirmish, with equal giving, broke out to open the second round. Hurd seemed to take notice of Williams’ confidence and composure despite fighting in his away role. Williams fully seized momentum with landing a thudding uppercut. Gradually Williams began to show his superiority at fighting inside, and after growing comfortable taking advantage of scoring opportunities, the challenger connected with a powerful right hand and left hook combination high on the champion’s head. Hurd fell backwards along the ropes and continued down to the canvas for the first knockdown of his career. The crowd was in disbelief.
Hurd beat the count, and while he wasn’t badly impaired, Williams wisely moved into to rip off some more vicious shots as the champion sought shelter on the ropes behind his guard. The situation never worsened over the balance of the fight for Hurd, but Williams’ effectiveness and assertiveness became the more consistent themes of each round.
Williams opened up the ensuing round with a commanding attack, as if to test Hurd’s steadiness. Hurd returned fire. Williams caught Hurd with a thunderous left hook along the ropes after Hurd misjudged his range with an attempted punch that missed badly. Hurd’s durability began to take center stage once again, but he flash some offense with a crisp 1-2 combination, and then a short right hook before the bell. The champion’s resolve earned him his first round of the fight on all three of the judges’ cards.
Throughout the rest of the Williams brilliantly outworked Hurd inside, when he wanted to rest he craftily controlled Hurd’s hands, and he caught Hurd with some shots that appear to stray below the waistline – with the ref standing at the champion’s back. Hurd was credited with more landed shots in the fifth and sixth rounds where he swept the two rounds on all three cards. Williams swept rounds seven, eight and nine largely behind landing his jab in a timely manner, including a fight-high 11 connects with the lead hand in the 7th. He closed out the ninth round landing over 57 percent of his power punches that mounted some damage on Hurd.
Following Williams’ control of the fight for three rounds, and factoring in the early 10-8 round, ideally Hurd needed to win the final three rounds to retain his title. Per CompuBox, in the 11th round Williams landed 50 percent of his power punches for the second, and final, time with that being the key difference – on all three cards – in a hotly contested round where Hurd and Williams scored 25 and 23 power punches, respectively.
Williams finished the 12th round credited with six more power punches landed per CompuBox, but a crisp 3-punch combination in the first half of the round might have quelled any full-on attack Hurd may have been planning to build towards – à la the climatic ending with Lara.
Even being back by a crowd who supported their man to the end, the judges delivered solid cards and Hurd’s hand was raised after a sweet “and the new”, with cards of 116-111 and 115-112 on the other two.
Here are five quick observations of how Williams relied on his superior boxing skills to dethrone one of boxing’s fast-rising young stars.
Throughout the night Williams either got the better of exchanges or dominated the action for longer stretches of time. At no point in the fight did Hurd clearly hurt Williams or land a series of unanswered blows. Williams was never really under duress, for a prolonged period of time, as a result of the bigger Hurd’s pressure.
Williams slipped a lot of Hurd’s longer power shots, resulting in Hurd looking like he was struggling offensively. Conversely, Williams kept a lot of his shots shorter and straighter; and CompuBox indicated he had eight rounds with nearly a 40 percent connect rate among his power shots – with two registering above 50 percent. Hurd only had two rounds with 40 percent or better in power punches, plus 50 percent in round one where he landed 1-of-2.
This writer’s main question concerning a Williams’ victory was, what area of real estate would he be able to consistently dominate once Hurd got going?
Surprisingly, Williams executed well inside, mid- and outside. Hurd never looked comfortable letting his hands go in space, and inside Williams seemed to catch him with a hook anytime he dropped his guard or went to throw a punch. Williams excelling chest-to-chest in the center of the ring was shocking, but his achievement of keeping Hurd against the ropes was surprising, as well as him being able to push Hurd backwards to get him to the ropes. Lastly, Williams’ craftiness, offensively, was best displayed when he frequently used his shoulder to quickly create space to land a shot inside.
Hurd’s lack of creativity was astonishing, and all of his moves were extremely predictable.
Better team chemistry
This writer was onsite and didn’t have the luxury of any audio in between rounds. However, the Williams corner started better, Williams showed adjustments and adaptability throughout the fight, and there was never any panic. Williams’ execution throughout the fight seemed like a team effort.
In contrast, Hurd’s approach seemed reactionary, at points it was almost as if a solid Williams uppercut reminded Hurd to shoot his uppercut. If Hurd’s team ever communicated that he was either accepting Williams’ clinches, or smothering his own punches, the champion rarely ever corrected either mistake. As mentioned earlier, Hurd was either unable to creatively implement new tactics, or looked uncomfortable attempting to do so.
After the career-altering victory, becoming the division’s lone unified champion, Williams commented about his corner’s teamwork.
“He wasn’t easier to hit than I thought. He was crafty and he had heavy hands. I just stayed poised. I listened to my coach and I just worked.
The entire team Williams strategy was built off of turning the “L” versus Jermall Charlo into a lesson. After the fight Williams admittedly stated, “Maybe I wasn’t ready for the title the first time I got the shot.”
From the weigh-in, to calmly watching fellow Philly product Stephen Fulton defeat former IBO Super Bantamweight champion Paulus Amundu from media row (and casually interacting with a few supporters and fans), to both ring walks, and during the fight Williams was prepared for the entire moment.
In fact, with CompuBox only recording Hurd landing greater than three landed jabs in just two rounds, several facets from Williams’ IBF voluntary eliminator victory against Nathaniel Gallimore roughly 13 months ago were easily transferable to Saturday night’s fight.
Williams spoke like he was exceedingly pleased with this area of his team’s preparation. “The game plan was to win however I could. I adapted on the fly. We knew he had certain tendencies and worked on his tendencies.”
Team Williams’ scouting was superior, and Hurd’s comments afterwards suggested that, collectively, they missed some details regarding their opponent’s resolve.
“He is a lot sharper than I expected. I knew he had great inside game. It was a little better than I expected. He landed some great shots inside.
A rolling stone, or rock, gathers no moss
Whichever parts of Hurd’s offense Williams didn’t stifle with his clever arm wrestling inside, he was defensively responsible and used the proper movement all night. Additionally, what he couldn’t defend – unlike the counter uppercut Charlo caught him with – he had eyes on most of Hurd’s power punches.
In space Williams easily evaded several of Hurds’ chopping shots, and once the champion got desperate Williams managed his range well to avoid being caught by lunging hooks. Williams’ punishment to Hurd’s head sapped the champion’s energy and timing late in the fight, and Williams said, “He couldn’t hurt me. I saw everything he was throwing.”
The night ended unexpectedly quiet for the crestfallen Hurd, he was gracious in defeat, but still ostensibly processing an extremely disappointing outcome in front of a packed house full of his fans. Hurd’s chin still didn’t fail him, at 28-years old improvement is still obtainable, and the man with a penchant for loud hairstyles and clothing reminded folks he’s still very much a fighter with real grit. He let it be known that he wants an immediate rematch. Fitting for two sports towns that face each other four times during the NBA regular season, and twice in the NFL.
Great action is guaranteed.
All photos by Leo Wilson/Premier Boxing Champions