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You can’t discredit J-Rock or Charlo

“I will be a world champion, just not tonight” said Julian Williams in the Founders Club of the USC Galen Center roughly a hour and fifteen minutes after losing by knockout to IBF junior middleweight champion Jermall Charlo.

The room was packed yet no one was talking after the fight.

It could of been that most expected Julian Williams not to show up to the press conference or it could of been that this was the first event of Ringstar Sports, the brainchild of former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who has not always been the biggest fan of the media. Schaefer infamously stated a press conference that “real media” have over 10,000 Twitter followers. For those who can’t read between the lines, Schaefer basically implied most boxing writers are hobbyist and not that meaningful in terms of helping promoter the fight (I can’t say I don’t disagree).

Nonetheless, the lead-up to the fight was interesting and one that probably deserved top billing, but neither Charlo nor Williams had merited a headlining spot in terms of exposure just yet. Hence finding themselves in the co-main event spot as Los Angles based featherweight Abner Mares took the spotlight atop obtaining his fourth world title of his hall of fame career.

In the build-up to the fight, Charlo and Williams were about as different as two fighters can be. Williams embodied what fight fans want to see in a fighter in terms of narrative, talent and only wanting to fight the best. Williams for years has called out the top of the division looking for his big fight while constantly saying he wanted the bes. The perception by some pundits was that most Al Haymon managed fighters are guided or protected so to speak, Williams didn’t want to be and that won him over to even the harshest Premier Boxing Champion critics.

Conversely, Jermall Charlo has been a fighter who has been managed well and brought along to develop in his career. Charlo faced decent competition up until winning the IBF junior middleweight title from Cornelius Bundrage- , but had faced former world champion Austin Trout as well as dangerous puncher Wilky Campfort. The thing with Charlo is, a lot of writers have egos and wanted to believe he wasn’t as good as his world championship title suggested and didn’t want to acknowledge that they could be wrong. Some wanted to believe Charlo was overrated or given too much and when he fought a truly talented fighter, he would fade.

That dialogue from the press seemed to have shown on Charlo who appeared focused all week, whereas Williams on the other hand appeared rather laid back. During the press conference, Charlo and his trainer, Ronnie Shields, consistently spoke to undertones of not getting their respect as a champion. Williams on the other hand showed the hunger of a young fighter who wanted what Charlo had in terms of money, fame and exposure. 

Even during the ring walks you could tell the subtle differences in demeanor as Williams walked out to Phil Collins “Feel it in the Air” walking slowly to the ring savoring every step as he acknowledged the presence of the crowd. The choice of music seemed fitting as during the week, Williams explained that he could taste the world title, so it seemed fitting another sense would be his choice for the biggest fight of his career, as if it was an ode to that statement.

On the other hand, Charlo came out to some modern rap song that I am not suppose to know, because I am older. It was bright, boisterous and loud as he walked with a group of family members to the ring wearing clothing that looked expensive and seasonal. Charlo walked with a tone and tenure of a man disrespected while his brother and WBC junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo held his Jermall Charlo’s belt above his head.

The action of the bout could be explained by anyone who attended the bout. It felt like a miniature version of Mike McCallum versus James Toney (the first one) in terms of the high-level boxing combined with pure action. Early in the fight, Williams had success, but appeared at times to reach with a right hand that would occasionally land on Charlo, this success may have been his downfall in the end.

Charlo looked like a comic book character as he massively outweighed Williams who is not known as a small junior middleweight. It just looked strange as no matter what Williams landed, it couldn’t keep Charlo at bay as Charlo stalked him around the ring. Williams was dropped by a perfectly timed Charlo jab in the second, but Williams would fight back, often getting the better of exchanges on the inside.

What did Williams in was a punch that is rarely seen. Charlo caught a right hand that Williams overextended upon and with the same hand threw a right uppercut. It was under Williams sightline and disguised by overhand rights before, it was truly the perfect punch. The punch had the sound of a thudding car wreck and once it landed even the most optimistic Williams fan knew that this night was going to be a learning experience more so then the night he won the title.

After the bout, Charlo didn’t endear himself to the fans as he refused to shake Williams hand and explained he felt disrespected by pundits, Williams and essentially anyone who didn’t believe he would win the fight. I can see his perspective since to be at a high-level and be treated as though you’re not a champion for a reason is frustrating, but the word professional is used in the sport of boxing and whether you mean it or not, you have a few formalities one of which is to at the very least put up the front of respecting your opponent after the fight. Later that evening, it was revealed that he did apology, but it felt thinly veiled as though someone had told him to do so for public relations reasons.

The fact that members of his team egged him on and applaud him for disrespecting Williams as well as a member of the team flipping off the entire arena was tacky. I understand Charlo was treated like a second-class champion unfairly and that his mean streak makes him the champion he is, but at the same time – boxing is a sport with a unspoken and written code of conduct of class. We can ignore it, but if we start ignore it some of the sportsmanship, dignity and pride that comes from this sport will be lost and it will be one step closer to a street fight rather than a human chess match.

As for the fight, one of the biggest takeaways for me was Charlo on fight night. During the week, Ronnie Shields, Charlo’s trainer, explained to me that he eats a strict year around diet of very plain food to maintain the weight. Charlo will draw concern from some since about how he makes the weight since not that many in the world come into the ring that big (I am not sure I have every seen someone outside of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson who resembled Charlo). On the other hand, sometimes people are just special and do things that mere mortals are not capable of doing and to undermine Charlo just, because I can’t fathom how he made the weight sells him short as well and with no evidence to prove otherwise it would just flat-out be unfair to him.

The other takeaway for me was how important the story of this fight being told is. If you simply write-off Julian Williams loss and do not honor the level of ability he had in the ring, you hurt boxing even more since that will set the standard to young prospect not to take risks since the media will not give you credit if you lose.

You can not discredit Julian Williams or Jermall Charlo for anything inside the ring. The fight happened well before they could get the maximum return on investment and Williams lost some of his potential earning power based off this loss. Despite what some might say, one lose in boxing does set you back a year or two in a sport in which you at best have six good years to make money.

If fans and writers want to see good fights and want fighters not to take the most convenient fight for them, they most applaud and commemorate when fighters took risks and not downplay a loss as a failed fighter who didn’t live up to the hype that they created for the aforementioned fighter.For as much as writers tell fighters to dare to be great, we need to ask writers and the general public to dare to be responsible and reasonable. Only four people in the world get to call themselves a world champion at any given moment in time, more often then not less than that, so when a high-level fighter loses to another high-level fighter, it should not the be the end of one’s career.

What Julian Williams and Jermall Charlo was a welcomed sign of elite fighters competing to give clarity to a stacked division, junior middleweight, so that a star can emerge. You can not discredit either Williams or Charlo for anything they did on this night in the ring.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle