By Lem Satterfield
JULIAN WILLIAMS ONE STEP AWAY FROM DEFINING FIGHT VS. CHARLO
Boxing fans want to look ahead to what the future holds for Julian Williams, a hard-hitting junior middleweight contender from Philadelphia. But Williams isn’t interested in that. He is straining to keep himself from looking past his next opponent, Marcello Matano of Italy.
“I’m really focused on this guy,” said Williams.
Williams (21-0-1, 13 KOs) has all the incentive he needs to concentrate on Matano (16-1, 5 KOs) when they meet at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa. on Showtime on March 5. Williams is returning to Bethlehem where he demolished Luciano Cuello in 93 seconds last September. Referee Gary Rosato stepped in and stopped the fight after Williams landed seven unanswered crushing right hands to Cuello’s jaw, giving Williams a quick TKO victory.
There is much more riding on his fight with Matano. The winner will become the mandatory challenger to IBF champion Jermall Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs).
“I know that’s [Charlo] a fight is one that the fans want to see, but I’m not trying to look too far down the road. I’ve got to worry about this other guy first, because I think he’s going to be extremely tough.”
Williams, 25, and his trainer Stephen Edwards wanted to make sure that Williams’ focus would remain razor sharp. So they left their home base, James Shuler Boxing Gym in Philadelphia, to train in San Jose, California.
Even though Matano, 29, only has five knockouts on his resume, Williams isn’t taking him for granted. Matano has won four straight since losing to Felice Moncelli by ninth-round TKO in September 2014. This will be his first fight in America.
“I’ve seen tapes of him and he’s scrappy,” Williams said. “Obviously, he’s coming a long way from another country to fight in an eliminator, so I’ve got to respect his ambition.”
But there is no escaping the anticipation of a match with Charlo, whose twin brother Jermell is on the doorstep of fighting for a world title as well.
“I really believe that can be a legacy-defining fight for either of us and a Fight of the Year (candidate),” said Williams, whose winning streak includes nine knockouts since a six-round draw against Francisco Santana in May 2011. “It would match two, young, undefeated fighters who are hungry and in the prime of their careers. Neither one of us know how to lose.”
But first up is Matano.
TONY HARRISON: ‘I’M BACK, I’M CONFIDENT’
Tony Harrison was an undefeated junior middleweight contender entering his bout with Willie Nelson last July. He was supremely confident and his mind was solely focused on knocking out Nelson.
Harrison was leading on all three cards and cruising to victory No. 22 until the ninth round. Nelson dropped him with a crushing right, left, right combination. Harrison rose on wobbly legs and stumbled into a neutral corner, prompting the referee stopped the fight and handing Nelson a TKO victory.
It was a stunning loss for Harrison, a product of Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym who was nicknamed “Superbad” by the late trainer Emanuel Steward.
“The loss to Willie Nelson changed my thinking a little bit about trying to knock everybody out,” said Harrison, who went the distance to win a 10-round unanimous decision against Cecil McCalla in October. “If I hadn’t loss to Nelson, there was no way McCalla goes 10 rounds. But I really wanted to take my time and get back in the win column. I’m a lot stronger mentally, having made the transition from shorter to longer rounds. I’ve learned to stay focused and more composed throughout the length of a fight.”
Harrison (22-1, 18 KOs) will try to put that lesson into practice when he takes on Fernando Guerrero (28-3, 20) on the undercard of the Julian Williams-Marcello Matano main event at Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., on March 5.
“I think Guerrero’s a step above Willie Nelson, given that he’s fought for a world championship twice,” said Harrison of Guerrero, a southpaw from Salisbury, Md., who has been floored 10 times over the course of his last five fights.
“Even though in the fights where he’s gone down, he’s gotten back up. He brings heart, the skillset, the grittiness and the confidence, which makes him a scary fighter. But everything he brings, I think I’m a little better.”
Despite the loss to Nelson the 25-year-old Harrison won’t completely abandon his lust for the KO.
“I’m back, I’m confident and I’m ready to take similar risks as I did to get to 21-0,” said Harrison. “I still have knockout mentality where I want to give the fans what they want. I’m going into the fight looking for the knockout.”
GUERRERO EYES ‘HEARNS-HAGLER TYPE FIGHT’ VS. HARRISON
Fernando Guerrero, 29, shares a similar experience to Tony Harrison – his opponent in a 10-round junior middleweight at Bethlehem, Pa., on March 5.
Guerrero was 21-0 with 16 knockouts before being stopped in the fourth-round by Grady Brewer in June 2011. Guerrero weighed a career-low 152 pounds for Brewer, a setback he partially attributed to extreme weight loss.
After that, Guerrero went 7-2 with four knockouts as a middleweight. He was stopped in the third and seventh rounds of title fights with David Lemieux and Peter Quillin. They both dropped him four times during their bouts in May 2014 and April 2013, respectively.
“I feel like I’m a big junior middleweight,” said Guerrero, who rose from an eighth-round knockdown for a unanimous decision over Ishe Smith in July 2010. “I feel like I’ve tasted everybody’s power, and I still have my speed and power with 20 knockouts. At the end of the day, this is the weight where I belong. I’ve been through everything for a reason and I’m still here.”
Guerrero’s past two fights were a split-decision over, who floored him in the first round last April, and November’s seventh-round knockout of Daniel Souza Santos, whom he dropped in the final round.
“I know Cecil McCalla, and he gave me some pointers on Harrison. He said, ‘Just go get him,’” said Guerrero, whose last name means, “Warrior,” in Spanish. “If he wants to come out and do a [Thomas] Hearns-[Marvin] Hagler type of fight, then let’s do it. If that happens, I’d put my money on me.”
Lem Satterfield is a writer for Premier Boxing Champions. Re-use of any or all of this material must contain proper attribution that reflects that.