Julian Williams

Overbrook High grad Julian Williams overcame odds to become a boxing champion.


Dreams do come true. Just ask Philadelphia’s latest boxing champion, Julian “J-Rock” Williams.

On May 11, the Overbrook High grad unanimously outpointed Jarrett Hurd in front of the defending champ’s home fans at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, to take the IBF, WBA and IBO super welterweight titles.

“Everyone has been coming up and congratulating me,” said Williams, who is now 27-1-1 and bears a strong resemblance to former undisputed middleweight and lineal light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. “It’s been a great experience and definitely a dream come true.”

Support The Philadelphia Tribune

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support the nation's longest continuously published newspaper serving the African American community by making a contribution.

With his championship, the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection now boasts three boxing champions at the same time, a feat that may be a first. Stephen Fulton Jr. (16-0, 7 knockouts) earned a unanimous decision over Paulus Ambunda to capture the IBO super bantamweight championship. The Fulton-Ambunda fight was on the undercard of the Williams-Hurd bout.

The third titlist, Tevin Farmer, is the IBF super featherweight champion. He is 29-4-1 with one no-contest. Farmer retained his crown by defeating Jano Carroll on March 15 at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a good time for boxing in Philly,” said Stephen Edwards, Williams’ trainer. “There’s a lot of talent out there.”

And a lot of stories. J-Rock overcame homelessness at 13 while his mother struggled with drug addiction and his father was incarcerated. Living in and out of shelters was his life.

After his mother’s death in 2013, he became focused on becoming a champion. On Dec. 12, 2016, he fought Jermall Charlo for the IBF light middleweight title. Charlo won with a fifth-round knockout.

That was Williams’ first and last loss. He’s won five in a row since then and the 29-year-old is feeling good. Williams is enjoying the victory streak but he knows there’s more to learn about the sweet science.

“I’ve worked very hard to make it this far but there’s still more work to do,” Williams said. “I’d like to unify the titles. There are some great fighters out there and it will be a challenge.”

Currently, Argentina’s Brian Castano is the WBA regular champion. He is 15–0–1 with 11 knockouts.

In a sport where alphabets rule, the WBA recognizes title holders from the WBC, WBO, and IBF. The WBA refers to a champion who holds two or more of these titles in the same weight class as a Super Champion, Unified Champion, or Undisputed Champion.

Tony Harrison, of Detroit, is the WBC champion. He’s 28-2 with 21 knockouts.

Mexico’s Jaime Munguia is 33-0 with 26 knockouts. He’s the WBO titlist.

Now that he’s champion, Williams would love to make his first title defense in Philadelphia. Only two of his fights have occurred in the city.

“It would be nice,” Williams said. “It would be a great opportunity to show everyone [locally] how far I’ve come and what I can do. “

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.