By John J. Raspanti
Though the scoring said otherwise, there was nothing easy about Julian Williams victory Saturday night over former IBF junior middleweight champion Ishe Smith from the Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Williams acknowledged as much after the fight.
“Ishe Smith is a tough customer,” said Williams. “There is a reason he’s never been caught. Everyone was talking about his experience, but I’ve got experience too. This is my second world champion I’ve fought. I carried that experience into this fight. He is a gritty veteran and I had to fight on his home turf. It was a great learning experience for me."
What the judges saw in the ring is open to debate. Their scorecards (99-91, 98-92,97-93 for Williams) suggest a blowout. Hardly, Smith hung in like grim death—pushing Williams the entire fight.
The younger (by 12 years) Williams (24-1, 15 KOs) began the match by spitting out quick jabs and an occasional right. Smith tried to counter, but found only air. Williams connected with a sharp right off the chin of Smith in the next heat. Smith (29-9, 12 KOs) switched his attack to the body.
An accidental headbutt caused a cut on Smith’s left eyelid. Tasting his own blood annoyed Smith—who battled back. Williams caught Smith coming in with a couple of hard uppercuts in round three. He flashed hand speed and combinations.
Williams knocked Smith a back a step with a right hook to the jaw. Smith stalked forward, eating blows, but fighting back. In round five, Smith continued to focus on the body. He backed up Williams and his hands go. He connected with a fine uppercut and some more body blows. Williams moved side to side in round six. Smith stalked and fired. His right was doing well. He opened up again. Williams fought back with a classic one-two.
Smith pressed the action in round seven. He was feeling the momentum. Williams was finding out that the old pro was a hard nut to crack. Smith stunned Williams with a cracking right hand. A second accidental headbutt opened up another cut above Smith’s left eye. Williams landed his own right, but it didn’t bother Smith.
The crafty Smith tucked his chin behind his left shoulder and jabbed. Williams kept targeting Smith’s damaged left eye. Smith fired back, but Williams appeared to have a slight edge.
Williams fought with more urgency in round nine. Smith found his second wind with a minute to go in the heat. He unloaded a nice combination, but was clocked by a left hook. Smith returned fire a few seconds later.
The last round was more of the same. As had been the pattern for most of the bout, Williams started fast. Smith stalked and ate blows. Williams landed a perfect right. Smith walked through it. Smith came alive in the last thirty seconds of the round as the crowd roared its approval.
"I came out and fought my ass off," said Smith. "The judges saw what they saw. This was first time I got cut in a fight so that was weird. The cut was bothering me a little bit, but I was able to weather the storm. He is a good upcoming kid and I think I did the best I could. I could have taken a tune up and fought somebody easier, but I hung in there and gave it my all."
Yes, he did.