Fairfax, Virginia: Home is where the heart is. For Jarrett Hurd, it was hard to argue that home had not relocated from nearby Accokeek to Eagle Bank Arena for Saturday night’s super welterweight title fight against Julian “JRock” Williams.
From weigh in to ring walk, a large collection of raucous friends and family from nearby Maryland were making their presence felt.
The feeling of being on the road was almost welcomed by Williams. “I just see a man over there. His crowd can't fight for him,” he said in the lead-in.
Indeed; J-Rock (27-1-1) scored a knockdown in round two, and then stared down Hurd, who usually comes on late. Down the stretch, the Philly boxer kept up the volume, and then, he had his fingers crossed as we went to the scorecards for a bout which thrilled viewers on Fox, free over the air. 116-111, 115-112, 115-112…and the NEWWWWWW.
Williams (seen in STEPH TRAPP pic), seen as a pretty considerable underdog more than was, in hindsight, appropriate, had a hard time keeping from crying, as he realized he held all these straps at 154. He'd been dismissed and demeaned after being stopped by Jermall Charlo in 2016…and it felt better than good to come back and show all that he'd been buried prematurely.
While “Swift” is the moniker for Jarrett Hurd (23-1), the pacing in early rounds tends to be the opposite. Julian Williams landed the only punches of note early, staying away from the exploratory jab of Jarrett.
The second was a different story. After some short exchanges between the fighters, Williams landed a collection of inside shots that hurt Hurd before a right came across and sent the champion to the floor.
Julian continued to apply pressure in the third, landing punches flush almost at will. The champion was leaning on the Philadelphia fighter, trying his best to gain his composure before landing a collection of hooks himself. Looping lefts and rights testing the chin of Hurd, punches coming through a seemingly missing defense. Hurd was able to land two counters that landed flush much to the delight of the ever louder crowd.
As the fight narrowed in distance, multiple uppercuts up the middle kept the speed off of Swift, with Williams growing ever more confident. In the fifth, Hurd was finally able to land some punches of significance that brought the home crowd back to its feet and brought the fighter back some much-needed confidence. As the bell sounded, Hurd attempted to build on his momentum, throwing a collection of combinations with a variety of successes in the sixth. As the crowd began to chant Swift, a right-hand silences the audience, Williams didn’t show a loss of composure.
The seventh saw both fighters clinching and flailing, desperately trying to find the timing to land the one punch, that game changer. As the 8th round continued, both men entered a war of attrition, leaning on each other center ring, trying to impose their iron wills. Every time that Hurd would seem to gain some footing, Williams returned with a cleaner more effective shot. As a cut opened up over the left eye of Hurd, the champion seemed to open himself up to more counters, flailing his shots in an attempt for the one-time equalizer.
As the 10th round action unfolded, collective angst among the crowd echoed through the arena. No matter the angle, Hurd couldn’t set up his power punches, many of which seemed as if the mustard had fallen off the dog. As the bell rang for the championship rounds, the champion seemed to be out of answers for the straight counters and uppercuts of the fighting Philadelphian. Williams played a smart strategy, keeping the power out of the hands of the champion by keeping close in distance.
Before the 12th, Williams almost let out a roar as he flexed to his outnumbered fanbase around his corner. In the final round, both warriors wanted to make sure they left nothing on the sidelines. Large punches were landing from Julian Williams as if to put a punctuation mark on the performance of his career. As Stephen Breadman Edwards rushed to his fighter, Williams raised his hands in the air. Hurd retreating to his corner sans the roar he had anticipated.
With a unanimous decision and Meek Mill playing in the air- Julian Williams never felt more at home with his new belt. 116-111, 115-112 twice for the new super welterweight champion of the world, according to the IBF, IBO and WBA.
Sitting ringside talking questions from the press, Williams wanted to make one thing clear- that his status amongst the super welterweight division was not in doubt. “Instagram and Twitter wanted to make me the sucker. The guy that was knocked out on highlight. But I beat the number 1 fighter. To be the best you have to beat the best. I am the best.” In his in-ring post-fight chat with Heidi Androl, J-Rock almost broke down crying. He admitted he was feeling written off by the masses…and this felt better than great.
Few in attendance could disagree.
Quotes from the winner:
“I wasn’t able to get off. I can’t really call it right now. I have to go back and watch. I was loading up on my shots instead of just letting my hands go.
It didn’t really change my strategy. It was a flash knockdown. It caught me by surprise. I wasn’t really hurt. J-Rock was just the better man tonight and I was never really able to get off the way I wanted to.
There’s definitely a rematch clause in our contract and I’m going to go for it. I’m going to come back better than I was tonight.”
In other action-
Mario Barrios 24-0(16KO) vs. Juan Velasco 20-2 (12KO)
The fight was over as soon as it started. After a few punches exchanged in the first round, Barrios caught Velasco with a counter left hook that landed in the solar plexus; that dropped Velasco to all fours where he remained through the 10 counts. Barrios scores his 8th straight knockout and immediately proclaimed he wants “all the smoke” en route to a championship shot.
Matt Korobov 28-2(14KO) vs. Immanuel Aleem 18-1-1(11KO)
From ringside, it seemed that Korobov had a weight advantage before the start of the fight. The early rounds played out slowly, each fighter having the oft coined “feel out session.” The counter punching of Korobov played the most important role, left hands landing with success. Despite an ever-filling crowd at Eagle Bank, veteran Paul Williams could be heard ringside in the early rounds imploring Aleem to put his punches together. A shot to the back of the head in the early going of the 3rd sent Aleem to the canvas but that was ruled a no knockdown. By the 5th round, Korobov began to time Aleem, taking half steps back and countering versus the lunging blows coming from the New Yorker. In the 6th, two thunderous lefts from Korobov brought a collective moan from the quickly filling arena. The more aggressive style was paying dividends against a flailing Aleem. It was obvious ringside that Immanuel had power that he wanted to utilize but could not find the ability to do so from the angles provided.
Punches began to land more freely in the 8th round as both fighters simultaneously began to let their guard down. A right hand landed in the 9th that temporarily wobbled Korobov, but not as much as the fans in attendance thought they saw. The crowd was coming to its feet in the 10th as both fighters exchanged punches freely in see-saw exchanges. Aleem raised his hands with seconds left before the end, as he felt he did enough late to take the fight. But in the end Korobov deposited too many rounds in the bank. Judges scored the fight for Korobov, 97-93, 95-95, 96-95. Or not… Minutes later as the next bout was underway, officials ringside alerted the press that there was a mistake on the 96-95 scorecard and that the result had been changed to a draw. I asked PBC officials regarding the change with no clear answer.
Stephen Fulton Jr 16-0(7KO) vs. Palus Ambunda 27-3(11KO)
IBO Super Bantamweight Championship
Philadelphia’s Fulton Jr handled his pacing in the early going with a strong left jab against the awkward style of Ambunda. Both fighters traded shots with varying effect, Ambunda towards the center of the ring trying to corral the faster Fulton at multiple points throughout the first 4 rounds. Frustrations ran high at the end of the 5th, as both punchers exchanged blows purposefully and stared each other down after doing so from their collective corners. Bad intentions changed the style of the fight with both standing in the middle of the ring exchanging. In the 7th round, a stretch of 8 stinging jabs coming from an unorthodox hand positioning by Fulton lead those ringside to start a loud “OOO” chant with each concurrent punch. Midway through the 8th, Ambunda swallowed a straight right that dropped him to the delight of the Philadelphia fans in attendance. The championship rounds saw the action slow down with an inability to fight through the consistent jab and spacing of Fulton. All three judges saw it 120-107 in a unanimous decision for Fulton.
—During the opening 4 round bout, super middleweight Mark Duncan knocked out Kevin Womack with a terrifying right hook that left Duncan out on his feet before he fell face first to the canvas. The referee immediately stopped the fight as Womack lay twitching face down on the canvas. Emergency services were brought ringside before he was ultimately taken by ambulance to a local hospital.