PHILADELPHIA -- Jeison Rosario's only defeat came against an opponent Julian "J Rock" Williams had beaten easily, but that meant nothing when they met each other.
In a major upset, Rosario stopped Williams in the fifth round of Williams' homecoming fight to take his unified junior middleweight world title in the Premier Boxing Champions on Fox main event Saturday night at Temple University's Liacouras Center.
"I'm so emotional in this moment right now," Rosario said through an interpreter. "When I lost my [first] fight I said I will never lose again until I become champion of the world and that's what happened tonight. I came prepared. I knew before the fight that I was going to win it."
Williams was making the first defense of the two 154-pound belts he won by upset decision from Jarrett Hurd on May 11 in a 2019 fight of the year contender in Hurd's home region in Fairfax, Virginia. When Williams returned to his hometown, he suffered the same fate in only his third fight in Philly and first since 2011, when he was still a six-round preliminary fighter.
On a snowy night, with Philadelphia-born boxing legend Bernard Hopkins at ringside, Rosario, who embraced his road warrior status, stunningly ended Williams' title reign and wrecked his plans for either a rematch with Hurd or a three-belt unification fight with Jermell Charlo, both of which were on the drawing board.
"I knew it. It is no surprise for me," said Sampson Lewkowicz, Rosario's promoter. "I said to everyone before the fight that we will win by KO before the sixth round and that is exactly what happened. Anytime [Williams] wants a rematch we will honor [his contractual rematch option]."
It was a spirited fight from the start, but Williams encountered some trouble in the second round when Rosario raised swelling around his left eye and opened a small cut, which Williams continually touched with his glove throughout the fight. When they traded heavy right hands in the third round, Rosario gave Williams (27-2-1, 16 KOs), 29, a smile to acknowledge it.
Rosario led 39-37 on two scorecards and it was 38-38 on the third going into the fifth round, when Rosario hurt Williams with a left hand and continued to unload punches. He was pounding Williams along the ropes, and when Williams grabbed on and fell to the mat, referee Benjy Esteves ruled it a slip. But Williams struggled to get to his feet, and the Miami-based Dominican Republic native Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs), 24, was all over him.
Rosario hammered him with a right uppercut that sent Williams bouncing off the ropes and nearly down as Esteves stepped in and waved off the fight at 1 minute, 37 seconds to give Rosario the unlikely victory.
"I would have started doing training camps a little earlier if I had known these were going to be the results," Rosario said. "Thanks to Philadelphia and to Julian Williams. Without this opportunity I wouldn't be champion today."
The hometown fans were displeased with the stoppage and pelted the ring with debris, but order was quickly restored.
According to CompuBox, Rosario landed 65 of 286 punches (23%) and Williams landed 58 of 239 (24%). But it was Rosario who closed the show, outlanding Williams 17-6 in the fifth round.
Williams made no excuses.
"I wasn't surprised he was so good. I told everybody he's a real fighter. I have to accept it," Williams said. "The cut blurred my vision a little bit, but it wasn't the reason why I lost. He was the better fighter tonight. We've got a rematch clause. I'll see him again soon. I'll be back."
Rosario's only loss came in 2017 by sixth-round knockout to Nathaniel Gallimore, a fighter Williams handily outpointed in a 2018 title eliminator.
When Rosario got the unexpected title shot -- Williams was supposed to meet Hurd in a rematch in December but Hurd wound up pulling out, forcing Williams into January -- he had no problem heading to Williams' hometown.
In the lead-up to the fight, he proclaimed that "it's going to be like a Rocky movie. We're going to scrap it out from start to finish. I'm going to end up as the new Rocky in Philadelphia that night."
His prediction came true.
Colbert routs Corrales
In the co-feature, junior lightweight Chris Colbert, a top prospect, took a big step up in competition and won a wide unanimous decision over former world titlist Jezreel Corrales to claim a vacant interim world title.
It was a lackluster fight that featured little action, but Colbert was the clear winner: 117-110, 117-110 and 116-111.
"He's very awkward. He's slick and fast," Colbert said. "It was hard to catch him because he was running, but he came to fight. I take my hat off to him. I had confidence coming into the fight. I knew I was going to dominate the fight and I told you all that before the fight happened."
The fight was an exercise in frustration as they spent long stretches staring and feinting without throwing punches. Colbert (14-0, 5 KOs), 23, of Brooklyn, New York, his hair dyed purple to match his outfit, landed a few solid right hands and occasional combinations, and Corrales tried to counter but often lunged and missed with his shots. The crowd at various times booed and shouted, "Boring!"
Colbert's biggest moment came midway through the 10th round when he landed a left hook followed by a right on top of the head that dropped Corrales. Colbert finished the round landing a steady diet of left hands.
In the 11th round, as they mixed it up a bit, Colbert shoved aside Corrales and he tumbled to the canvas and out of the ring before getting to his feet and climbing back in.
Corrales (23-4, 9 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Panama, who held a 13-pound world title from 2016 to 2017 and made two successful defenses, lost for the third time in his past four bouts, doing so because he landed very few punches. According to CompuBox, Colbert landed 122 of 444 (28%) and Corrales landed just 59 of 426 (14%).
"I felt like I made him struggle for a lot of the fight," Corrales said. "The knockdown wasn't from being hurt; it was my balance. Our feet got tangled and I lost my balance. I came in here to win. We both did our jobs, but the judges scored his pushing more than his punching."
Also on the undercard
• Junior middleweight prospect Joey Spencer (10-0, 7 KOs), 19, of Linden, Michigan, waltzed past Erik Spring (13-4-2, 1 KO), 35, of Reading, Pennsylvania, for a shutout decision, 60-54 on all three scorecards, in a snoozer. There was almost no action at all except for the final few seconds of the fight, when Spencer rocked Spring with a left hand and fired a few more shots before the final bell.
• Junior middleweight Jorge Cota (30-4, 27 KOs), 32, of Mexico, and Thomas "Cornflake" LaManna (28-3-1, 10 KOs), 28, of Millville, New Jersey, engaged in a rock 'em, sock 'em slugfest that left both of their faces marked up before LaManna's corner threw in the towel in the fifth round. That came after LaManna had taken several fierce punches, including a big uppercut, and referee Gary Rosato recognized the corner's request and stopped the fight at 1:22. Cota, who outlanded LaManna 111-53, according to CompuBox, has won two fights in a row since getting knocked out in the third round by Jermell Charlo in June. LaManna saw an eight-fight (7-0-1) unbeaten streak end.
• Welterweight Vito Mielnicki Jr. (4-0, 3 KOs), a 17-year-old from Roseland, New Jersey, who received a special permit to turn pro in July, brought out a lot of fans who cheered for him throughout his shutout decision of Preston Wilson (6-3-1, 4 KOs), 27, of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Mielnicki won 40-36 on all three scorecards.
• Philadelphia junior featherweight Romuel Cruz (4-0-1, 2 KO), 26, knocked out Julio Garcia (3-4, 2 KOs), 29, of Madison, Wisconsin, in the first round of a scheduled four-rounder. Cruz, who shares trainer Stephen "Breadman" Edwards with Williams, dropped Garcia with a right uppercut and moments later with a right hand to the body. Garcia beat the count, but Esteves waved off the fight at 2:56.
• In an all-Philadelphia fight, welterweight Paul Kroll (7-0, 6 KOs), 24, a 2016 U.S. Olympic trials champion, scored three knockdowns in an impressive fourth-round knockout of Marcel Rivers (7-3, 4 KOs), 32, in their scheduled eight-round fight.
Kroll landed a solid right hand in the third round that sent Rivers sprawling to the mat for the first knockdown. A series of heavy shots dropped Rivers in the fourth round. Rivers was down again seconds later from a left uppercut. When Kroll landed another shot, Esteves stopped it at 49 seconds.