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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Esther Lin / Showtime


Former junior middleweight champion Julian "J-Rock" Williams lost his challenge for the Interim WBC middleweight world title belt against Carlos Adames Saturday night at the Armory in Minneapolis. The exciting, two-way battle see-sawed between the two fighters for much of the bout before the fight was suddenly stopped in round nine by referee Mark Nelson. Although Williams was on the take at the time, the stoppage felt premature to say the least. In fact, when Nelson stepped in, Williams was on the offense. The quick ending to the fight disappointed Williams and detonated his trainer/manager Steven “Breadman” Edwards.

The fighters traded rounds over the first four periods. Williams took rounds one and three; Adames won the second and fourth. Then, beginning in the fifth, Adames took control of the battle and began to string together rounds. Although the champion pulled ahead on the scorecards, Williams remained competitive and even hurt the champion on occasion with his power shots. 

However, during this stretch, Williams was clearly wearing down as Adames began looking for the kill. However, Williams won the eighth round and appeared to be fighting his way back. He came out fresher in the ninth and was also winning this round most of the way. The tables turned suddenly, however, when Adames caught Williams with a jarring right hand. Williams felt the shot and struggled to survive as the revved-up champion continued to attack. Adames drove Williams across the ring with a volley, but as they reached the ropes, Williams dug in and began to return fire. It was at this very moment that referee Mark Nelson abruptly called a halt to the evening.

As Nelson separated the fighters and Adames celebrated, Williams threw his hands up with a frustrated wince on his face. The time was 2:45 of round nine. The fight was over and so was Julian’s opportunity to reboot his career. At the time of the stoppage, the official judges had Adames ahead: 80-72 (Raymundo Perez), 78-74 (John Mariano), and 77-74 (Nathan Palmer). My score through round eight was 77-75 for Adames.

Williams returned to his corner and was practically run over by his enraged cornerman, Stephen Edwards. The Breadman shouted at the referee, vehemently disputing the stoppage. Edwards continued to argue, the entire tirade carried live on the Showtme broadcast. However, this was not a case of sour grapes by Edwards. It was an example of a connected and present chief second supporting his fighter. He expressed the frustration felt not only by Team Williams, but that of every fan of the West Philly fighter.

Edwards did not pretend that his fighter was unhurt. Williams clearly was. Edwards acknowledged the jeopardy Williams was experiencing, but also made the point that the fighter was battling back and still in the fight.

I think the intensity of Edwards’ fury stemmed from the fact that given Julian lost two of his previous three bouts, this prime opportunity was critical in Julian’s career. A TKO defeat at this point throws J-Rock’s viability as a contender into serious question. A bitter pill to swallow to be sure.

No one is saying that victory was snatched away from Williams. However, he deserved a chance to legitimately fight for his future. A contrary argument can be made that this way, with a fight stopped too quickly, at least Williams has a chance to fight again – at least he wasn’t seriously injured. This is also a valid argument.

In the post-fight interview, Williams calmly explained his side of the story and appeared lucid and in fine health. He was cut and bruised, but most of the pain he was experiencing emanated from inside.

Williams will have to think hard about continuing his career. If he decides to fight on, the famously hard worker will have to work harder than ever. His current position is now in the back of the line and any incoming offers likely to come next will be made with the assumption that he is little more than fodder for young, rising boxers. That is a tough place for a fighter to be, but most warriors eventually reach this point. Williams must now decide if it is all still worth it.

Williams, 28-4-1, 16 KOs, 1 No Contest, fought hard against Adames, 23-1, 18 KOs, and was a class act throughout. He is one of the best Philly fighters of recent times and has always made local fans proud. He deserved better treatment in this fight, but as usual, Williams got what he got and did his best with it. Long live J-Rock – and the Breadman.




John DiSanto - Minneapolis (via Showtime) - June 24, 2023