- Jamal James, a rising welterweight contender, fights Antonio DeMarco on Saturday in what could be a boxing coming-out party.
- This is because James hopes the win will propel him further up the WBA world rankings, pushing him toward an eventual title shot against the likes of Manny Pacquiao.
- To bolster a shot at a title, some athletes turn to trash-talk or saying wildly controversial things in a bid to build their own name.
- But James refuses to do this as it goes against the values he has been taught as a martial artist at the Circle of Discipline fight club in Minneapolis.
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Meet Jamal James, an unheralded 30-year-old from Minneapolis who refuses to trash-talk, doesn’t utter a single swear word during an entire interview, and simply lets his fists do the talking when it’s time to fight.
James is a Thomas Hearns-sized welterweight. Hearns, one of the great fighters from the 1980s, dazzled in rivalries against fellow all-timers Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Ray Leonard.
Though James does not have the absurd knockout power of Hearns in his heyday, he has the size and reach advantages that the Motor City Cobra enjoyed, and plans on putting those to use on Saturday when he takes on the battle-hardened veteran Antonio DeMarco at the Armory, Minneapolis.
Many know DeMarco. He’s been in blood and guts wars, often having his arm raised above claret-covered canvases by the end of the bout. The Mexican has big wins over Jorge Linares, who he bludgeoned in 2011, and John Molina Jr. who he beat-up one year later.
While DeMarco has not had an elite win since, he has challenged for world titles – losing to Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas – and James is hoping victory at the Armory will fortify his own title shot credentials. He’s even targetting one of the biggest names out there … Manny Pacquiao, the current WBA (Regular) welterweight champion.
“We can set that up,” James told Business Insider this week. “If you’re going to be in the fight game, talking about being the best, you got to be prepared to fight the best. Pacquiao is the best, so that’s who I want to fight.”
Pacquiao has his own fight to contest, a world title bout against (Super) champion Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on July 20.
James anticipates another victory for the 40-year-old, the 62nd in what would be a near 25-year professional career. “Even though he’s up there in age, he’s still winning a lot of fights,” he said. “He’s still very quick with his feet and especially with his hands.
“Not to take anything away from Thurman … he’s not fought the caliber fighter that Pacquiao has. Pacquiao looks healthy and strong, still. I’m leaning toward him for this fight.”
- Darnell Ellerbe/Mayweather Promotions
James understands the politics of the hurt business. He knows he has to build his name before he becomes an attractive opponent for the likes of Pacquiao. Some athletes do that by bad-mouthing their opponents, engaging in Twitter feuds, or simply by saying controversial things.
The WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder, for example, once said he wanted to get a body on his record. His subsequent highlight-reel knockout over Dominic Breazeale, and the way he poured salt all over Anthony Joshua’s wounds when the Briton was battered by Andy Ruiz Jr., only heightened his notoriety globally.
But James is not like this.
He seems to admire what other fighters have achieved, and wants to do that himself. He is the type of martial artist who uses the sport as a way to learn discipline in and out of the ring. He pays respect to others, including his opponent.
James called his upcoming opponent DeMarco a “big name,” for instance. He said: “I need big names. DeMarco is one. That pushes me closer to getting one of those big fights like Pacquiao, or whoever else has a title. Boxing is a short career so you gotta go for broke and take it as far as you can, before you bow out gracefully.”
On the challenge that DeMarco will provide, James said: “He’s a very tough, ring-savvy fighter who comes to fight his heart out. But so am I. It’s going to be a major step up for me to beat a guy like this.
“I have a height range advantage over a lot of my opponents, obviously I’ll want to try and use that to the best of my advantage, but this is boxing and sometimes you have to know how to fight inside, fight offensive, sometimes it’s what comes to slugging it out a little, and we’ll prepare for that too.”
James then paid credit to his trainer and father-figure Sankara Frazier. He’s known Frazier since he was four years old. He learned amateur boxing moves, how to become a professional, and life skills. Frazier taught him “how to be a man.”
They even live under the same roof together, which makes for convenient training camps even if Frazier is the first one up in the mornings, unintentionally rousing James with his loud, clunky footsteps at the crack of dawn, before they go out for an early jog to start their day.
Frazier, and by extension, the Circle of Discipline gym, a Minneapolis fight club that is equal parts spiritual, mental, and physical, is the reason James is the way he is – disciplined and respectful. “It’s more than a boxing gym, teaching all sorts of different things including how to be successful.”
James, with 25 wins behind him against only one defeat, is already a success at a regional level but he aspires for more. He wants to make an impact internationally. He wants Pacquiao.
But first, he has to beat DeMarco in what could be his boxing coming-out party on Fox Sports 1 and FOX Deportes. For James, this will “prove to everybody” that he’s “ready for that title shot.”