Playing the Odds: Williams vs. Rosario and Colbert vs. Corrales
Unified 154-pound beltholder Julian “J Rock” Williams was one of 2019’s feel good stories and legitimate choice for three year-end awards. Williams’ enthralling victory over Jarrett Hurd cemented him as most publications’ “Comeback Boxer of the Year,” putting him in contention for “Fight of the Year” and “Upset of the Year” as well. Now Williams must prove future prospects are in line with last year’s achievements and defend his ranking as The Ring magazine’s No. 1 junior middleweight against challenger Jeison Rosario. Opening FOX’s broadcast is an intriguing showdown between New York City’s star prospect Chris “Prime Time” Colbert and still dangerous former junior lightweight titlist Jezzrel Corrales. It is an ambitious challenge for Colbert and a match-up likely to steal the show for impartial viewers.
At Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Julian Williams (27-1-1, 16 knockouts) vs. Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs)
(IBF and WBA junior middleweight titles)
Chris Colbert (13-0, 5 KOs) vs. Jezzrel Corrales (23-3, 9 KOs)
Jezzrel Corrales (+430) – Pacey Panamanian southpaw held the WBA junior lightweight title for nearly two years, making two title defenses, impressively taking the title against fearsome puncher Takashi Uchiyama in a two-round blowout. Showed no fear returning to Japan and confirming his superiority, winning a split decision in the rematch despite having to rally from a fifth round knockdown. Nickname of “El Invisible” is misleading, as Corrales will get in the faces of opponents and is not afraid to trade punches if forced to stand his ground. This, ironically, is how Corrales lost his title. In a fight Corrales was controlling, he allowed himself to be drawn into a firefight with Alberto Machado, who landed a picture perfect left hook to end his reign. Corrales was leading on the scorecards but could not have retained the title anyway as he missed weight by three pounds. In most recent outing, lost a dull and tedious fight to prospect Ladarius Miller. Corrales suffered defeats in two of his last three outings, as a point deduction in the final minute of the last round against Miller cost Corrales a draw. I would not downgrade Corrales to gatekeeper status, as his awkward movement and swarming ways are a threat to almost anyone at 135 pounds.
Chris Colbert (-690) – New York City remains in a slump when it comes to producing world champions but “Prime Time” Colbert (a New York City Golden Gloves winner most penciled in for 2016 Olympic glory) is a good bet to emulate stablemate Daniel Jacobs as a world champion. Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions are sold on Colbert’s star potential, furnishing a national spotlight on FOX to showcase his mix of NYC brashness and enticing ring savvy. A flashy speed merchant, Colbert catches the eye with combinations and ability to move into punching position at an instant, thanks to his fast feet. They enable Colbert to process and adjust for an opponent’s angle, quickly switching from orthodox to southpaw stance, sending stinging punches from either posture. Enters off a spectacular first round KO of world title challenger Miguel Beltran Jr., planting Beltran face first in a 2019 “Knockout of the Year” contender. Brooklyn prodigy is only 23, bolstered by a daredevil’s confidence having starched a veteran like Beltran and taken the undefeated records from three fellow prospects. Is a good sized lightweight at 5-foot-8 with 71-inch reach and uses it well, darting around the edges of opponent’s reaches, picking them apart from the outside. Timing and sense of distance are top notch, allowing Colbert to showboat when bored or about to finish an opponent. Is not only growing as a fighter, while I hesitate to call Colbert charismatic, he has a free-spirited personality which is sure to attract fans.
Verdict – I want to go out on a limb, given Corrales’ countering abilities and Colbert’s advancing style, and predict Corrales roughs up Colbert for a majority decision. However as I am writing this (on Tuesday night) I am not aware who will referee this bout but hope a seasoned third man like Gary Rosado gets the assignment. It matters, as Corrales can make it miserable if allowed to wrestle and twist a still-maturing Colbert in clinches. Also, given the southpaw versus conventional style, a clash of heads may end this fight given both men’s tendency to launch themselves forward into punches. I hesitantly pick Colbert for a close victory but it can be wide if Corrales does not get Colbert’s respect. Colbert employs his two-inch height and reach advantage effectively early but struggles in the middle rounds as Corrales’ times and increases his volume, closing the gap on the cards. In the final third, Colbert regains the upper hand, using his feet to outmaneuver Corrales’ charges, beating him to the punch for a close unanimous decision. If this weekend produces an upset, this will be it.
Jeison Rosario (Odds at +800) – Dominican hopes to spoil his rival’s homecoming and live up to the legendary boxing surname he carries inside the ropes. Not sure how Rosario qualifies for a title shot at junior middleweight, since he has only made 154 pound limit once (in 2018) in his last 10 fights. A husky 154-pounder with a booming right hand that seems appropriately hazardous for his athletic 5-foot-11 frame. Video shows Rosario scoring impressive knockdowns even as he throws punches off-balance or with little accuracy. Low level of opposition plays a role in that but there is no denying Rosario has natural strength, which spells danger to anyone below middleweight. The most recognizable victory and name on Rosario’s resume is a split decision victory over Jorge Cota but Cota was blasted out early by both Jermell Charlo and Erikson Lubin in his notable bouts. At 24, Rosario is in his athletic prime and is an impressive physical specimen, who likes to use that body to muscle opponents on the inside or push them backward with constant pressure working from the outside in. While Rosario’s punching power is real, he lacks an accurate delivery system to dispense that damaging payload despite his reach. His one-dimensional attack makes Rosario attractive to watch but also prevents him from testing elite opponents.
Julian Williams (Odds at -2500) – An affable “J Rock” sprung one of the surprises of 2019, ripping two world titles from Jarrett Hurd in an engrossing fight, dropping and outworking his rival during an inspired performance. Many wrote the 29-year-old off as a “one-and-done” title aspirant after Jermall Charlo stopped (knocked down a total of three times) Williams in the fifth round. That setback seemed to confirm Williams’ status as an also-ran, since the Philly native made the quarterfinals of many amateur tourneys, falling short against the elite there as well. Never gave up, rattling off four victories (one against former titlist Ishe Smith), working himself back into title contention. Seems to have channeled the frustration of those losses into a concussive jab, using the lessons of defeat to steel himself mentally despite being a 5-to-1 underdog to Hurd. Excellent form and command of the basics are the hallmark of Williams’ style; every punch follows straight lines but is not basic given how he works angles, ensuring maximum impact. Williams proved he can withstand pure physical force, meeting Hurd head on in the middle of the ring early, but switched tactics in the championship rounds, circling and outboxing Hurd. It is this multidimensional aspect that makes Williams tricky to beat and he said sparring Gennadiy Golovkin and Danny Jacobs gave him an insight on the mindset necessary to reach the next level.
Verdict – It is hard to root against Williams given his genial attitude, despite personal and professional tribulations and he has earned a homecoming showcase after road victories in Las Vegas and Virginia. Williams will dominate Rosario before delivering a highlight reel ending for vociferous fans and I hope the passion in the arena comes across to audiences at home. Rosario has merit as a puncher but he lacks boxing IQ, timing or awkwardness to unsettle Williams. Unable to force the champion into mistakes, Rosario goes into a shell early and is picked apart with a lead jab and heavy hooks. A routine victory capped by a fourth or fifth round stoppage, sends Williams on the hunt for bigger prey like Jermell Charlo or a rematch with Jarrett Hurd.
You can follow Marty Mulcahey on Twitter @MartinMulcahey.
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