Jeison Rosario, a 25-to-1 underdog, stopped Julian “J Rock” Williams in the fifth round in a major upset on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center in Williams’ hometown — shocking Williams and taking his two junior middleweight world titles.
In Verona, New York, former light heavyweight world titleholder Eleider “Storm” Alvarez earned a devastating seventh-round knockout of Michael Seals.
So how the heck did it all play out this way?
How was Rosario able to pull off the upset? What happened to Williams?
Rafael: I thought this was a real fight when it was made. I didn’t buy the long odds, even though I did think Williams would win. But Rosario is a good puncher, he has faced good opposition and he had no fear of fighting on the road. It was a close fight through four rounds, but then Rosario badly hurt Williams in the fifth round and Williams could not recover.
Williams’ downfall, however, began in the second round, when a shot began to swell his left eye and opened a small cut. Williams was clearly bothered by it. He didn’t use it as an excuse after the fight, but he continually dabbed it throughout the bout and said afterward his vision was a bit impaired.
What’s next for Rosario
The fight was an optional title defense for Williams and he has a contractual right to a rematch. So Rosario could have to fight Williams again.
If there is no rematch, Rosario could perhaps move into the fights that were on the drawing board for Williams. Had he won, Williams was planning on either a rematch with Jarrett Hurd, from whom he took the titles last May, or moving onto a three-belt title unification fight with Jermell Charlo. They are all with Premier Boxing Champions, so Rosario will not lack for opportunities. But there is also this — Rosario now has two title belts (IBF and “regular” WBA), and with them will come inevitable mandatory defense orders.
What’s next for Williams
Williams said in the immediate aftermath that he would pick up his right to a rematch and make Rosario fight him again. It could be bravado, and he could go in another direction, but knowing the type of competitor Williams is, it would be a surprise if he did anything other than seek the rematch next. It wasn’t like he was outclassed or dominated.
Who impressed you on the undercard?
Deep on the non-televised undercard was Philadelphia welterweight Paul Kroll (7-0, 6 KOs), 24, who was a standout amateur and a 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials champion. He looked very good scoring three knockdowns in an impressive fourth-round knockout of Marcel Rivers (7-3, 4 KOs), 32, also a Philly fighter with whom he has sparred. Kroll is a legit prospect and somebody to keep an eye on.
How will Alvarez do against the light heavyweight titleholders and what should be next for him?
Kim: Alvarez showed that there’s still plenty left in the tank at age 35, coming off an 11-month layoff since his loss to Sergey Kovalev last February. Alvarez outclassed the heavy-handed Michael Seals and he did it in style by scoring a highlight reel stoppage at the end of the seventh round with a perfectly placed right hand.
Alvarez doesn’t do anything at an exceptional level, but he is a well-rounded and durable fighter and as tough as anyone currently in the 175-pound division. He is not an easy out for IBF and WBC world titlist Artur Beterbiev or WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol. Alvarez would be the underdog against either champion, but chances are that these fights would go the distance, and he would make both Beterbiev and Bivol put in a full day’s work to overcome him.
Nobody has the punch resistance of Alvarez in this division, and he’s physically strong. That alone will keep him in any fight.
Is Verdejo ready for a world title fight? Who should he fight next?
Kim: While Verdejo scored a lopsided unanimous decision over Manuel Rojas, he showed that the process is going to take some time under the tutelage of new trainer Ismael Salas. Salas, a respected, veteran trainer with a solid resume, is going to need some more work in the gym to polish up “Diamante” Verdejo.
In the early part of the bout, Verdejo looked a bit skittish from the outside, and then got more comfortable in the middle to late rounds as he started letting both hands go. Developing that left hook to the body after the right cross is going to be a point of emphasis for Salas.
Based on this fight, Verdejo isn’t anywhere near ready for the upper echelon of a division that is ruled by Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez. Top Rank will most likely give him a couple more fights to get him settled in with Salas.
So who does he face in the immediate future?
Perhaps guys like Sharif Bogere (a fighter who is known in boxing circles, but past his best days), Romero Duno (who was recently KO’d by Ryan Garcia, but has a glossy record) or Stephen Smith (who has a decent record but is a natural 130 pounder).
No matter who the Top Rank brass chooses, expect it to be a boxer that is a relatively safe gamble while being good enough to go at least a few needed rounds with Verdejo.