Jamal James, Abel Ramos fighting on the threshold of big things

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A pair of young welterweight contenders look to take the next step up the 147-pound ladder when they battle it out in the main event of PBC on FS1 tomorrow night in James' hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Welterweight contenders Jamal James and Abel Ramos face off during the weigh-in for their PBC on FS1 main event in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 12, 2018. (Brian Schroeder/Premier Boxing Champions)

In a welterweight division top-heavy with big talent and big names, there’s a deep and fierce hunger among the147-pounders bubbling just under the surface to find a way into that special level of division’s elite.

Both Jamal James and Abel Ramos would very much like to crash a welterweight party that includes names such as Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia. James and Ramos will get their chance to move one step closer to the big bucks and big opportunities when they clash tomorrow night on the FS1 and FOX Deportes-televised card (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at the Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Fighting in front of his hometown fans, the tall and lanky James (22-1, 10 KOs) will look to build on the career momentum coming from last December’s impressive third-round stoppage of rough and durable Argentine battler, Diego Chaves.

Up until that stunner, James’ career trajectory had been solid enough with wins over tough veterans like Juan Carlos Abreu, Wale Omotoso, and Jo Jo Dan. His lone setback was a decision loss to crafty Cuban Yordenis Ugas back in August of 2016. There had been nothing, however, to set him apart from the pack of other talented prospects and contenders right below the division’s elite until that barrage of punches that ended the Chaves bout and showed what a fully actualized James could look like.

The 29-year-old, 6-foot-2 James has had issues utilizing his height and reach in the past, struggling with distance and lunging at opposition when facing someone with the ability to create space. Caught between wanting to be a tactical boxer and a Tommy Hearns-style sharpshooter, the former Minnesota state champ often showed a confused reticence about what he wanted to do in the ring. It was clear that he could do a lot, but not so clear where he wanted to take himself.

But with experience and maturity, and maybe a whiff of the big business with the big welterweight dogs almost within reach, James seems to have settled into a cohesive and effective ring identity.

Three rounds is not a whole lot to go by, but James’ effort against Chaves showed an increased confidence and aggression. It also showed that, at the very least, he more than belonged in the ring with a war-tested veteran who had brought legitimate battle to the likes of Keith Thurman, Brandon Rios, and Timothy Bradley. James, ranked by two of the four recognized sanctioning bodies, can make a case that he belongs with the big names now, and if he emerges victorious on April 13. It is one full step closer to life-changing opportunities.

Standing in James’ way is the 26-year-old Arizona native Ramos (18-2-2, 13 KOs), who would also very much like to move one step forward and battle the division big shots.

Ramos is a prototypical old school battler who may not excel in any one specific aspect of the game, but is solid at absolutely everything. He’s got a good jab when he uses it and a solid body game. He’s also a doggedly tenacious and supremely tough fighter.

The flaws in Ramos’ game can be mostly attributed to his lack of true next-level athleticism. Against high-end opposition, Ramos has trouble establishing and keeping a pace best suited to his own needs. He was a step behind Regis Prograis all evening in December of 2015 and faded late against Ivan Baranchyk in February of 2017, after giving the rough Russian contender a hellacious battle.

Against James, Ramos, as the shorter man by five inches, will need to get inside and stay inside. He’ll need to out-tough a confident James and push him to the point of turning his back on all of his career momentum.

This is all within the reach and ability of Abel Ramos, but Jamal James might have the ultimate say in where this bout goes.

If James battles to establish his ideal pace and space in the bout and is mentally and physically tough enough to maintain it—then he could very well emerge as not only a winner against Ramos, but also as someone ready for a shot at the biggest and the best in, arguably, boxing’s best division.

For a closer look at James vs Ramos, check out our fight page.

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