Junior middleweight contender Julian "J Rock" Williams has punched his way into contention but has been unable to get any of the bigger names in the division to set foot in the ring with him. But if he wins his next fight, one of the titleholders will have to face him.
Although the fight has not yet been officially announced, Williams (21-0-1, 13 KOs), 25, of Philadelphia, is slated to face Marcello Matano (16-1, 5 KOs), 29, of Italy, in a title elimination bout on March 5 at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, multiple sources with knowledge of the fight told ESPN.com.
The winner of the bout will become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Jermall Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs), who won the belt by knockout against Cornelius "K9" Bundrage in September and stopped underdog "Silky" Wilky Campfort in the fourth round in his first defense on Nov. 28.
Matano is as obscure an opponent as could be. He has never fought outside of Italy and never faced anyone close to being a name opponent. He has won four fights in a row since a ninth-round knockout loss to Felice Moncelli (8-3-1 at the time) in September 2014.
Williams-Matano is due to headline a Showtime-televised tripleheader. Also being finalized for that card are a pair of scheduled 10-round middleweight fights.
In the co-feature, up-and-comer Antoine Douglas (19-0-1, 13 KOs), 23, of Burke, Virginia, is due to face former titleholder Sam Soliman (44-13, 18 KOs), 42, of Australia, who has lost two fights in a row (his title to Jermain Taylor followed by a split decision to unbeaten Dominic Wade in June).
The opener being planned will pit Detroit's Tony Harrison (22-1, 18 KOs), 25, against Fernando Guerrero (28-3, 20 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw from Salisbury, Maryland.
Harrison will be looking for his second win in a row since being stopped in the ninth round by Willie Nelson in an upset in July. Guerrero has won two fights in a row but is 3-2 in his past five with both losses coming by knockout, to former middleweight titlist David Lemieux in the third round and to Peter Quillin in the seventh round of a middleweight world title bout.