One month before he dethroned unified world super welterweight champion Jarrett Hurd, Julian Williams received a prophetic phone call.
“I’ve got a friend named Lydell who was locked up in 2012 who is younger than me and doing life in jail without the possibility of parole,” said Philadelphia, PA’s Williams.
“Three weeks before I fought Hurd, he called me and said, ‘Man, I had a dream that you came to visit me with three championship belts.’ I thought about that before the fight. True story. Crazy right?”
Williams’ goal is for the next generation see their dreams come to fruition. This Sunday, August 18, beginning at 10:00 AM ET, he will join the fight to uplift inner-city children in Philadelphia during the inaugural Big Rob Murray Sr. “Hands Up, Guns Down” Youth Outdoor Boxing Classic and Back to School Event.
Held at Ralph Brooks Playground, the event honors the late “Big” Rob Sr., who spent more than 40 years helping to shape the city’s historic boxing culture as trainer, manager, radio personality and Director of Boxing for The Legendary Blue Horizon boxing venue.
“My father was the first people I heard use the phrase ‘Put down the guns, put on the gloves,’”’ said Murray Jr., founder of SCORE (Sports Creating Opportunities for Reinforcing Education).
“He cared so much about his community and wanted the young people affected by violence to have alternatives and strategies to dealing with conflict.”
Amateur coaches will offer free boxing lessons and clinics to youth between the ages of 6-to-16 during non-contact drills. An amateur boxing show, including USA Boxing-sanctioned bouts, will follow the clinic, as will a backpack giveaway and dialogue from community leaders who have been at the forefront of the gun violence issue.
“‘Big Rob’ felt boxing was a great outlet to learn how to control your anger while being able to make friends and meet great coaches,” said Murray Jr.
“Boxing mentors can do more than teach how to throw left hooks and right hands. They teach young people life skills in the process.”
Born and raised in the boxing-rich city of Philadelphia, which spawned resilient champions Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Steve Cunningham and Danny Garcia, Williams endured crime and violence that cost many friends their lives if not their freedom, and began leaping the hurdles of adulthood as a homeless 13-year-old in North Philly.
Williams believes he might’ve fell to the same pitfalls some of his friends did if not for trainer Stephen Edwards. Edwards met a 17-year-old “J-Rock” in his Philadelphia home through his amateur trainer in December 2007 while hosting a fight party for Floyd Mayweather’s knockout victory over Ricky Hatton.
Starting in the Philadelphia-based James Shuler Boxing Gym, Edwards honed Williams, now 29, into a champion whose story may serve as motivation on Sunday toward saving young lives.
“I went to the gym every day and stayed in the gym, and it kept me out of trouble. I think I’m a good person to speak out about Philadelphia and where these kids come from. Some of the things they may be going through, I went through that experience,” said Williams.
“I’ve had friends who’ve gotten shot or killed or who are in jail. I can speak from my experiences and give them a little bit of guidance. As far as Philadelphia and all of the gun violence, it has to stop. These things are happening all over the country. I feel the same way about the White supremacists shooting up the malls and movie theaters.”
Williams hopes to leave a lasting impression on Sunday, much as he does with his loyalty to Lydell.
“I’m definitely gonna visit him. I missed his phone call the other day,” said Williams. “The least I call do is to answer his phone call. I keep in touch because he needs some positivity in his life. It gives him joy to see me do well.”