PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 18, 2020
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions


For the second straight year, the first local show of the season ended the very same way - with a massive upset that sent boxing fans home with their mouths gaping and heads shaking. We all remember the stunning KO of Christian Carto last year, and on Saturday night Philly boxing fans watched Julian Williams shockingly lose his world titles in astonishing fashion to a ranked but little known challenger. As it turned out, Williams' first title defense was not a mere homecoming celebration at for our newly minted champ. Jeison Rosario saw to that.

Instead of being a young, plucky, over-matched challenger just happy to be there, Rosario of the Dominican Republic proved to be a man on a mission in his inaugural visit to Philly and first shot at a world title. The visitor made good with his opportunity, dishing a shocking upset to heavily favored IBF & WBA junior middleweight champ Julian Williams. After dropping the first round, Rosario soared to victory in five bloody and brutal rounds of boxing. And when the smoke cleared, the 154-pound division had a new kingpin. The TKO win by Rosario was impressive and without question or any controversy.

Before a large crowd at North Philly's Liacouras Center, Williams opened well and looked good in the first round. He controlled the early going with his jab and stiff right hands. However before long, the champ's eyes appeared slightly puffy from punches by Rosario that no one seemed to notice. And by the end of the round, Williams was bleeding from a cut left eyelid.

In round two, invigorated by his blood-letting, Rosario kicked his game into high gear. The visitor became aggressive and fired punches in an endless stream. Rosario set the pace and strung together the next few rounds. Meanwhile, Williams pawed at his dripping eye and did his best to battle his way back into the fight. He landed his own strong shots, but they did little to deter the charging challenger.

Rosario just kept coming and landing with more and more authority. Slowly it became clear that this was not just a hyped-up young fighter who would flash out after a few rounds. He was wearing Williams down and Julian, although focused and determined himself, was giving ground. Rosario won rounds two and four for sure, and probably had the best of the closer third round as well. But the underdog  just kept getting stronger as the fight progressed.

In the fifth, Williams stayed in the fight, jabbing and tossing power shots, but Rosario walked through those shots. About one minute into the round, Rosario hurt Williams with a left hook. The punch sent Julian reeling backward. Rosario followed, punching all the way. A few more telling blows landed, and Julian's legs turned rubbery.

He twisted and turned, trying to avoid the onslaught. As Williams backed away and Rosario tried to grab him, Julian slipped to the canvas and rolled onto his back. He got to one knee and took a deep breath as he struggled to his feet. The incident was correctly called a slip by referee Benjy Esteves, and although it was NOT a knockdown, the writing was on the wall as Williams waited - still wobbling - for the fight to resume.

When Esteves waved Rosario back in, the challenger pounced on Williams. He jabbed a few times before cracking Williams with a right. Julian staggered. Rosario stepped in and speared Williams with a vicious right uppercut to the chin that snapped his head toward the upper deck of the Liacouras Center. Rosario quickly followed with a jolting left hook. As Williams sagged against the ropes, the referee slid in to stop the fight. The time was 1:37 of round five.

With the win, Rosario, 20-1-1, 14 KOs, claimed the IBF, WBA, and IBO title belts and established himself as a new force at 154 pounds. This was his first try at a world title.

"I’m so emotional in this moment right now," Rosario said. "I came prepared. I knew before the fight that I was going to win it. Thanks to Philadelphia and to Julian Williams. Without this opportunity I wouldn’t be champion today."

For Williams, 27-2-1, 16 KOs, it was a shocker of a loss and a spoiled homecoming that no one saw coming.

"I wasn’t surprised, I kept telling everybody he was a real fighter. I have to accept it. The cut blurred my vision a little bit but it wasn’t the reason. He was the better fighter tonight. We’ve got a rematch clause, and I going to see him again real soon. I appreciate the support (from the Philly fans). I'm sorry I couldn't get the win, but I’ll be back."

After his loss to Charlo three years ago, Williams proved that he could rebuild after defeat. His title-wining effort against Jarrett Hurd clearly displayed that. Despite the upset, Williams still has plenty of fights left in him. A rematch would be a good and telling place to start.


In the twelve-round co-feature bout, Brooklyn’s Chris Colbert, 14-0, 5 KOs, captured the vacant interim WBA junior lightweight title belt with a lopsided decision over Jezreel Corrales of Panama, 23-4, 9 KOs. After nine very slow-moving rounds that played out in a spray of constant booing from the crowd, the fight finally picked up in round ten. Colbert dropped Corrales with a left hook-right cross combo, but the fight continued. In the eleventh Colbert shoved Corrales completely out of the ring, prompting referee to Shawn Clark issue a warning. This wasn't state of the art boxing, but at least it was something to see - unlike the first nine rounds. The two boxers closed the fight with an active final round, and Colbert took the decision by scores of 116-111 and 117-110 twice.  


Junior middleweight Joey Spencer, 10-0, 7 KOs, Linden, MI, pitched a shutout against Reading, PA’s Erik Spring, 13-4-1, 1 KO, in a six-rounder. Spencer chased Spring, loading up on every punch he threw, but the fight never really ignited. Spencer just piled up points and kept pressing. Finally in the closing seconds, Spencer whacked Spring with a left hook that staggered him to the ropes. It was the best punch of the fight and the only time Spencer’s touted power was on display on this night. It looked like he had Spring, however time ran out and Spencer had to settle for a points win. The scores were all 60-54 The referee was Eric Dali.  


Mexican Jorge Cota, 30-4, 27 KOs, stopped Thomas LaManna, 28-3-1, 10 KOs, Millville, NJ, in round five of their scheduled ten-round junior middleweight contest. Cota controlled the action and administered a thorough beating while the bout lasted. LaManna landed a few clean shots but it wasn’t enough to stop Cota from chugging forward and landing consistently. As early as round one, LaManna’s face showed wear and tear, and it only got worse as the bout progressed. Finally in round five, LaManna’s corner asked for the stoppage and referee Gary Rosato complied. The time was 1:22 of the fifth.  


In a four-round welterweight fight, Vito Mielnicki of Roseland, NJ, 4-0, 3 KOs, was extended to the limit for the first time as a professional by Preston Wilson of Parkersburg, WV, 6-4-1, 4 KOs. Although he failed to score his fourth straight knockout, Mielnicki swept all four rounds and won the unanimous decision by three scores of 40-36.  


Junior featherweight Romuel Cruz, 4-0-1, halted Julio Garcia, 3-4, 2 KOs, Madison, WI, after two knockdowns in round one. Cruz, a Philly-based Puerto Rican, first dropped Garcia with a right uppercut to the chin. Then moments later scored another knockdown with a right to Garcia’s body. Garcia rose, but referee Benjy Esteves stopped the scheduled four-rounder at 2:56 of the first round.  


Middleweight Kyrone Davis, 15-2, 6 KOs, Wilmington, DE, scored a fourth round TKO over Atlanta’s Antonio Todd, 7-3, 4 KOs, in their scheduled eight-rounder. Davis dominated each of the first three rounds before unleashing a brutal combination along the ropes in the fourth. With Todd trapped and not answering back, referee Gary Rosato could have stopped the fight much earlier, but instead gave the wounded fighter the benefit of the doubt. The slow stoppage only allowed Davis to needlessly pound Todd some more before Rosato eventually stepped in at the 2:28 mark. Davis looked terrific in the fight.


In an all-Philly junior middleweight bout scheduled for eight rounds, Paul Kroll, 7-0, 6 KOs, stopped Marcel Rivers, 7-3, 4 KOs, at 49 seconds of round four. Kroll dropped Rivers with a right in the third, but could not finish him in that round. However, Kroll took his time and continued to dish out punishment in the fourth, knocking Rivers down twice more. Finally, when Kroll, a 2016 Olympian, staggered Rivers with a body shot that nearly put him down again, referee Benjy Esteves jumped in to stop the fight. This was the third straight defeat for the once promising Rivers. 


Patterson, NJ heavyweight Norman Neely made it five straight knockouts with a quickie over journeyman Larry Knight, 4-23-1, 1 KO, of Birmingham, GA. Neely, 5-0, 5 KOs, jumped right out and took control. Then just past the one minute mark, Neely trapped Knight in a neutral corner and landed an extended flurry that put him down. Knight remained on all fours and made no effort to rise as Eric Dali counted him out. The time was 1:21 of round one. 


In the show opener, local bantamweight Miguel Roman made a successful pro debut with a 4-round unanimous decision over Antonio Lucaine, 0-3, of Mt. Vernon, NY. Roman, 1-0, scored a knockdown with a left hook in round three, but Lucaine survived and even won the final round on two of the official scorecards. Roman won the bout by scores of 40-35 and 39-36 twice. The referee was Shawn Clark.  


In the walkout bout, Chicago junior lightweight Jose Luis Gallegos, 19-8, 14 KOs, beat Ricky Lopez, 21-5-1, 6 KOs, Colorado Springs, by unanimous decision over eight rounds. The scores were 76-75 and 77-74 twice. The fight, an upset in its own right, took place after Rosario upset Williams.

A large crowd of about 3,800 attended the fight which was promoted by Kings Promotions, TGB Promotions and Sampson Boxing for Premiere Boxing Champions (PBC). Six of the bouts were nationally televised live by Fox and Fox Sports 1.




John DiSanto - North Philly - January 18, 2020