By: Andrew Johnson
Jamal “Shango” James (26-1, 12 KOs) won a unanimous decision in his fourth consecutive fight at the Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday night. “Shango” faced a formidable opponent in former champion Antonio DeMarco (33-8-1, 24 KOs), but he proved to be the more active fighter and overwhelmed the more experienced DeMarco with consistent flurries in the center of the ring. The victory moves him into the conversation as a potential challenger to the winner of the Manny Pacquiao/Keith Thurman bout next Saturday night in Las Vegas.
James came out of the gates swinging and after the first round it looked like his youth, height and speed might be too much for DeMarco. In the second round, DeMarco showed that he had made the trip to Minneapolis to win the fight and not just cash a check. DeMarco cut off the ring and forced James against the ropes, neutralizing the taller fighter’s four-inch height advantage and faster hands. James absorbed the early punishment and did not panic after the early onslaught by the former champion.
“That’s just part of the game,” the hometown welterweight told the Boxing Insider after the fight. “This is boxing and sometime you’re going to get hit.”
DeMarco committed himself to punishing James’s ribs and landed dozens of right hands to the lean area around James’ left kidney. James adapted to DeMarco’s strategy by using his feet to escape from the corners and put DeMarco into vulnerable positions. Though James’ ribs began to glow with neon pink welts, he resisted the temptation to lower his guard and expose his chin. He absorbed the body blows and answered DeMarco’s single shots with rapid combinations.
“Being one of the taller fighters in the division, those guys have to put that pressure on me,” said James. “I have to use good footwork to keep those guys chasing me. When they chase me is when they make a mistake, and that is when I catch them.”
The PBC has invested heavily in James over the past two years, featuring him on four televised cards in a city that had been for years a boxing desert. The national exposure and his recent successes in front of hometown crowds have provided momentum in his campaign to challenge for a title at 147 lbs. As it was in the previous three fights, the atmosphere at The Armory was electric. The partisan crowd cheered every flurry thrown by James and winced at every slicing right hand DeMarco landed on James’ ribs.
“There ain’t no better place to fight but The Armory in Minnesota. I mean, you could tell, looking at it on TV across the nation,” said the elated title contender. “It’s beautiful in here, and the energy is beautiful. This is it, man, the new hub for boxing.”
Later this week, Jamal James will fly to Las Vegas to attend the Pacquiao/Thurman showdown. Though he clearly feeds off of the support of the crowd in Minneapolis, “Shango” hopes that his next fight will be in a different state, at a larger venue and for a championship belt.
Earlier in the night, Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington (20-3-1, 12 KOs) faced Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius (28-3, 17 KOs). Helenius looked like he walked straight from the set of the Game of Thrones as he entered the ring in a black hooded robe to the unsettling sounds of Scandinavian heavy metal. Helenius, who trains in Stockholm, Sweden, was successful early in his United States debut and was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards after seven rounds. But his quest to be the next Ingemar Johansson came to a violent conclusion in the 8th round when Washington landed an overhand right to the “Nordic Nightmare’s” chin.