By Lem Satterfield
Once-beaten 154-pound title challenger Julian Williams of Philadelphia will pursue his fourth straight victory and second stoppage during that time against hard-hitting Javier Francisco of Mexico in a 10-round bout on Saturday’s undercard of Deontay Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title defense against lineal champion Tyson Fury at The Staples Center in Los Angeles on Showtime Pay Per View.
“J-Rock” Williams (25-1-1, 15 KOs) was added to the Premier Boxing Champions event against the 34-year-old Castro (28-8, 23 KOs) to replace a bout between former champions Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Alfredo Angulo.
Chavez’s Hall of Fame former champion father, Julio Sr., and his team didn’t believe Chavez Jr. (50-3-1, 32 KOs) was ready to return to the ring, although he will still appear in the near future, according to a release. The 36-year-old Angulo (24-7, 20 KOs) will battle Fernando Castaneda (26-12, 17 KOs) in a clash of Mexican middleweights, according to BoxRec.com.
Williams will appear on the same card as IBF/WBA/IBO junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs) for the second straight time as “Swift” pursues his third defense and eighth stoppage in nine fights against Jason Welborn (24-6, 7KOs) of England.
In their last fights in April at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Williams earned a majority decision over previously once-beaten Nathan Gallimore, and Hurd dropped southpaw Erislandy Lara with 37 seconds left in their 154-pound title unification for a split-decision victory, adding Lara’s WBA crown to his IBF version.
Hurd plans to defeat Welborn and then be ringside on December 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where WBC counterpart Jermell Charlo (31-0, 15 KOs) pursues his fourth defense against Tony Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs), and twin sibling Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs), his initial defense and fourth straight stoppage against left-handed two-time title challenger Willie Monroe (23-3, 6 KOs).
“I think this is a great opportunity to showcase my skills on a big card, and I’m going to take full advantage of it, shaking off the little bit of rust that I’ve got since I haven’t fought since April,” said Williams, 28.
“The goal is always to win first, but there’s always a constant need for improvement on some of the things that we’ve been working on for the past eight months. I know that I’m going to fight [Hurd or Charlo] really soon.”
Castro is coming off a TKO victory over Carlos Urrea in his last fight in 2017 and has lost by fifth-round TKO to left-handed IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) in December 2014.
“To be able to fight in Los Angeles for Julian is a great opportunity. We knew that [Castro] fought Errol Spence, and that he has a lot of knockouts,” said Williams’ trainer, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards.
“We’re not going to try to say the guy is freakin’ Godzilla, but anything can happen, so you have to be prepared for that. We were already preparing really hard for title eliminators that have fallen out, so we’re in good shape.”
Prior to his fifth-round stoppage loss to Jermall Charlo in a 154-pound champion fight in December 2016, Williams had scored three straight knockouts, won 53 consecutive rounds and 16 fights in a row (10 by stoppage).
Since that loss, Williams has stopped Joshua Conley (June 2017) by seventh-round TKO, earned a unanimous decision over former champion Ishe Smith (November 2017), and beaten Gallimore.
Williams had sparred with Jaron Ennis (22-0, 20 KOs), a fast-rising, switch-hitting 21-year-old welterweight from Philadelphia, to prepare for Gallimore.
“As far as the opportunity is concerned, I’ve been told that we’re going to be fighting for the title in our first fight sometime next year,” said Edwards.
“It’s going to be between Jermell Charlo or Jarrett Hurd and we’re going to be fighting sometime in the spring. They’re both good champions, so whoever it is, we’ll be ready.”