J Rock to make his move in 2015
When you ask junior middleweight hopeful Julian “J Rock” Williams who he believes the three best 154-pounders are on the planet, he doesn’t take long to answer.
“Definitely ‘Canelo’ [Saul Alvarez]. He’s really fighting; he lining ‘em up right now. You gotta respect that. I think [Erislandy] Lara’s good and, believe it or not, Vanes [Martirosyan],” said Williams from the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, California on the afternoon of Dec. 4.
This Saturday night on Showtime Extreme, Williams takes on Jamar Freeman (a late replacement for Edgar Ortega) from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington in a ten-rounder. For Williams, it will be his last developmental fight before ascending to the world-class level.
“I feel as though it is; I mean, how many more Edgar Ortegas can I fight?” asked the soft-spoken Williams, 17-0-1 (10). “I think a prospect stays at the same level too long; he’ll get stale and I don’t want to keep fighting the same level of competition for too much of a long time. I want to step up eventually.”
So what will his 2015 itinerary look like?
Williams says, “Hopefully I’ll fight in February or March, then in May and I want to get a title shot by the end of ‘15. That’s how I see it going.”
His trainer and co-manager, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards is more specific about their schedule.
“We’ve already been promised four fights in 2015,” he explained to UCNLive.com. “Somebody who has challenged for a world title, somebody who’s been up on the big stage. I want four guys like that and the last fight culminating in a title shot.”
Williams can be described as well-schooled and an all-around technician. He’s not necessarily flashy but he’s grounded in a solid fundamental base. Many insiders are high on his skill set and maturity. You get the sense with this guy that it’s not if he wins a title but when. That time seems to be coming very quickly.
When you ask Edwards where he ranks his charge in the junior middleweight division, he states, “Realistically, I think he has to be in the top 10. I can’t see 10 guys in the division being better than him. He gets recognition but I think he gets slightly overlooked. Honestly, I think he’s in the bottom half of the top 10.”
By today’s standards, Williams has been matched relatively tough as a prospect. His last five bouts have come against Eliezer Gonzalez (14-0), Michael Medina (26-4-2), Freddy Hernandez (30-6), Orlando Lora (29-4-2) and Hugo Centeno Jr. (19-0). Against “The Boss” Centeno, he was dominating throughout before that bout was halted due to a clash of heads that caused a cut on Centeno, forcing a fourth round stoppage.
“As a trainer, they say we match him tough but I just got a lot of confidence in him. So Julian can fight anybody at this point. I don’t care who he fights as long as they’re our weight class and he don’t even have to get paid above market value; he just gets paid fair value. We’re not going to be one those kids that negotiates himself out of fights. He can fight anybody. I honestly really believe that as far as the young guys, none of them have been in there like he has. None of them,” said Edwards unequivocally.
Williams is that quintessential old-school Philly fighter.
“Yeah, definitely. It really doesn’t matter to me who I fight, “he says. “When we’re looking for opponents, Steve calls me and says, ‘We’re going to fight this guy; check him out. That’s the guy.’ I don’t sit up and go through BoxRec and say, ‘Oh, it looks like he can’t punch. He looks like he’ll be a good fighter to make me look good and, Steve, I want to fight him.’ We don’t do that.
“I want to get the best available opponent for the most amount of money. So if that’s Canelo or Lara or whoever, that’s who I want to fight.”
In an era in which boxing is way too much business and not enough sport, you hope Williams keeps that same mentality if he gets to the top rungs of the sport and has his own economic leverage. Money has a way of changing your perspective, not just in boxing but in life. Williams and Edwards both seem incredibly sincere.
At 24, J Rock seems mature beyond his years.
“You know how it is; I’m going to be honest,” said Edwards, who knows Williams as well as anybody. “Being around him all the time, there’s things that you see in kids that aggravate you a little bit when they do little things, but he is [mature]. He’s had to take care of himself as a young man where a lot of people would still be living with their parents. He’s been living on his own, so that kind of forces you to grow up a little faster.
“And the boxing ring is a truth machine. So sometimes things you got through outside of the ring show up inside of the ring.”
Williams and Edwards spent a full week out in San Carlos at the Undisputed Gym in preparation for this fight. They not only got their sparring and regular work done at the gym but also consulted with Victor Conte, who helped oversee their conditioning program and nutritional regimen. Williams worked on “The Curve” machine, doing intermittent hypoxic training and the SNAC Altitude Dome (which simulates high altitude).
Williams is part of a growing legion of boxers who consult with Conte, whose history (most notably BALCO) is well-known. And yes, he was well aware of Conte’s notorious past.
“Well, I’m a sports fan. I’m not a baseball fan but when that whole Victor Conte thing was going on, I remember it,” said Williams, of the tearing up of the baseball record book and the raid on the BALCO headquarters over a decade ago. “I didn’t really get involved in it; I didn’t really pay attention to it because I’m not a baseball fan but I remember exactly what happened. I knew all the guys in MLB were on steroids, Barry Bonds, the whole indictment because they had it on ESPN every single day. But when we started working with him, of course I researched him.
“He’s rehabilitated, doing all these great things and stuff like that. But it’s a good thing, man.
So in Williams’ view, are PEDs rampant in boxing?
“Definitely, definitely but it’s sports, man,” he points out. “Boxing isn’t the only sport that is using PEDs. It’s just the way of sports. Everyone wants to get that special edge. I don’t care what it is. If I could rub some Vaseline on you and tell you it was something else, hey, in your head, you might think you’re Superman. But it’s just Vaseline; they’re just trying to get the edge. I think it’s more mental if anything but definitely, there’s PED’s in boxing for sure.”
Edwards says of Conte, “The thing that pushed me over the edge with Victor is that he’s like the only nutrition guru that’s pressing for blood testing. He’s the only one saying, ‘Y’know what? Sign my guys up for VADA; sign my guys up for USADA,’ because let me tell you something, Julian’s the kind of kid you have to make him take a multivitamin and I know for a fact that there are kids in our division that are doing PEDs.
“So I’m hoping that when he gets to that level, that everybody will say, ‘Y’know what? Take blood out of my arm’ because we’re going to be the first ones to do it. We just don’t have the freakin’ money to get these kinds of test done right now; he’s not at the stage. But if somebody questions him on working with Victor Conte, I’m gonna say, ‘Listen, let’s take every blood test and Olympic-style drug testing we can do.’”
Editor’s Note – catch the full interviews here. Note, there were technical difficulties with the sound of these interviews, but the content is too good not to release.
The latest episode of “The Next Round,” featuring special guest Mauricio Herrera:
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