Welcome to Bad Left Hook Scouting Report, a column where I pretend to look at young boxers and identify their strengths and weaknesses. In reality, I am using the fame, fortune and unlimited budget I have been given for this assignment to travel the world on a wild binge of sex and drugs, as the life of a boxing journalist is bound to be.
But since my travel agent is more 'shady Yugoslav plumber' than he is 'travel agent', I have apparently been mistakenly booked for a 4 day sheep-herding tour in the mountains of Slovakia instead of the 4 month tour of the Caribbean beaches that I asked for. So here I am, snowed in at 7000 feet in a manure hut, with an Internet connection that I can only describe as... impeccable, actually.
Here are my previous Scouting Reports, written from the sandy white beaches of Bora Bora:
- Heavyweight Anthony Joshua, touted as the next great heavyweight of his generation.
- Light heavyweight Russian youngster Dmitry Bivol.
- Minimumweight titleholder Kosei Tanaka.
- Former 2012 US Olympian Jose Carlos Ramirez, fighting at jr. welterweight.
- Power punching American super-featherweight Saul Rodriguez.
- Former 2012 US Olympian Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz Jr., fighting at featherweight.
- Argentinian buzzsaw light middleweight Brian Castano.
- British giant super-middleweight Callum Smith.
- Olympic medalist and hopeful cruiserweight title challenger Evander Holyfield.
- Cossack otaman and rising cruiserweight contender Oleksandr Usyk.
- Floyd Mayweather's favourite young fighter: welterweight
Errol FlynnErrol Spence Jr..
- Fan favourite Chechen hammer Artur Beterbiev.
- Young and developing American light middleweight Erickson Lubin.
- Kiwi heavyweight banger Joseph Parker.
- Former Mexican amateur star Oscar Valdez, fighting at featherweight.
- Lithuanian dental therapist Egidijus Kavaliauskas, fixing people's jaws at welterweight.
Today, keeping me company in my darkest hour is a plastic bottle of vodka, the howling of wolves in the distance, and grainy footage of Julian 'J-Rock' Williams.
Williams is a relatively young kid from Philadelphia discovered as an amateur by trainer Stephen 'Breadman' Edwards in 2007, who has guided him ever since. After failing to make much of an impact as an amateur at the national level (final record 77-10), Williams turned pro in 2010. He initially struggled to make noise but was noticed in 2012 by advisor Al Haymon, who made him one of his early clients. Williams is a pretty quiet kid, hasn't made waves with big words, big entourages or flashy tattoos but what he has done is constantly improve in the ring. He competes as a Jr. Middleweight and his record is actually deeper than most prospects we've covered so far. At 22-0-1 with 14 KOs, he recently won a title eliminator and is the mandatory challenger for Jermall Charlo (or the Charlo-Trout winner if that bout ends up happening), a title shot we might see in the second half of this year.
Here are some bouts of his on Slovakian Youtube:
- Here is his 10th fight, against 7-1 prospect Hector Rosario ( part 1, part 2 and part 3 )
- Here is what should have been the most intriguing bout of his career against fellow prospect Hugo Centeno Jr.. Their bout was unfortunately aborted after 3 rounds due to a cut but Williams was pitching a shutout on all 3 judges' scorecards. Centeno is still undefeated and rated as a top-10 middleweight prospect.
- Here is his 17th pro fight, a stoppage of formerly relevant but now fading gatekeeper Freddy Hernandez.
- In his 19th fight he went 8 rounds against fellow undefeated prospect Eliezer Gonzalez.
- His 20th bout was an 8th round stoppage of North Carolina club fighter Jamar Freeman.
- His 23rd bout was a very assertive 1st round stoppage of Luciano Cuello.
- And here are highlights of his most recent win, a stoppage of European-level fringe contender Marcello Matano in a title eliminator.
A little sip of Slovakian vodka and...
As usual, here is a list of things I noticed, divided into several categories:
The Very Best
1) Well-schooled fighter. Julian Williams reminds me a lot of another prospect we've recently covered in our scouting reports, English super middleweight Callum Smith. Like Smith, he does almost everything correctly. While not necessarily spectacular in any one area, he is very disciplined and has almost no weaknesses, technically and tactically. In fact, in many ways Julian Williams looks like an old-school fighter: not spectacular physically but very versatile, very patient and technically adept.
2) Jab. We recently had a conversation about how many young fighters seem to rely on speed and athleticism rather than a jab to close distance. Not the case with Williams, who has an excellent jab. It's fast, it's accurate, it's pretty powerful and he uses it a lot.
3) Patience and precision. J-Rock's gameplan is calculated and cerebral almost to a fault. He will gradually break down any opponent, no matter how outgunned, he will take almost no risks and will not waste any punches or movements. Also like Callum Smith, he is always concentrated and aware of what's going on around him, always responds to corner instructions being yelled out and is always able to pull his last punch if the opponent is going down, which demonstrates how in control he is of everything he does.
4) Matchmaking and quality of opposition. Williams's days of fighting gatekeepers and journeymen are way behind him. He's already been fighting fringe contenders on a consistent basis for almost 3 years now. And because he isn't an aggressive, big punching destroyer, he has spent quite a lot of time in the ring with them. He has already gone 123 pro rounds, which by the way is more than established fighters like Jermall Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, James Kirkland or Daniel Jacobs.
5) Hand speed. I would easily mark him down as one of the top-3 fastest hands at 154 pounds.
6) Ring movement. Somewhat unlike many of the prospects we've covered so far, J-Rock moves quite a bit around the ring. This would be most useful against opponents looking to attack him, so it might be more useful in the future than it is now.
7) Setting up power shots. Speaking of a well-educated fighter, Williams almost never throws single power shots. Almost all of his power shots are either in the middle of a combination or set up by a jab.
8) Feints. Like Dmitry Bivol whom we saw a while ago, he avoids being predictable by sometimes feinting a jab but coming in with a lead left hook.
9) Use of distance. Williams doesn't have a distance he is uncomfortable fighting at. He prefers to fight from the outside but he adapts his gameplan well when he is drawn inside or at mid-range. He is also good at not over-jumping on his opponents, leaving enough space for himself to launch shots when stepping inside. One announcer described it as "not smothering himself".
10) Corner. Williams is trained by young Philadelphia trainer Stephen "Breadman" Edwards. It just so happens that the sound system setup in a few of the bouts above is such that you can hear a lot more of the trainer's instructions being shouted out during the rounds, on top of the advice given between rounds. And it's very interesting to hear very very good instructions and to immediately see Williams respond to them in the ring. This is the first time I've ever seen Stephen Edwards work and I have to tell you, I like what I'm seeing.
11) Counterpunching. Julian is definitely looking to counterpunch and I think that if he can add this to his game it would improve him tremendously. His one challenge in his area is timing, he oftentimes seems to be just a tad late with his counters. And like we saw with Oscar Valdez, some of them can be slightly wild instead of short and crisp. Basically Julian is not an instinctive counterpuncher, it's just something he is working into his game.
12) Punch technique and power. The one area where J-Rock isn't textbook is the technique of his hooks. It's not bad, but he only puts his shoulders and his upper body in them. Ideally, he should rotate more with his hips when he throws hooks to put his whole bodyweight behind them, and he should throw them wider because right now they are more like crosses than hooks. I also think that this translates into insufficient punching power as well.
The Not So Great But Improving
13) Work rate and assertiveness. I mentioned earlier how Williams is calculated and careful almost to a fault. A side effect of this is that he generally chooses to be only marginally more active than his opponent. His main objective is winning rounds. If the opponent is active and throwing, Williams will gladly match him. But if the opponent is gun-shy, Williams himself will not press all that much. Now as long as he does manage to keep his activity above that of his opponent, he should theoretically be fine. But you know how some judges are. Too many rounds where you don't assert yourself might come back to haunt you on the scorecards.
14) Inconsistent head movement. I have no idea what to make of his head movement. In some bouts it's there, in some it's not.
15) Body punching. I kept a count, the rate of body punching is 1 punch for every 3 rounds in the ring. Not good for a guy who supposedly breaks opponents down gradually for lack of one-punch KO power.
16) Chin not tucked on offense. Is he trying to see over his opponent's head when throwing power punches? His chin rises from behind his shoulder when he throws combinations like it's the sun about to petrify some trolls trying to eat Bilbo Baggins.
The Downright Horrible
There is nothing that Julian Williams does that is a major problem.
Okay, now it could be the vodka, or this horrible raccoon strudel they told me is a delicacy around these parts, but I am beginning to wonder whether there's something off with my boxing sensors today. I actually really, really liked Julian Williams in these clips. Why don't people talk about him more? He looks to be really good at this boxing thingy. Yet I looked it up and he barely makes any 'boxing prospects to watch' lists. And 154 pounds isn't even that deep a weight class. Liam Smith has a title for crying out loud! J-Rock is probably top-10 already. Could it be that I am intoxicated by his boyish, yet masculine good looks? Or is it the raccoon strudel after all? What do you guys think?