Welterweight contender looks to take the next step toward a title shot tomorrow night in his hometown, while tough-as-nails Mexican veteran looks to play spoiler in the main event of PBC on FS1.
Not only is welterweight contender Jamal James closing in on a world title shot, but he also may be on the verge of making his hometown of Minneapolis a true “boxing town.”
Tomorrow night, James looks to take another full step towards these goals when he battles tough-as-nails Mexican Mahonry Montes. The welterweight clash will headline a Premier Boxing Champions card from the Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, broadcast live on FS1 and FOX Deportes (8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT). A special 90-minute prelims telecast kicks off the show at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.
James (23-1, 10 KOs), who is ranked No. 3 in the 147-pound division by the WBA, is now within reach of a bout against either “super” champion Keith Thurman or “regular” champ Manny Pacquiao. While he waits on the opportunity of a lifetime, though, the long and lanky 30-year-old continues to fine tune his ring style and further build his hometown following.
Previously torn between an instinct to box and a desire to bang, the 6-foot-2 James’ less-than-cohesive style would often leave him vulnerable to aggressive opposition. With maturity and further development, however, “Shango” has realized that he can, indeed, have the best of both worlds, ala fellow Great Lakes-area legend and similarly lanky Thomas Hearns.
James’ straight right hand has become his primary power weapon and he has shown glimpses of next-level ability when working behind a solid jab that creates the space he needs to execute properly. A decision win over veteran Jo Jo Dan and a three-round blowout of usually durable Diego Chaves, following a loss to crafty Cuban Yordenis Ugas, showed James at top career form.
In his last bout, an April majority decision win over Abel Ramos, James looked good, but inconsistent. When working off the jab, he controlled the contest and managed to hurt his tenacious foe. But he also allowed Ramos to get inside his long reach and score way too often.
Consistency in using his physical attributes to his benefit is key to his career progression.
“I’m in camp training hard for another thriller at home against a pressure fighter in Mahonry Montes,” James said. “I’m going to use my height, range and skills to show that I’m hungry and keeping my eyes on the prize. Once I get past Montes, a big name is going to have to fight me. I’m right on the road to a world title challenge.”
This will be James’ second straight fight in front of his enthusiastic hometown fans. Minnesota has never been a hotbed for boxing and has only produced three world champions since 1917—none from Minneapolis. James hopes to change that.
Mahonry Montes (35-7-1, 24 KOs), of course, is out to ruin those plans.
“ Once I get past Montes, a big name is going to have to fight me. I’m right on the road to a world title challenge. ” Welterweight contender Jamal James
It would be a mistake to underestimate the 28-year-old native of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico as “just” an opponent.
Over the course of a twelve-year professional career which began just weeks shy of his 17th birthday, Montes has been matched tough and has never once been overwhelmed in battle. In a 43-bout pro run that has seen him face the likes of Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Keandre Gibson, Ashley Theophane, Erick Bone, Humberto Soto, and Hector Velazquez, “The Little Russian” has only been stopped twice— by Kavaliauskas in September of last year and by Jose Lopez in 2013—both times on cuts.
Aside from being durable, Montes also has good power in his right hand and a solid body attack. All in all, he throws his punches well, exhibiting good technique and respectable hand speed.
The problem with the young veteran is that he simply doesn’t let his hands go. Footwork and positioning issues make it tough for him to confidently rifle off punches. Because of his own lack of speed and a propensity for fighting straight ahead and completely squared off, he struggles against quicker opposition. Not surprisingly, Montes is most effective on the inside, despite his tall (5-foot-10) frame, where he doesn’t have to use his legs.
An imperfect fighter with an imperfect record, the Mexican battler banks on his physical and mental toughness and fully understands what this chance against James means to his career.
“I’m so excited to have this opportunity against Jamal James,” Montes said. “My last loss was unfortunate because I thought I had my opponent hurt, but I've picked up a couple of wins since then and have been training very hard … I’m never in a bad fight and I'm going to show the fans in Minnesota how a real Mexican fights.”
The keys to victory in this welterweight clash should be no secret. James needs to fight on the outside, using his reach to establish proper distance and set up his big right hand. Montes wants to get on the inside where he can throw his choppy shots and dig to James’ body.
If James is to make a case for himself as a world-class fighter, he’ll need to be able to execute consistently against blue-collar workhorses like Montes. If he slips up and is broken or even bent by his Mexican rival, the push to put Minneapolis on the boxing map will be put on indefinite hold.
For a complete look at James vs Montes, check out our fight page.