Julian Williams upsets Jarrett Hurd to claim junior middleweight title in fight of the year contender

Premier Boxing Champions

The junior middleweight division just got turned upside down again. 

Former title challenger Julian Williams put forth a breakthrough performance to drop and outlast unified 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd via unanimous decision on Saturday in a clear fight-of-the-year contender from EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia. 

Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs), who entered as a +500 betting underog, captured the IBF and WBA junior middleweight titles on judges scores of 116-11 and 115-112 (twice). CBS Sports scored the fight 117-110 for Williams. 

"Jarrett is such a great fighter and he pushed me but I was just so motivated," Williams said while fighting back tears after the bout. 

The upheaval at the deep and unpredictable junior middleweight division under the Premier Boxing Champions banner continued. It began last year when Hurd rallied to drop longtime champion Erislandy Lara late to hang on for a split decision and unify titles in 2018's best fight. Late in December, Tony Harrison upset WBC champion Jermell Charlo by a disputed decision that the two will run back on June 23. 

In order to pull the upset, the 29-year-old Williams outworked Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) on the inside throughout and showed tremendous conditioning and toughness to never back down. Not only did Williams outland Hurd 273 to 249, according to CompuBox, he opened up two cuts above Hurd's eyes and relied on his advantages in speed and technique to land the more telling shots. 

Williams, who landed more punches than any of Hurd's previous opponents, also succeeded in becoming the first fighter to knock him down in a stunning upset. 

"I'm just so blessed, I worked so hard," Williams said. "[Critics] told me [after a 2016 title loss via knockout to Jermall] Charlo that I was done, they told me I had no chin. I just got back in the gym. I don't want to cry. 

"I went away in camp for the month of February and I missed my daughter's birthday. I'm just so blessed."

Williams, a native of Philadelphia, equaled Hurd's trademark pressure early on and was willing to trade body shots from the clinch in order to win respect. Eventually, his advantage in technique took over as he rocked Hurd along the ropes with combinations in Round 2 before dropping him with a right cross.

The 28-year-old Hurd, a native of Maryland who was fighting in his DMV backyard in a homecoming bout, was unable to completely regain the momentum in the fight despite multiple attempts to rally. Each time he flurried with hard shots, Williams countered with combinations of his own to regain control. 

"'J-Rock' was the better man tonight," Hurd said. "He put me down for the first time in my career and he came through with the victory. It wasn't about nerves. I suffered two cuts and I was able to finish through the fight but 'J-Rock' was a better man tonight. I'll be back, I'll be back."

The action seemingly never let up throughout the second half of the fight as both men traded heavy blows from a phone booth. Yet it was Williams and his steady string of uppercuts that consistently kept Hurd from the kind of dominant late surge that has routinely words down his opponents. 

"The boxing world makes it seem like fighters take a loss and can't come back and I just know that wasn't the case with me," Williams said. "I had to turn off all of my [social media] and block out the good and the bad."

Hurd owns a mandatory rematch clause which could lead to a second meeting between the two fighters later this year.   

"That's not my business right now, I just want to enjoy my win," Williams said. "And I'm sure Philadelphia would welcome Jarrett Hurd for a rematch just like they welcomed me." 

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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