By: Andrew Johnson
For the second time in 45 years, professional boxing returns to the Armory in downtown Minneapolis. Last April, hometown contender Jamal “Shango” James (23-1, 10 KOs) outlasted Abel Ramos (20-3-2, 15 KOs) in a compelling fight that inched him closer to a title shot and introduced the Armory as the Midwest’s most intriguing boxing venue.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions
This Friday night, James will headline a marathon PBC card by facing Mahonry Montes (35-7-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight bout (FS1 and FOX Deportes starting at 8:00 ET). Already ranked as the #3 welterweight by the WBA, a compelling win against Montes will put James in contention for a fight with WBA Super Champion Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) or WBA World Champion Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) in 2019.
Jamal James is taller, faster and has a considerably longer reach than Montes. This isn’t news to the veteran fighting out of Sinaloa, Mexico.
“I know that Jamal James is very tall and uses his range well, but one thing that I always do well in my fights is to bring pressure.” Montes told the media. “I am very aggressive and that is what I am going to do tomorrow.”
In James’ last fight, Abel Ramos came to Minneapolis with the same strategy. A shorter and slower fighter than James, Ramos struggled in the early rounds, but as the fight progressed he figured out how to land his own shots and avoid James’ best weapon, the straight right hand. Ramos lost a very close split decision, but he may have laid the blueprint for how other pressure fighters might counter James’ speed and height.
“This is a step to get to that world title.” James told reporters after he weighed-in at two pounds below the 147 lbs limit. A win would be a significant step in his career and one he will attempt in front of his hometown fans and a national audience. But the staircase that boxers must climb in the welterweight division is steep. A misstep by “Shango” on Friday would send him tumbling down the rankings in boxing’s deepest division and out of the welterweight title conversation.
Fellow Minnesotan, Caleb Truax’s (29-4-2, 18 KOs) fight won’t be televised, but he will be on Friday’s card as he looks to make one last title run at super middleweight. He faces the relatively unknown Brazilian boxer, Fabiano Pena (15-10-1, 11 KOs) in a match that is meant to show Truax still has gas in the tank and is ready for what would be his third fight with James DeGale (24-2-1, 14 KOs).