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Julian Williams and Stephen Edwards Head Toward the Light

By Gabriel Montoya

The very foundation of boxing is the relationship between a trainer and his fighter. The relationship ranges from father and son to general and soldier. Among that spectrum are a myriad of roles. Above all, trust and the willingness to grow and change to keep the relationship fresh and healthy. Success keeps it moving forward but truly binds it. Often its genesis is the trainer’s ability to show a fighter a signature move and make it work. Such was the case with trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards and rising contender Julian “J Rock” Williams. The two will bring their chemistry, strategy and full arsenal to bear when they square off against Michael Medina on the undercard of the Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara main event tonight at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

I used to fight a lot in school and stuff like that,” Williams told on a recent gym visit to San Carlos, CA’s Undisputed Boxing Gym. “One day, I saw this guy running and I asked him what he was running for. He told me he was a boxer and asked if I wanted to meet him at the gym.”
Williams was the only kid in his group who took the fighter up on his offer to get off the basketball court and into the boxing gym. For the 12-year-old from Philadelphia, the moment was metamorphosing.
I stepped in the ring and I knew I was going to be a champion. Right there, I knew I wanted to box,” said Williams. “I can’t explain it. It was just a feeling when I got in the ring that this is what I wanted to do and I’ve been boxing ever since.”
Edwards is best known for his column on in which he takes on boxing fans’ questions about a wide variety of subjects. Reading him over the years, I’ve come to respect his takes on various topics, chief among them, the art of fighting.
I’ve got a friend that told me, ’The first guy you ever train is going to be a world champion and no one is going to believe it,’ and it’s funny because I really believe that about Julian. When I first saw him box, I was like, ’This kid is good but he needs a lot of work.’ I know he took that personal. He would throw one jab. He was stiff. He was more like a tough street kid.”
Williams was a talented amateur fighter with a record of 77-10. The problem was at the local level, he could do well. Beyond that, he was not so successful.
The knock on him was that he could beat people in our area and he could win the Philly Golden Gloves but he wasn’t winning the Nationals. So I asked him, ’What are you doing? Why aren’t you doing better on the national scene?’” said Edwards.
Williams didn’t really have an answer, so Edwards began to gather data through questions and observing Williams in the gym. What he found was that “J Rock” wasn’t keeping track of how many miles he was running; his diet was erratic; supplementation was nil and his physical training was rudimentary at best. Worse than that, Williams said he’d been taking a laxative to make weight. “He’d just box and do some push-ups, sit-ups and go home,” said Edwards. “He was 77-10 with no resources. He never took a vitamin or anything.”
Edwards took it upon himself to help the young fighter and the young man responded in kind by giving everything he has to training.
Our relationship is special because I trust him,” said Williams. “He’s a very intelligent guy. Don’t tell him I said that. He’s a very intelligent guy. He’s always willing to learn. He doesn’t have an ego about me getting better in my career. And he’s a young guy. His ambition to be great matches my ambition to be great. I think it just meshes in. It makes for a great duo.”
Don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t Butterbean. The kid can fight his butt off,” said Edwards. “I just knew he had a high upside because he was doing this well. He was ranked number three in the country at 152 pounds with no resources. He wasn’t taking vitamins. He wasn’t dieting or running correctly. He was just boxing and going home.”
While Edwards isn’t the most experienced trainer in the world, Williams is his first emerging talent, the proof of his talents lies in their experiences together.
Slowly but surely, I would tell him certain things. One of our first fights together I told him something,” said Edwards, who didn’t reveal what it was, “and he ended up knocking the guy out in 28 seconds.” The rest is history still being written as the two ride toward Williams’ 16th pro fight.
As the two moved long on their journey, supplementation and searching for a higher level of performance brought them to San Carlos and to Undisputed. Williams is sponsored by SNAC System, a supplementation company based in San Carlos and run by Victor Conte of BALCO infamy and Tower of Power fame. Conte examined Williams’ blood samples to find what he was deficient in. What he found confirmed much of what Edwards surmised about Williams’ performance throughout camp on fight night. After supplementing properly to shore up his vitamin and mineral deficiencies brought on by hard training, Edwards sees the difference.
Even when he is cutting weight, he doesn’t have that weak day where he is says, ’I don’t want to spar today.’ He’s good now,” said Edwards.
Williams and Edwards spent a week in San Carlos in a sort of mini-camp for Medina. While here, Williams underwent grueling workouts with sprint coach Remi Korchemny and tried out the newly-constructed SNAC Altitude Dome. Inside the dome, athletes can run through a variety of exercises from pad work to jumping rope and more in a high altitude setting.
This right here is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s different; you know?” said Williams, who also took part in hypoxic boxing drills using a hypoxicator which simulates high altitude but in a much more mobile fashion. “I was on the track with Remi and Victor yesterday. They put me through some very good things. It’s working. I can feel it because, first of all, it’s something I’ve never done before, so its kind of checking my body. It’s good. I’m impressed.”
The path Edwards and Williams have chosen together takes them to Medina, a 26-4-2 (19) veteran coming off a first round stoppage loss to Willie Nelson in March of last year. The way Williams sees it, Medina is also a fighter with his back to the wall.
If I lose, what’s that set me back, a year-and-a-half? I can’t afford that,” Williams admitted.
The odds are that Medina will lose to Williams in quick fashion. Though Medina is a taller at 6’ to Williams’ 5’10½”, the reach advantage is Williams’ by a half-inch. Youth, power, speed and strength all likely favor Williams in this one.
I just want to take it one fight at a time and get to where I am getting to,” said Williams. “I’m not thinking about nobody or nothing else. Prospect or contender, it doesn’t really matter until I beat Michael Medina.”
In boxing, with these young guys, when you tell them something, it has to work. If it doesn’t work, they won’t trust you. I have always been good at that in my life,” said Edwards. “I’ve always been analytical in my life. I’ve always been able to assess a problem and be able to solve it.”
Medina represents another opportunity for “Breadman” to be proven correct.
Here are two training videos I shot while the duo was in town.
Julian Williams
Stephen Edwards
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, via iTunes subscription at You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PT.

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