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Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams to make his first title defense in Philadelphia

The light-middleweight champ will take on Jeison Rosario next month at the Liacouras Center.

Julian Williams, who is the light-middleweight champion, works the speed bag at the Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym.
Julian Williams, who is the light-middleweight champion, works the speed bag at the Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Wearing thick black spectacles and carrying a pair of briefcases Tuesday, Julian “J-Rock” Williams might have looked more like an auditor than one of the legendarily tough Philadelphia fighters that those promoting his Jan. 18 Liacouras Center title bout kept referencing.

But anyone questioning the West Philly native’s right to be called a Philadelphia fighter hasn’t watched him in the ring. His most recent bout was a bruising, punch-packed, 12-round victory over Jarrett Hurd on May 11.

“It was a really great fight,” said Ray Flores, who will be this one’s ring announcer. “It’s a strong candidate for fight of the year.”

That unanimous decision in Fairfax, Va., 30 minutes from Hurd’s hometown, won the 29-year-old Williams the unified light-middleweight title -- WBA (Super), IBF and IBO -- that will be up for grabs when he meets Jeison Rosario next month.

“There were a lot of bumps in the road before that breakthrough,” said Williams, who during the joint news conference with Rosario opened the briefcases and proudly displayed the three shimmering championship belts.

Williams (27-1-1, 16 knockouts) had been expected to make his first title defense with a Hurd rematch, but the ex-champ balked over some details and plans fell through. A serious boxing student, Williams then turned to Rosario, a 24-year-old Dominican whose progress he’s been monitoring, one whose record is 19-1-1 with 13 knockouts.

“I think it’s going to be a really good fight,” said Stephen Edwards, Williams’s manager. “We’ve been watching Rosario for a while. They might think they’re sneaking up on us, but they’re not. We know he’s a really good fighter with some really good victories. … But I think Julian is the best 154-pounder in the world, so there aren’t many opponents he can’t handle. Rosario hit the lottery. Julian is better when he feels threatened, so I know he’s going to train hard and do everything he needs.”

Williams, who as a youngster spent time in a Roosevelt Boulevard homeless shelter, said he was eager for this chance to perform in front of a hometown crowd.

In Hurd’s “hometown” fight, he said, “they were throwing things and calling me every name in the book. It will be nice to fight in front of people who’ve been with me for a long time.”

His last Philadelphia fight came in 2011, when he decisioned Eberto Medina in a six-rounder at the National Guard Armory.

Rosario indicated he was aware of the reputation of Philly fighters – both real and fictional.

“It’s going to be like a `Rocky’ movie,” Rosario said through an interpreter, trainer Luis Perez. “We’re going to scrap it out from start to finish and I’m going to end up as the new Rocky in Philadelphia.”

The 8 p.m. card at Temple’s arena will be televised on Fox and will feature another fight: a 10-rounder pitting junior-lightweight prospect Chris Colbert against ex-champion Jezzrel Corrales. In September, the unbeaten Colbert KO’d Miguel Beltran Jr. in the first round.