Straight talk from trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards On Julian “J-Rock” Williams Loss
It was assumed on social media, on the Twitter and the message boards, that this one was a “gimme,” an easy at-home defense, for the newly crowned 154 pound champion Julian “J-Rock” Williams.
The fighter had impressed all, across the board, when he wrested three junior middleweight crowns off Jarrett Hurd on May 11, 2019 in Virginia, and he was the favorite, to snag his 28th win, versus Jeison Rosario, on Jan. 18th.
It was assumed, wrongly, by many fans and pundits that the Dominican Rosario wasn’t of the caliber that J-Rock was, and that Williams would enjoy a homecoming title defense, then move on to a solid money fight, maybe a rematch with Hurd, or perhaps a unification faceoff with Jermell Charlo.
Ah, but making long term plans in the boxing realm is almost never wise. Because on the 18th, the 29 year old Williams didn’t have it, the 24 year old Rosario did, and that played out like this…Rosario wasn’t scared, overwhelmed by the opportunity. He showed a high volume style, stood his ground, surprised J-Rock with the speed of his counters. Left hands hurt Williams in the fifth, and Rosario was game to press on the gas, end the evening. This was a predatory outing, and the ref hopped in before Rosario could unload any more ill-intent shots on Williams (now 27-2-1).
So, what did Williams’ trainer, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards think when he heard, “…and the newwwww?” How was the tutor feeling about J-Rock’s second loss as a pro, ten days after Rosario reminded those that don’t know, don’t reflexively underrate a fighter just because he isn’t well known to the masses.
“You know, man, I’m really disappointed at the outcome of the fight,” Edwards told me. “I’ve only been able to look at the fight one time. Rosario wasn’t anything that I wasn’t expecting. But I’m just going to say this Mike, without going into much detail, even if you’re not feeling your best, you got to be able to come through in those moments. A title shot is like a rapper’s first album, a hip hop artist’s first album. I don’t know how much you listen to hip hop, but you put everything into that. So it’s a lot harder to make a great album the second and third and the fourth and the fifth time because your life’s work goes into the first.”
The focus next was on what happens after you climb that mountain, and plant the flag. You must descend…and then get fired up for another climb. “And so a lot of people, you hear fighters talking about, ‘And the new, and the new’ but only the special ones can keep saying ‘And still, and still.’ And I care about Julian a lot, man, as a fighter, but I’m disappointed in the result because I don’t know if he grasped the difference between the hunger that you got to have as far as winning the title and the hunger that you got to have as far as wanting to keep the title. But there’s a difference, there’s a difference, there’s an excellence and consistency. You know, it was one of the things I noticed about Terence Crawford.”
The trainer shared his takeaway perception on the pound for pound ace from Nebraska.
“People always knock his level of competition. And I always say just to defeat top five or top 10 or top 15 guys that are gunning for you and that know all your moves and that pay attention to everything you do and they have months on top of months to train for you and get ready for you, it’s difficult. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Crawford has like, Ray Leonard’s resume or anything like that, but to just beat solid contender after solid contender and beat them convincingly, that is a gift in itself and it shows a level of greatness. And there’s a difference between being great on certain nights and just being great all the time. And like I said, even if Julian wasn’t feeling his best, there were some things that may have happened. Once you get in that ring, you can’t give any excuses and you have to be able to come through in those spots, man.”
The trainer paused, and continued: “And I’m just disappointed, I’m not going to make no excuses, I’m not going to say Jeison Rosario poured his ass off, but I just feel like that Julian should be able to handle him. And that’s just that, I’m not going to pull no punches. I just feel like that with his skill level and his level of experience, whatever Jeison brought to the table, you know, he should be able to handle, you know, and that’s the only word I can just, I’m just disappointed, I really am. I’m very, very, very, very disappointed.”
Boxing fans are a funny lot. They, we, are often predictable. Many folks dismissed Rosario (now 20-1-1) as a soft touch defense before…and some of those same dudes are saying Rosario is an ultra-beast, and can handle any and all comers at 154. That aside, I did wonder, did Edwards think that Rosario would bring all this to the table at Liacouras Center?
“When people were saying that Rosario wasn’t this or wasn’t that, I know what I believe, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I know what I believe. And I know that he was a tough opponent. First of all, Jamontay Clark, nobody signs up to fight a six-two southpaw with an amateur pedigree. Nobody does. I don’t care how good you are, or what you think of yourself. Nobody wants to be bothered with that. And Rosario came in and fought him (Sept. 2018) and beat him, convincingly. And he beat Justin DeLoach (May 2018) who was a red hot guy, and he overcame his loss to Nathaniel Gallimore (2017). It was two, three years ago and you can get better in that short period of time.”
And then the trainer edged forward, into what J-Rock maybe could or should or won’t do next, down the near line.
“I may get overruled on this, I don’t know. But for me, being able to go to sleep at night, and for what I believe Julian is that he got to get that loss the fuck back, Mike. And I don’t care who don’t like this. He got to fight that kid again, he got to knock that kid out. And if he don’t, I’m going to be disappointed in him.”
No punches pulled, verbally. Yes, an Edwards sort is a rarity in this age. Between being “politically correct,” not wanting to irk people in power, a push toward being harsher in virtual reality and softer in face to face interaction, yeah, there are now fewer people that are candid in the way Breadman was in this interview.
“And I’ve made it as clear as I can, and I don’t know if it’s going to be next or whatever. He got to get that kid back. He cannot go out in his career end losing to that kid. I’m just sorry. You know Jermall Charlo I can accept that a little bit. That guy might go to the hall of fame. We could say we was a little young at the time, he caught Julian with a great shot (in round 5 of their December 2016 scrap). This fight, I can’t stomach that. I’m serious, I just can’t.”
Hey, was there a reason why, maybe, J-Rock wasn’t perhaps his best self?
“Do you know what? I’m not going to speak on that,” said the trainer. “I just can’t…I know you probably heard rumors and things like that, and nobody is feeling at their best. Nobody comes to a fight 100%. And there may have been things, and there may not have been things, but if you decide to fight, you have to be able to come through in that moment. Or you can’t use it as an excuse after the fight. You know what I’m saying? That’s just how I feel so I’m not going to speak on that. So all I’m going to say is, he may have not been feeling his absolute best, but things happen in boxing and you’ve been fighting for 10 years like he has, and you’ve been fighting for that long, as a coach, we can’t have a pity party, Mike, because when you start talking about things like that, what you start doing is you start giving yourself an excuse to not win the fight. So when things may have happened in our camp and we decided to go forward with the fight, you got to go forward with the fight. You can’t get into all of the other things because then the negative energy starts to creep in. You know what I mean? Listen, we’ve had things happen to us before and fights and we still been able to win them. That’s how boxing is. Once you get in that ring, you can’t use an excuse, so I’m not going to talk about that. I know you probably got resources and I know you probably know people, but I can’t get into that because we decided to fight and I still believe that Julian should have been able to come through. You get that kid back and he deals with him. I’ll let Julian tell people what was going on, you know? But until then we can’t, you can’t have excuses, man. I got to be hard on every situation as a coach because the belts and the money don’t care about how you felt. The bottom line is, the most important thing is the result. Nobody cares what happened. They care about the result. You know what I mean?”
He’s right– ten years from now, the BoxRec doesn’t say, “Well Rosario won because Julian Williams had a flu and a fever of 103 five days before.’
“And no one cares,” the trainer stated. “Julian needed surgery on two elbows going into the Hurd fight. But because this Hurd fight was coming around in a certain time and we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity, we fought anyway and we won. So things happen. We’d a lost the Hurd fight I couldn’t talk about his elbows. But we won, so nobody cares. So it’s just the way boxing works. And you never heard me talk about his elbows going into that fight or any other fight. Right? So I’m not going to talk about him now. As far as I’m concerned, unless you have a freak injury that occurs in the fight, like you fall and break your ankle or a guy uses some type of performance enhancement drug or a referee just makes a terrible call. You can’t have an excuse in boxing.”
I dug deeper, because Edwards can handle it. I’d picked up on J-Rock speaking on his belief that he’d enjoy a Hall-of-Fame level resume when he was all done, we’d see him as an ATG. Did Edwards pick up on that and say to himself, ‘We got to win a few more before we start going in that direction,’ or does he encourage stating a desire to be a top level ace in your field? Was J-Rock getting ahead of himself a little bit?
“I don’t think that that was a hindrance, that particular thing specifically was a hindrance,” Edwards responded. “But my problem is that when you talk like that, you have to come through in these moments. That’s just as simple as that. Set a high expectation, and if you talk like that, you have to come through in these moments or else people are going, like you, that’s going to pick up on it and they’re going to say, well, you got to be able to come through and beat a Rosario if you’re talking about being a all time great or a Hall-of-Famer at junior middleweight. Because the fact is, the all time great junior middleweights and the great junior middleweights, they can beat Jeison Rosario. That’s the truth.”
Ah, but J-Rock acted like an ATG, character-wise, when he gave full props to the guy who just bullied him hard. Pure class and dignity and decency to Rosario and that was role model stuff, how Julian acted after the fight.
“I love Julian. That’s my guy. You know what I’m saying? So he did handle it the way that you’re supposed to handle a loss. But you know the social media stuff, in my opinion, if you notice my social media, I’m very careful about what I say. You know a certain thing I’m just not going to say. There’s certain things that I’m outspoken about and certain things I’m not going to say. You have to be humble if you not going to come through in those moments, there’s only one Ali. Believe that. You put a certain kind of pressure on yourself when you say certain things. You bring a certain energy to yourself when you say certain things, it’s not always bad, but you have to come through because when you don’t come through it lowers your morale,” said Edwards. “If you don’t come through it can ruin you. And I don’t think Julian is ruined from this fight, but he has to be humble, he has to shut up and he has to fight. He has to watch what he says on social media because if you picked up on it, other people are going to pick up on it.”
So, the future, J-Rock’s next. Does Edwards KNOW he can bounce back, like he did after that Charlo loss?
The trainer: “We got to see, we got to see. Everything from now, knowing this, we have to see. Do I believe it can be done? Yes. But there’s a certain kind of willpower, and certain kinds of mental stability that you have to have when you take an embarrassing loss like that. Now he did before, but who wants to keep having to do it again? You know what I mean? I have to say, do I believe he can? Yes. But being able to do something and actually doing it are two different things. You know, it didn’t take a long drawn out beating but got hit with some shots that I didn’t like. I think Rosario’s a very, very good fighter, but I just don’t believe that he should be able to do that to Julian on the level. I don’t believe that and I’m going to stick with that and I don’t care what nobody else says..I got to see Julian in camp, I got to see if he does some of the little things that we talked about that may or may not… that could creep up on him….I got to see if he’s willing to do (the hard mental and physical work to bounce back again). I believe that he is, but we just have to see, you know, I don’t want to see him lose like that again. That’s an unnecessary loss as far as I’m concerned.”
I told Edwards, I believe he loves J-Rock, and so I figured next camp, he’ll be looking really hard to see how his faculties are and how his ability to withstand a punch is. Does it worry the trainer, two stoppage losses?
“It’s concerning. It’s concerning. It’s concerning, it is,” Breadman stated. “Like I said, one thing I don’t want to do is get too low. Just like I don’t get too high after the high. I have to see. We’re in the stage of boxing where people push the panic button, I’m not going to push the panic button. I’ve known fighters that have been stopped, great fighters who’ve been stopped more than once. Hearns, it happens.
“But he might not be on that level Lennox Lewis been stop more than once. Shit happens in boxing, I get it, I understand it, but it’s concerning. It’s very concerning. Like I said, I felt differently about this one than the Charlo fight. Jermall might go to the hall of fame. He might be a guy that wins titles at 54, 60 and 68. I really viewed that as some mistakes, maybe hydration and he got caught with a great shot. This fight was a little bit different from what my eyes tell me. So it’s definitely concerning and it’s your job not to watch a kid get hurt. So I have to see, there was some other factors that played into it, and we just have to see, you got to be mature about it. You got to be clearheaded about it. You don’t want to push the panic button. Tony Harrison was stopped twice and he came back and gave a great account of himself versus Jermall Charlo. So things can happen in boxing. A stoppage or two is not the worst thing…But it’s concerning, Mike, and it’s bothersome to me, yes.”
Hear from Breadman, in his own voice, on Everlast TALKBOX podcast, and his take on how boxing is doing dealing with the PED problem, right here.
Now, let’s hear from you. I so appreciate Breadman’s willingness to not just BS, and offer boilerplate responses to the queries…Now let’s get your thoughts, a few weeks after J-Rock’s shocker loss. Can he bounce back? Tell us, in the comments section.