Welterweight contender Jamal James looks to move up the 147-pound rankings when he takes on rugged Argentine veteran Diego Chaves this Friday night on FS1.
Jamal James is nicknamed “Shango.” It is the Nigerian god who brandishes thunder and lightning toward offenders.
But it is the 29-year-old Minneapolis, Minnesota resident who is taking aim at a sea of talented 147-pounders. This includes champions Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and former champions Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto and Devon Alexander.
James will face former interim champion Diego Chaves, a 31-year-old Argentine with a record of 4-2-1 in his past seven bouts, this Friday at the Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California on FS1 (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
Chaves’ second-round obliteration of Jean Carlos Prada in his last fight in June represented his third straight win by stoppage. James’ resume includes wins over sluggers Wale Omotoso, Juan Carlos Abreu, Javier Molina (a 2008 U.S. Olympian), and former title challenger Jo Jo Dan.
James rose from knockdowns in the first and fourth rounds, respectively, against Omotoso and Abreu.
Just 27 days after Omotoso, James took a fight with 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Yordenis Ugas. James lost by unanimous decision before rebounding in July against Dan.
What is your take on the style of Chaves, and the best way to defeat him, given your height and range?
We’ve got a nice stable of sparring partners down here of up-and-coming prospects with Ve Shawn Owens. He’s a 154-pounder who is 9-0 with nine knockouts. Another partner of mine is Alexis Gomez, he’s 2-0 with one knockout, and he’s going to be nice, too.
We know how to fight on the inside if we have to, but I’m one of the taller guys in the weight class, so my whole game is that it’s better to keep him on the outside. We’ve watched a couple of his fights with Thurman, Bradley and Rios, picking up certain rhythms that he might come out fighting with.
But those guys were around the same height as he is, and we’re totally different. We’ve also seen that he’s done a couple of dirty things and might be trying to use those aspects with us. We know styles make fights, and that he’s not afraid and neither are we.
Where does Chaves stack up compared to others you have fought, such as Ugas and Omotoso, and how far away from a title shot will you be in victory?
Beating Chaves, who has a bigger name than most of the other guys that I’ve fought, that would put me right in line and a lot closer to a title shot.
Chaves is as tough or tougher than the other guys, and his timing is a little different. We’re still gonna try to break him down, working my inside game just as importantly as my outside game.
What did you learn about yourself in the two fights against Abreu and Omotoso, rising from the canvas both times?
I demonstrated the ability to maintain focus and a strong mind, being able to rebound and adapt after being knocked down.
I listened to my father’s (Sankara Frazier) instructions, followed through with the game plan and was able to come out of those fights with the victories.
How about the importance of your wins over Molina and Dan at the time that they occurred?
Molina was an Olympian, and I went basically into Molina’s hometown. I had always wanted a chance to compete against him in the amateurs, and to be able to go into his back yard and out-box him like that was confirmation that I could perform at the top level.
It was the same thing with Jo Jo Dan, but I was coming off of a tough loss. I took that fight on late notice, because my previous fight was scratched due the opponent’s health problems. That reaffirmed to me that I could rebound and get back to that championship level.
“ I’m going for broke every time out, and I’m just waiting and I’m on the verge of having that breakout opportunity that will lead to a championship fight. ” Welterweight contender Jamal James
Can you discuss the circumstances surrounding your decision to accept the Ugas fight and what you learned from that experience?
We’re always prepared, but that was a great lesson, in retrospect. We took that fight on a little bit of too short of notice, and my timing was a little off being that we were just coming off of the Omotoso fight, which was a tough guy.
I was still in shape, but it’s 70 percent mental, and your mind has to be in a certain space. Not taking anything away from Ugas, because he was the better man that night. Ugas was supposed to fight Bryant Perrella, and he ended up knocking him out after he fought me.
A lot of people thought Perrella was going to be the winner of that fight, so the fact that we went a strong 10 rounds and didn’t get the victory, that was a great lesson learned that kept me motivated to continue striving and pushing myself.
With your loss to Ugas, and your wins over Omotoso, Molina, Abreu and Dan, what do you believe your resume says about you?
It speaks to the fact that you can never count me out in a fight. People in the world of boxing know that you can’t sleep on Shango.
I’m going for broke every time out, and I’m just waiting and I’m on the verge of having that breakout opportunity that will lead to a championship fight.
Do you have a boxing hero?
I’m an old soul, so I like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins, Roberto Duran, Marco Antonio Barrera, guys like that.
I really study a lot of guys, obviously including Floyd Mayweather, who is the greatest of our time. Many of those fighters were more artistic with their abilities.
If you could change anything about the world today, what would it be?
I would have to say an improved consciousness among some of our younger brothers and sisters in the Black community as well as the Latino community. When you look at the world today, there’s a tremendous division happening like there was back in the day.
I see it with the work that I do (at his Circle of Discipline gym run by Sankara Frazier), a community program for kids that includes boxing. I don’t think people see how the younger generation is being affected by everything we see as far a police brutality and the negative divisions.
We work with kids from all different types of backgrounds, trying to bridge the gap between them and police officers. We really try to instill solid, positive ideals and expand their consciousness with the goal of hopefully making those situations in their lives much better.
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