By Jake Donovan
From the moment he turned pro in 2010, Julian “J-Rock” Williams hasn’t been given any choice but to remain patient.
It was required on his way up to his first career title fight—as well as in the aftermath of said opportunity, when he suffered a stunning fifth round knockout at the hands of then-unbeaten titlist Jermall Charlo.
Four straight wins have followed, enduring a trio of tough challenges in facing and beating Joshua Conley, veteran Ishe Smith and contender Nathan Gallimore. The latter of the three earned Philadelphia’s Williams a mandatory title fight versus unbeaten Jarrett “Swift” Hurd, whom he faces on May 11 live on Fox from EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia.
In fact, Williams’ win over Gallimore came on the undercard of Hurd’s title-unifying split decision over Erislandy Lara last April. The two appeared on the same undercard last December, scoring separate wins in supporting capacity to Deontay Wilder’s 12-round draw with Tyson Fury atop a Showtime Pay-Per-View event.
Both knew from that night onward that a head-on collision was in the works—only to have to wait more than three months for an official announcement and now another seven weeks until fight night.
“It hasn’t really been hard,” Williams (26-1-1, 16KOs) insisted to BoxingScene.com of waiting around for his second title opportunity. “It’s just how boxing goes these days. I would like to fight three times a year, but that hasn’t happened since 2015 so I just adjust.”
Part of the past issue in keeping Williams active was finding willing opposition, which has never been easy. Even once he made it to the title stage, his bout with Charlo was preceded by a nine-month inactive period, the longest of his career while the event underwent a date change and other unforeseen delays and issues.
Some 29 months will have passed by since his lone defeat, but it’s only strengthened his case for still belonging among the division’s elite.
“If you’re a winner in life you realize that having a bad night doesn’t define everything you have done up until that point or after,” notes Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, Williams’ longtime trainer. “You can’t let other people’s opinion of you define your opinion of yourself.
“It’s a little bit harder with the trolls on social media but trust me Julian is fine. He’s in a good place in life and in boxing. Everything happens for a reason.”
Included in that lesson is the waiting game, a period which the still-very relevant top contender has used to further hone his craft.
“Every fight is important to me,” admits Williams. “I train hard for every fight and the fight in front of me is always the biggest one.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox