NEWARK, N.J. -- Five years ago, Colombian Joel Julio was a fast-rising welterweight with a 27-0 record that included 26 knockouts. But after losing a title eliminator by decision to Carlos Quintana, Julio's career took an ill-advised detour to the 154-pound light middleweight division, where he floundered.
In recent years, it seemed Julio was a shooting star about to flame out after losing three of his past five fights, including a stoppage by James Kirkland and a knockout loss to Alfredo Angulo 13 months ago. "After five years of thinking it through," Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said this week. "Joel has come to the conclusion he should come back down to welterweight."
Not a moment too soon. At 26, there's still time for Julio (36-4, 31 KOs) to revive his career, and the first step comes Friday night against Anges Adjaho (17-5, 9 KOs) in what Duva described as a "club show" in the AmeriHealth Pavillion at the Prudential Center.
Adjaho is a late substitute for Antwone Smith, who suffered an elbow injury in training for the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights." The card also features Brooklyn welterweight Sadam Ali (12-0, 7 KOs) against John Revish (9-3-2, 8 KOs) in the co-main on the ESPN telecast.
As a fighter who proved his power-punching ability on the way up, Julio found himself on the wrong end of the heavy blows at 154. "I'm dropping because I have more chance at 147," he admitted. "Those guys (at 154) were more strong than me. I've been at 147 for two weeks now. It wasn't hard to make weight. I have more power and speed now."
Julio credited new trainer Anthony Hamm and conditioning coach Jimmy Fedoruk with putting him back on the right track. They changed his diet to where he eats about every four hours during the day, and he trains twice a day.
In the past, Julio said, "I had no condition. I was training by myself. Now, I have a team to push me and bring out my best."
His past three losses were spread over three years, but Julio admitted, "I lost a little bit of confidence. It was like, 'I don't know what happened to me.' My body wasn't responding. You need to stay strong physically and mentally."
In preparation for this bout, Julio said he has been sparring regularly against fighters weighing anywhere from 160 to 180 and handling them well. He claims to have knocked out two sparring partners, one stopped by a body shot and one by a blow to the head.
If he can do something like that on ESPN, it could jump-start his career again.
"My confidence is back," Julio said. "I want to win this fight and try to beat him early. That would be spectacular for me."