By: Andrew Johnson
Jamal “Shango” James (22-1, 10 KOs) faces fellow welterweight Abel Ramos (18-2-2, 13 KOs) this Friday night in PBC on FS1’s main event (FS1 9:00 EST) at the historic Armory in downtown Minneapolis.
James is the WBA’s #4 welterweight contender and hopes to use the platform offered by the nationally televised event to legitimize his place among the top fighters at 147 lbs. Proud of his Minnesota roots, James wants to continue the recent momentum in Minnesota boxing that began with Caleb Truax upset of James DeGale last December.
Photo Credit: Mn Fight News
James, whose nickname means “African God of Thunder”, climbed up the rankings as a slick, defensive, counter-puncher with an impressive jab. At 6’2”, he reminds some fans of an early 1980s Thomas Hearns, but Shango employs a very different boxing strategy than the Motor City Cobra.
“The best thing I do in the ring is not get hit.” James told the media during Wednesday’s press conference. “I try to bring a little bit of the art back (to boxing). I am not a super big slugger, but I can still hurt you.”
He hurt Diego Chaves in his last fight and knocked out the rugged, Argentine veteran. James kept his distance in the fight’s early minutes with his long, weaponized jab, but brought the thunder late in the third round with a left hook to the body that put Chaves on the canvas and ended the fight.
Friday’s fight will be the first-time James has fought in Minnesota in over three years. He began boxing at the age of five when his mother brought him to Circle of Discipline gym in South Minneapolis. The trainers at the gym teach footwork and crisp punching to aspiring boxers, but also focus on faith and building character in youth whose backs are against the wall. After nearly 25 years of training at the gym, James embodies the holistic approach to the fight game preached by the Circle of Discipline.
“I am at a place in my life where I can give life back to others. I was able to bring a big event like this to Minnesota and we gave tickets to a ton of kids from low-income homes who may not have been able to afford it.” James told the Boxing Insider after the press conference. “We have given 100 tickets to high schools around the city and more to other organizations. I pray and hope that the more success I have, the more I am able to help my organization and community.”
If Jamal James wants a title shot in the next year, he needs to shine against Ramos on Friday night. Simply avoiding Abel Ramos’ punches and winning an uninspired decision may not be enough to make noise in a division full of marquee names and big money fights.
Ramos moved up to 147 lbs. for his last fight and won via TKO. He said that fighting at a heavier weight will allow him to bring new strength and endurance to the ring on Friday and is confident that he will defeat James in his homecoming and the return of boxing to the Armory.
There will be snow on the streets of Minneapolis, but the atmosphere inside the Armory should be electric as the hometown crowd receives Jamal “Shango” James and welcomes boxing back to a building that hosted legends like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis decades ago.