Jamal James vs. Antonio DeMarco: Grace Under Pressure

Jamal James is closing in a world title shot but needs to get past former world champion Antonio DeMarco first in a welterweight bout sure to produce fireworks Saturday night on FS1.

Jamal “Shango” James is within jabbing distance of the elite higher tier of the welterweight division where big opportunities and big money await. Standing in his way, though, is a battle-hardened Mexican warrior fixated on redemption.

This Saturday, July 13 in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on FS1 and FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), live from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, James (25-1, 12 KOs) takes on veteran former world champ Antonio DeMarco (33-7-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight clash of big importance for both fighters.

The televised card also features a 10-round heavyweight clash of contenders between Robert "The Nordic Nightmare" Helenius and Gerald "El Gallo Negro" Washington, plus unbeaten lightweight prospect and 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas against Joshuah Hernández in an eight-round contest.

Amid rumors of James being one win away from a world title eliminator, the Minneapolis native, fighting his fourth straight fight at the hometown Armory, has zero room for error in this upcoming matchup.

The 6-foot-2 boxer-puncher has gone 5-0 since dropping a unanimous decision on short notice to upward-bound Yordenis Ugas back in 2016. Along the way—seasoned via bouts with the likes of Diego Chaves, Abel Ramos, and Jo Jo Dan-- he has quietly developed from a work in progress to a fighter with world class potential.

Where there was once confusion between his desire to fight inside and his need to take advantage of his reach on the outside, there is now more of an understanding of proper positioning. The employment of a straight right hand, which should’ve been a no-brainer coming from a fighter with a Thomas Hearns-like body-type, is an improving weapon as well, used to devastating effect when thrown at the proper distance.

If anything, the Ugas loss has helped James’ career, giving him time to take a figurative breath and develop more fully as both a fighter and as a man.

James, who will turn 31 just two weeks after this upcoming contest, understands where he’s at in his career, what’s at stake, and how important it is to build his fan base along with building his world class fighting chops. It all matters for a fighter about to take a step into the deep waters of the elite section of the welterweight division.

“I love being able to fight at home at The Armory, especially against a fighter like Antonio DeMarco,” James said. “DeMarco has the skills and it is going to be a good step up and test for me. We have been chasing this title for the past year. Getting past DeMarco is the way to get there and that's what I am going to do.”

One thing is for certain this Saturday—if James is not ready to make that next big step in his career, opponent Antonio DeMarco will let him know.

Born and raised in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, but brought up as a fighter on the tough Tijuana circuit under the guidance of legendary trainer Romulo Quirarte, DeMarco has a deep resume and a well-earned reputation as a tough out for any level of opponent.

The 33-year-old DeMarco’s professional history shows him to be a truth detector of sorts in the ring. He turns back the challenges of good fighters not ready for high-end elite status (such as Daniel Attah, Miguel Roman, Eddie Ramirez, and John Molina Jr.) or elite-level fighters not toughened-up to the war waged (such as Jorge Linares), but loses to sharp elite-level players (Edwin Valero, Adrien Broner, Jessie Vargas, Rances Barthelemy, Omar Figueroa Jr.). In other words, a fighter ready for the main stage will likely get past DeMarco, but a fighter not quite ready for next-level stardom will get beaten back.

Accustomed to being the B-side and the challenger, DeMarco is difficult to intimidate and hard to turn off his game. He can box a little and brawl a little, but is defined by a controlled style that features some poking and prodding from the southpaw stance and a willingness to let his hands go when within striking distance. His straight left hand and left uppercut are especially potent weapons.

As a 5-foot-10 lightweight and then junior welter, he’s accustomed to using his length and reach to his advantage. That edge has not been so prominent at welterweight and it may play little-to-no role against the taller James, despite having a one-inch reach advantage.

Nuts and bolts boxing analysis aside, DeMarco always puts up a battle and has upset more than a few hometown heroes and championship-minded prospects. He’s also in great need of a high-profile win after going 3-3 in his last six.

“Here I come again!” DeMarco said. “I am going to win this fight and upset Jamal James in his hometown. I have the experience to get the victory and I'm going to use it to make this a great fight on July 13.”

James vs. DeMarco will likely be fought at a distance, with both fighters jockeying for position before launching long, jarring shots. If James can make it more of a tactical boxing match, thereby nullifying DeMarco’s power and experience in heated battle, he should be able to style his way to a decision. If war takes place at the Armory, though, this becomes an even-money struggle.

Fighting at home and with so much at stake, pitted against a veteran opponent who’s already ridden the up-and-down roller coaster ride of boxing stardom, the pressure will be on James this Saturday. How well he fights under that pressure will show just how ready he is for the biggest and best at 147.

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

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