By: Sean Crose
Last spring, boxing fans were stunned when Julian “J Rock” Williams bested Jarrett Hurd via unanimous decision to win Hurd’s WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. For the 29 year old Williams seemed walking in to be less than a has-been. He was considered a never-was, a fighter who had come close to glory, but had come up short when he faced Jermall Charlo less than three years earlier. Williams surprised everyone by upsetting Hurd, though. What’s more, he went from being an afterthought to a fan favorite, as everyone loves an underdog story. Now, though, it’s William’s who is in the role of defending champion.
Come Saturday night, the 27-1-1 multititlist will be facing the little known Jeison Rosario in a scheduled twelve rounder in Williams’ home town of Philadelphia. At stake are the belts Williams worked so hard to win from Hurd – as well as a chance to meet Hurd again in a high profile rematch. Yet the irony of the situation isn’t lost on Rosario, a 19-1-1 native of the Dominican Republic – for now Rosario is the lightly regarded challenger facing a popular champion. “We actually embrace the underdog role,” says Rosario’s trainer, Luis Perez on a PBC Countdown episode leading up to Saturday’s bout. “We have no pressure whatsoever. We’re coming over there to fight. We have absolutely nothing to lose.”
The product of a lonely, fight-centric childhood, Rosario started boxing when he was 12. Now, in his seventh year as a pro, the 24 year old is preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is the time,” he says on Countdown. “I’m going for what’s mine.” Training out of Miami’s famed 5thStreet Gym, Rosario has engaged in a strict camp away from family and friends. Living in humble training quarters away from the gym, the largely unknown contender has been open about the fact he’s willing to sacrifice an easier life in order to achieve his goal of becoming world champion. The disciplined existence gives him confidence.
“It is a fight that seems easy for Williams,” he admits. “When the bell rings the audience will have their jaws drop.” With the unique nickname of “The Banana,” Rosario shows patience, consistency, a sound defense, and genuine power while in the ring. Whether that will be enough to stop the high octane strength and accuracy of Williams remains to be seem. Rosario, though, is comfortable that the night will belong to him. “History,” he says, referring to his underdog status, “will repeat itself.”