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Jamal James wants to add his name to the big welterweights of that time

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The 147-pound world titlist says he earned his chance against one of the other top welterweights and plans to prove it again when he takes on top undefeated contender Radzhab Butaev on Saturday night in a PBC headliner on SHOWTIME.

The voice on the other end of the line sounded calm, neither rushed nor rushed.

“I’m at the grocery store to buy some stuff. Can you call me back later?

The voice belonged to Jamal James, the WBA welterweight champion and boxing pride of Minnesota. It was exactly one week before James defended his title against undefeated Russian Radzhab Butaev on October 30 in a 12-round event presented by Premier Boxing Champions at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. HP).

Relaxed? Of course, considering that James was shopping on the last Saturday before his biggest moment. The long training camp was in his rearview mirror and he was ready for his next trio of firsts: first defense of the title he won against Thomas Dulorme in August 2020, first fight in Las Vegas and first appearance on Showtime.

“We had a full camp, and I feel good, I feel strong,” James said confidently. “Now it’s just a waiting game. I have to get in there and put on a show for people.”

James (27-1, 12 KOs) understands that at 33, he really needs to do it to make a name for himself outside of his hometown of Minneapolis – and if he’s going to face the crème de la crème of 147 books. He is up to the challenge.

“Yeah sure. It’s not a long career,” James said. “I’m going to try and pull all I can out of the next few years and see how my body feels and then go from there. ‘m planning to make some statements and make a name for myself and I want to compete with the best. I have to prove to everyone why I deserve the biggest fights.

Boxing is a call James has answered since he was five years old, when his mother first dropped him off at the Circle of Discipline (COD) Boxing Gym in a tough neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis. COD has become an important part of James’ life and remains a powerful influence on inner city youth.

“It’s a non-profit organization open to everyone, but with a more focus on inner-city youth,” said James, who is also a community organizer. “It’s more than just an organization, it’s like a second family, or a village if I’ve been going there since I was so young that the people who run it and the people who have come and gone have really helped shape and shape who I am today.

“I learned a lot of lessons there. Amateur boxing is one of the tools to help people discipline themselves and help them with their confidence as well as their conditioning. Boxing is one of the perfect sports for that, obviously, so I started training when I was five and started doing amateur boxing when I was eight. And it turns out I was pretty good at it, but it took me a long time to get to where I am today, which is a world champion getting ready to defend my title.

It was there that he first met COD Founder and Executive Director Sankara Frazier, forging a long-standing relationship. These days, James refers to Frazier, who has been his trainer and trainer from the start, as his father.

“I probably wouldn’t box if I didn’t have my family in my corner,” says James, whose nickname “Shango” comes from the African god of fire, thunder and lightning. “With my father and my older brother Adonis Frazier, I feel extremely comfortable. We obviously have a strong bond, so when they give me directions around the corner, even though I might not see the punches they tell me to throw, the move they tell me to make, even though I don’t think so, or see it, I’m going to do it anyway because I know they see it. I have that level of confidence with them.

I’ve fought tough guys throughout my career.
WBA Welterweight World Champion – Jamal James

Outside the ring, James is engaged and says he and his fiancee plan to tie the knot a month after Saturday’s fight, after which they expect to leave the triplex he owns with his family and find their own accommodation. . They will likely stay in Minneapolis, he added.

Minneapolis, of course, is where George Floyd in May 2020 and Daunte Wright in April 2021 died at the hands of the Minneapolis police. These national tragedies still weigh heavily on James ‘mind, especially Wright, who was the best friend of James’ younger brother Xavier.

“My little brother took it very badly. I didn’t know him as well as (Xavier). I was up north at my training camp, training for this fight, in fact, which kept getting pushed back. I spoke to him on the phone and could tell he was really upset.

“It’s very unfortunate that this stuff continues to happen. And there has to be some type of change… I think we’re getting there, I just feel like it’s moving a bit slowly. I have boxing as an outlet, however. I was able to channel my energy with my career. I could just focus on my training job and let go of all my frustration, irritation, and anger.

“But I’m the kind of person who watches where we go from there. How can we make these changes and how can I help? And the best way I can think of is to be successful and then use my platform to raise awareness of what’s going on and some of the things that we black men and women have to deal with when it comes to of this type of problem.

For now, however, James faces his immediate problem at Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs), a transplanted Russian living in Brooklyn, NY James knows he needs an impressive win to get the big fights in the game. welterweight. His only professional loss, by decision, came against current WBA Super World Champion Yordenis Ugas six years ago, when he was a late substitute (fight week). Ugas himself was belatedly substituted against Manny Pacquiao last August and upset the legendary Filipino, who later retired from the sport.

In addition to welterweight names such as Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, James would particularly like a rematch with Ugas.

“He had a great performance beating Pacquiao, and with the two of us having full camps to see how it played out, I think the fans would like it too,” said James. “I’ve fought tough guys my whole career, but I haven’t fought anyone with a big, big name, these guys you can tell are big in the welterweight class for that time period. I would also like to put my name there.

Although Butaev is not yet in the aforementioned class of fighters, he has knockout power and is six years younger than James, but cedes almost four inches in height to the 6-foot-2 Minnesotan with two inches of reach. James is ready for whatever the Russian brings.

“Like any other fighter, Butaev has two arms, two legs and a head,” said James. “He has strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. I know he will come strong and try to test me. He’ll probably try to get in on me. It’s my job to outperform him and beat him.

For a closer look at James vs Butaev, check out our Fight Night page.

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