Julian Williams does the expected, Khurtsidze steals the show
As predicted by pretty much everyone, Julian Williams outclassed Marcello Matano en route to a seventh-round stoppage in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. The Showtime-televised bout ended with Matano on his feet but getting rag-dolled by shots from Williams, who is now the mandatory challenger for Jermall Charlo’s IBF junior middleweight title.
Any way you can count or classify a punch, Williams (22-0-1, 14 knockouts) outdid Matano (16-2, 5 KOs) and it was clear from the beginning that the 29-year-old Italian, fighting outside his home country for the first time, was on Williams’ level only in the eyes of the IBF.
It was a meaningful win for Williams but doesn’t so much prove anything as it does set something up that will, hopefully. In his previous fight “J-Rock” dismissed tough gatekeeper Luciano Cuello – who most thought would at least force Williams to think – as a 93-second nuisance, but the ambitious 25-year-old from Philadelphia has been frustrated by potential bouts with top 154-pounders like Austin Trout and Vanes Martirosyan falling through. It has happened enough that Williams’ claims of being avoided look like the truth.
And it could continue. If the Charlo fight materializes, it will be the next-level opportunity Williams has been waiting for, but it’s a real “if” because Charlo could give up the belt rather than defend it.
The most entertaining part of the fight was the interview afterward, when Steve Farhood asked a motor-mouthed Williams for his message to Charlo. “Either vacate or fight me,” he said. “Step up. It’s about legacy, it’s about money, it’s about greatness. I don’t care about being a star; I want to be a great fighter and a Hall of Famer.”
And to the rest of the 154-pounders out there: “All y’all are turkeys.”
Antoine Douglas might’ve planned an evening of outboxing a man 8 inches shorter and 13 years older than him, but got way more than he bargained for in Avtandil Khurtsidze, who overwhelmed the promising 23-year-old middleweight from Virginia in a flat-out brawl that ended with a referee intervention at 33 seconds into Round 10.
From the beginning, the man from Georgia (the one with a view of the Caucusus mountains) made up for his significant height and reach disadvantage by barreling his way inside and attacking with hooks. Some he threw at eye-level and hit Douglas’ shoulders, some he snuck in below the ribs and others were aimed at Douglas’ head from below, but they came relentlessly. By Round 2 a cut was open above Douglas’ right eye and he was spending a lot of time behind his forearms as his jabs failed to keep the Georgian juggernaut at bay.
Not even halfway through Round 3 Khurtsidze scored with a left that sent Douglas to the canvas, and when he rose he did so on legs that were questionable from that point onward. Still, the fight saw several micro-shifts as Khurtsidze seemed to tire and Douglas began to land his more accurate punches, both from a distance — when he was able to get some — and in close quarters. But the pace didn’t slow for an instant.
At the beginning of Round 7 Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs) wound up and nailed Douglas with an overhand left that crumpled him for a second time. After Douglas got up, Khurtsidze unloaded (which is saying a lot, given the volume of punches already thrown), but either Douglas had hitherto-untested courage or fatigue was taking something off Khurtsidze’s punches, or both, because if Khurtsidze was counting on referee Benjy Esteves to step in at that moment, it didn’t work. Douglas even seemed to regain the upper hand by the end of the round.
The questions became: How long could Khurtsidze’s 36-year-old body keep up the onslaught? Had he gambled too much on overwhelming the younger man early?
Long enough. No.
More and more it became clear that Douglas’ fate had nothing to do with reversal and everything to do with survival. He was absorbing a hellacious beating.
In Round 10 the veteran’s assault finally came to fruition and Esteves stepped in with Douglas getting hammered on the ropes. Khurtsidze, still going, dropped to his knees and pounded the canvas in celebration.
Junior middleweight Tony Harrison, 25, put another step between himself and his loss to Willie Nelson in October 2014 with a sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Fernando Guerrero.
Round 1 was little more than a tentative Guerrero staying at the end of Harrison’s jab. Harrison (23-1, 19 KOs) started following that jab with sharp right hands in Round 2 and with a few seconds remaining he landed a good one that stunned Guerrero, who went down under a flurry shortly after. It’s not like Guerrero going down is an uncommon sight, though – he has always shown a Terminator-like ability to get up, which he did just before the bell.
Guerrero (28-4, 20 KOs) seemed to come out of his stupor to work up some momentum and by Round 5 was getting inside Harrison’s reach to land a few hard punches that at times even had the man from Detroit backing up. But Harrison was never out of control and in Round 6 he caught Guerrero with a short left hook that dropped him for a second time. Guerrero got up again but it didn’t last long; a few punches later referee Gary Rosato was standing over him waving the fight off.
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