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.
By: Andrew Johnson
The two best boxers in Minnesota delivered distinct messages by scoring early-round knockouts at the Armory last Friday night in Minneapolis. Jamal James (24-1, 11 KOs) told the welterweight division “Here I come!” with his second-round knockout of Mahonry Montes’ (35-8-1, 24 KOs). While Caleb Truax announced “I am still here!” to the Super Middleweight division with a dominating performance against Fabiano Pena (15-11-1, 10 KOs).
Jamal James believes that he belongs among the elite fighters at 147 lbs. Known as a slick boxer who uses his length to frustrate opponents, James surprised many with the power he displayed in the fight.
“He said that he would be coming forward on us so I knew what to expect.” James told the Boxing Insider immediately after the fight. “I had watched his film and my corner told me to keep that jab on him, use the angles and feel him out.”
In the first round, the fighters threw inconsequential punches to size each other up and find their rhythm. Montes launched his attack in the second round and was building momentum until James landed a series of right hands. The first shot landed squarely on Montes’ chin, rattling the veteran fighter from Sinaloa. James capitalized on the moment by continuing to throw his right hand over Montes defense. When Montes finally lifted his gloves to protect his head, James finished him with a vicious left to the body that ended the fight.
“I was able to hurt him early with a right hand and then that body shot just sunk him.” said an exuberant James.
The welterweight division is full of marquee names and big money fights. After successfully headlining two nationally televised cards in his hometown, Jamal James believes that he has earned a shot at a title, most likely a WBA belt, which ranked him as the #3 contender entering the fight.
“Hopefully this brings me closer to a world title opportunity, if not a world title opportunity in my next fight.” James responded when asked what this victory means for his immediate future.
3,754 fans came to the event, so the PBC may want to let “Shango” fight in front of the Armory’s friendly crowd one more time before presenting him with a contract for a title bout. But if it were up to Jamal James, he would likely want to challenge Keith Thurman for his WBA
Even though FS1 turned off their cameras after the James/Montes bout, no one left the arena. Caleb Truax had not fought in his hometown since his shocking upset of James DeGale (24-2-1, 14 KOs) last December. He turned his homecoming match into a sing along by selecting “Purple Rain” to accompany his ring walk and entered the building like a choir conductor.
In April, Truax was sluggish in losing his title to DeGale in their rematch, launching rumors of retirement for the 34 year-old. Though he fought as a Light Heavyweight after weighing-in above the Super Middleweight limit and faced an overmatched Fabiano Pena, Truax looked sharp in the fight. After absorbing a few solid punches from Pena, he took control and pummeled his opponent with a barrage of power shots, ending the fight in the third round with a sensational upper-cut.
The victory put Truax in the mix again at Super Middleweight with the potential to face powerhouses like Jose Uzcategui and David Benavidez, a third fight with DeGale or possibly Julio Cesar Chavez Jr this fall.
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).
By: Andrew Johnson
Jamal “Shango” James outlasted a sturdy and persistent Abel Ramos last Friday night in front of a loud, partisan crowd at the Armory in snowy Minneapolis. He won by the slimmest of margins, splitting the judges 95-95, 96-94, 96-94.
Clearly enthused to be fighting at home, James came storming out of the gate throwing flurries of punches behind sharp double and triple jabs. He appeared intent on scoring another early knockdown, building on the third-round KO he registered in December against Diego Chaves.
Photo Credit: Brian Schroeder / Premier Boxing Champions
Abel Ramos looked very comfortable at 147 lbs. and weathered the first-round storm. He steadied himself in his corner and launched his own offensive in the 2nd round, catching James with a left hook that nearly flattened the hometown fighter.
“I caught him with some tough shots and he was shaking them off,” James told the Boxing Insider immediately after the fight, “so I knew I had to keep boxing him.”
James’ strategy to use his length and quickness to outbox the shorter, slower Ramos proved to be a winning formula, but the victory wasn’t as easy or as decisive as Shango had hoped. In the first half of the fight, Ramos absorbed combination after combination from James, but he never flinched. In fact, Ramos kept pursuing the quicker fighter and by the middle of the fight he was starting to land with more success.
Solidifying his reputation as a difficult target, James ducked, dodged and leaned away from Ramos’ power shots. “I got slick on the inside because I knew he was going to keep pressuring me.” James said about his mid-fight strategy.
James was also aided by the 3,500 fans who braved the weather to back one of the best prospects Minneapolis has produced in the last two decades. Chants of “Shango! Shango! Shango!” started in the third round and were repeated throughout the fight. James appeared to draw energy from the supporting crowd in the late rounds when he was cut over his ear and losing steam.
The Armory felt like it was made for the sweet science and is poised to host future fights. It was a reminder that live boxing is best when the crowd has skin in the game and is emotionally invested in the main event. The vocal fans may have nudged a round or two on the judges’ scorecards towards James, as a number of rounds could have gone either way.
The WBA was already on board with Jamal James as a top contender at welterweight and it will be interesting to see if this fight will improve his standing with the other sanctioning bodies.
In the locker room after the victory, Shango was both elated and palpably relieved. He came through in the biggest fight of his life and defeated a tough opponent in front of his friends, family and a national audience.
PBC on ESPN Results: Ugas and Flores Win Decision Victories
By: William Holmes
The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona New York was the host site for the night’s PBC on ESPN broadcast. King’s Promotion was the lead promoter for tonight’s card.
The co-main event of the night was between late replacement Jamal James (20-0) and former Cuban amateur standout Yordenis Ugas (15-3) in the welterweight division.
Jamal James took the fight on short notice and replaced undefeated Bryant Perella who had to withdraw due to an injury to his hand.
Ugas, a former Olympic bronze medalist, was surprisingly caught with a lot of jabs and quick combinations to the head in the opening round. However, Ugas stayed consistent with his attacks to the body and looked to work the trunk of his lanky opponent.
By the second round Ugas must have realized that the power of James would not hurt him, as he walked forward more and focused on snapping the energy of James with right hooks to the body. James was matching Ugas punch
for punch in the fourth round, but Ugas’ punches were getting through James guard at a higher clip.
The pace favored Ugas in the middle rounds, and he stayed patient and was crisp with his counter rights and even knocked out the mouthpiece of James in the sixth round. James’ looked like he was tiring in the eighth and ninth rounds and did not have the ability to seriously hurt Ugas, who looked like he was content on winning a decision victory.
Ugas returned from a two year layoff to win the decision victory with scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 96-94.
The main event of the evening was a super featherweight belt between Miguel Flores (20-0) and Ryan Kielczweski (25-1).
Neither boxer was known for their power and both fought out of an orthodox stance.
Kielczweski looked to be bigger and thicker than Flores, but he could not match the speed of Flores. Flores focused his attacks to the body of Kielczweski in the opening two rounds, and besides a right hand from Kielczweski in the opening round on a backward moving Flores, Flores dominated Kielczweski with a high volume of shots to the body.
Kielczweski was able to momentarily trap Flores by the ropes in the opening minute of the third round and land some good shots to the body, but Flores ‘ work rate was just too much for Kielczweski to keep up with.
Flores remained in control in the fourth and fifth rounds and the cumulative effects of his punches were starting to wear down Kielczweski. He remained in the pocket several times and freely threw quick combinations at Kielczweski, but Kielczweski did have his moments in the fifth round.
Kielczweski pressed the pace in the sixth round but Flores was able to deftly stick and move and avoid taking any serious damage. Kielczweski took several more hard combinations in the seventh round but showed he had the chin to take the best shots of Flores.
Kielczweski fought valiantly in the final three rounds, and was able to land some of his power shots, but Flores landed two punches to every one that Kielczweski landed.
Miguel Flores remained undefeated with a decision victory with scores of 97-93, 96-94, and 96-94.