By David Greisman
Julian Williams wasn’t there to be a steppingstone for Jarrett Hurd.
Williams wasn’t a “former” contender, despite the devastating knockout loss on his record from the last time he faced one of the top fighters in the junior middleweight division. Yes, there was a loss on his record, but that “one” didn’t mean he was “one and done.”
Williams came in intent on proving himself, on proving his doubters wrong. That intent was backed up by will and skill, with plenty of guts that delivered him plenty of glory.
He went to battle with Hurd over the course of 12 hard rounds, setting the pace early, sending a message that he was as good a fighter as — if not better than — the top prospect Williams had been considered to be before he ran into Jermall Charlo two and a half years ago.
Williams was competitive with Charlo before being dropped with a perfect shot and then put away in five. This time, Williams sustained Hurd’s inevitable comeback and came out with a clear victory, winning a unanimous decision and two world titles in hostile territory, and possibly even winning over Hurd’s hometown crowd in the process.
Williams was aggressive yet intelligent in the way he showed it. He wasn’t reckless, but he also was rather courageous, often dishing out combinations on the inside. He loaded up with power and scored an early knockdown in the second round, landing a pair of punches that put Hurd to the ropes, then dropping him with a left hook to the left side of Hurd’s head.
It was a great start for Williams. But Hurd has long been a slow starter, and that hadn’t hurt him. He was still undefeated for a reason, that reason being an ability to absorb punishment and then come on strong, wearing down his opponents, hurting them and stopping them. That’s what Hurd had done against Tony Harrison and Austin Trout in 2017. And that’s what Hurd was going to need to try to do on Saturday night in Northern Virginia.
Hurd, who somehow squeezes his 6-foot-1 frame to 154 pounds before adding plenty of weight back by fight night, was able to take additional shots from Williams in Round 3. Hurd soon turned it into a good bounce-back round, firing away to Williams’ body, dishing out a right uppercut, standing shoulder to shoulder and trading with Williams.
If there were questions going into the fight about Williams’ ability to take a punch, the fight itself provided answers. He handled Hurd’s power, though at times he also would land and then change position, wisely making Hurd reset. Williams scored in Round 4 with a right hand and then a right uppercut, then quickly scored the same way. Then he’d land a left hook followed by a right hand. And then he’d counter a Hurd body shot with a right hand upstairs.
Hurd got Williams to the ropes early in Round 5. Williams took it fine and soon had Hurd on the ropes himself. For all of Hurd’s size, Williams was often the one pushing Hurd back.
He paid a price for standing in harm’s way. Swelling built up around Williams’ left eye before the fight’s halfway point. Hurd came out for Round 6 with a head of steam, thinking he could come on and have Williams reeling. Hurd seemed to have more on his shots, his body work perhaps paying dividends.
Or so it seemed. Then Williams had Hurd to the ropes again. He wasn’t done yet. By Round 7, he was changing the pace and giving himself a needed breather, boxing more, landing from a distance and then returning to the inside for the final minute, letting Hurd know that Williams was still there to be reckoned with, that the pressure and punishment hadn’t yet broken him down.
Instead, it was Hurd in danger at the beginning of Round 8. His corner had put too much Vaseline on his face, and some had gotten into his left eye. Williams tried to take advantage, and he continued to let his hands go even after Hurd was back to normal. Williams dug to the body, went up to the head and then back down. Hurd went back to his corner with blood streaming from above his right eye.
Unlike Hurd’s past opponents, Williams wasn’t fading late. The only thing that was unraveling was the tape around Hurd’s left glove. Williams and Hurd continued to trade. Williams continued to get the better of the exchanges and pick up rounds.
Hurd needed something dramatic to win the fight. It didn’t come. Williams knew he had it — in the final minute, with the two of them tied up, Williams turned toward the ringside camera and, with a glint in his eye, smiled and stuck out his tongue.
They threw to the final bell, an enjoyable 12-round match that elevated both men, even though one of them came out on the losing end.
Two judges had Williams ahead 115-112, seven rounds to five, with an additional point taken from Hurd for the knockdown he suffered. The other judge had Williams ahead by a slightly larger margin, 116-111, or eight rounds to four.
“I worked so hard. They told me I was done. They told me I had no chin,” a clearly and understandably emotional Williams said afterward. “The boxing world, they make it seem like fighters take a loss and they can’t come back, and I just knew that wasn’t the case.”
Williams is now 27-1-1 with 16 knockouts. He has two of the four major world titles and must now be considered one of the best fighters at 154. He could have a rematch with Hurd, or he could keep an eye on the winner of the upcoming rematch between Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo (Jermall’s twin brother).
Hurd was the one who originally was looking to face Jermell Charlo — but then Hurd spent much of last year out with an injury, and Charlo was upset by Harrison. He’s now 23-1 with 16 KOs. This isn’t the way Hurd wanted his hometown return to go.
But it’s also not the end of Jarrett Hurd. All he has to do is look at what Williams was able to accomplish. Few leave this sport with perfect records. Some lose and are never the same. Some lose and are never what they were expected to be. And some lose and return better.
He’s had a setback. And now he’ll have a comeback.