Jr. middleweight is one of the best divisions in boxing right now for multiple reasons.
It has depth.
It has talent.
What stands out most in 2019, in this division first popularized by men like Denny Moyer and Nino Benvenuti in the 1960s, is its top guys are making the right fights and bringing the goods when they do.
Saturday night at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, in front of an energetic 5,105 customers and just more than one year after winning the Boxing Writer’s Association of America Fight of the Year for 2018, Jarret Hurd lost two titles in the class in another classic.
Written off by too many after being stopped by Jermall Charlo is his first crack at a title in 2016, 29-year old Julian Williams (27-1-1, 16 KO), 153 ¾, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, went on the road, scored a second round knockdown, and unseated 28-year old Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KO), 153 ¾, of Accokeek, Maryland with a rousing unanimous decision to win the IBF, IBO and WBA crowns at 154 lbs.
The referee was Bill Clancy.
Hurd, the local favorite, walked out to the sounds of the Washington Redskins Marching Band as Williams, who needed to strip to make the weight on Friday, waited for his chance at a championship destiny a few extra moments. After the Marching Band, it was rap artist Young Slick, Hurd’s brother, bringing bars for the final stretch of steps into the ring for a champion who came adorned in a cape with Shazam lightning bolts on the gear for his team.
The crowd loved every bit of it, roaring approval from the moment the lights first went down until Hurd was finally announced. Then the bell sounded and it was time to fight and the magic lightning bolt reached to the other side of the ring.
Williams won the opening round largely on the basis of being the only one interested in moving his hands for the first three minutes. That changed dramatically in a phone booth second round, again won by Williams but on much stronger terms. Catching Hurd near the ropes late, a left hand sent Hurd to deck. He beat the count and weathered the storm but his legs were still wobbly as he headed to the corner.
The leg weren’t back as Williams came out to attack in the third but Hurd kept inside and both men took the measure of each other in a physical third round. Hurd closed stronger but in the fourth it was a clinic of in-fighting from Williams who kept his shots shorter and landing against a Hurd who couldn’t find the target often enough.
Williams controlled much of the fifth but the crowd came unglued late in the round when a big shot from Hurd had Williams holding on. Hurd came after him to start the sixth and Williams appeared unsteady but both men soon resolved to the trenches and resumed beating away at each other to the joy of the masses.
Shifting gears in the seventh, Williams backed off and boxed in what passed for the first breather round since the first. Both men had moments in a genuine swing round. It was almost all Williams in the next as he landed more, landed harder, and left Hurd bleeding around the right eye as the champion headed to the stool at the bell.
Starting strong, the crowd willing him with chants of “Swift! Swift!” Hurd backed Williams up with some big shots to start the eighth but soon was again struggling at close quarters with the more accurate challenger. Following a break to fix loose tape on Hurd’s left glove, Williams landed a blistering combination to make his case to the judges.
The tape on Hurd’s glove forced another break in a more measured, for this night, tenth round that could have gone to either battler. With two rounds to go, Williams appeared to be ahead but six long minutes remained.
Williams made the most of them.
Hurd made it look closer than it was by staying inside but it was Williams raking him with uppercuts and body shots, leaving Hurd’s face a mess and his titles in danger of transfer as the final bell sounded on another Fight of the Year contender for Hurd.
The crowd did not sway the judges. The officials rewarded Williams’ effort at 116-111 and 115-112 twice. According to CompuBox, Willams outlanded Hurd 273-249 in total punches and outlanded him in 7 of the 12 rounds. Williams threw (687) and landed (273) more punches than any other Hurd opponent in 11 fights tracked by CompuBox.
Speaking with the press after the fight, Williams’ trainer Stephen Edwards compared their game plan to the strategy employed by Shane Mosley against Antonio Margarito in their memorable welterweight encounter and referred to the come forward style of Hurd as akin to “fighting a zombie.” Edwards also expressed how important it is not to write a young fighter off after a single loss.
Williams was overjoyed and knew what sort of statement he’d made. “”I am just overwhelmed. This is such a great feeling. I outclassed him. I am one of the best fighters in the world. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the title the first time I got the shot. I took the loss. I took it like a man and the whole world doubted me. I went into this fight a five to one underdog.”
The new champion also looked at the bigger picture of what he’d accomplished in his life. “This is a dream come true. I have been waiting for this for years. I never ditched the gym. I never got into girls or left the gym. I am from the streets, but I was never in the streets. I was in the gym practicing my craft.
“The only people that believed in me were my team, but all I can say is ‘and the new’!”