Welterweight contender Jamal James confident he will give his fans in Minneapolis, Minnesota a homecoming fight they will remember this Friday night on FS1.
The sounds of a boxing gym can be intimidating. There is a rhythmic, cacophony of speed bags, and heavy bags and mitt work going on simultaneously—and all with authoritative whoomps!
It can reach such a pitch that you could barely hear yourself talk. Just imagine being four-year-old Jamal James and the wide-eyed wonderment he had when his mother took him to the Circle of Discipline gym on the south side of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The intimidation lasted maybe a second. The next thing the rambunctious James did was mimic the fighters he saw, throwing his tiny hands at the bags, fitting his whole arm into a glove. Twenty-five years later in that same gym, everyone now mimics James.
After a sea of amateur and professional wins, under the guidance of Sankara Frazier, who’s been as much a father as he’s been a trainer, James (22-1, 10 KOs) will be seen by not just the Circle of Discipline gym, but by the city of Minneapolis and the nation when he takes on Abel Ramos (18-2-2, 13 KOs) in a 10-round, 147-pound main event of an FS1 and FOX Deportes-televised card (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) this Friday, April 13 at the Minneapolis Armory.
Edner Cherry meets Dennis Galarza in a 135-pound bout that serves as the co-main event, and Austin Dulay takes on Chris Colbert in a matchup of unbeaten 130 pounders.
For the 29-year-old James, this will mark the first time in five years that the 6-foot-2 welterweight has fought on his home turf. It’s been a long journey for someone who was once a kid introduced to boxing holding his mother’s hand.
“Jamal took to boxing, almost immediately,” Frazier recalled. “It’s kind of funny, because he had a little temper on him, just like I did when I began. There was one time a kid who was more experience than Jamal got the better of him, and Jamal jumped the boy, took his head gear off and tried to choke the kid.
“We still laugh about it today. But Jamal, at first, was a handful. He would whine and complain about doing certain things, and remember, he was still a kid. I would tell him to cut that whining out and it wasn’t so much for the purpose of learning boxing, but to get Jamal to understand at that age what work ethic and discipline was about. He could hardly hold his arms up when he had the big gloves on. You could see Jamal loved being around boxing.”
“ I’m going to make sure the other guy is going to remember my name. The storm is coming right here at home. I’m opening the door for these guys coming up behind me. ” Welterweight contender Jamal James
James’ goal growing up was to one day be an Olympian. Though what so often happens to other teenaged fighters coming up through the amateur system in the United States, James was discouraged. He needed to grow into his body, too, since he was always tall for his weight class.
“I had a meeting with the whole crew, who I had since they were little kids, when they were teenagers and I told them they could be really good,” Frazier recalled. “I let them know there would be one or two of them that would go on and do further things. I told them what would get them there is discipline and focus.
“There were only a few kids that were working on that part of it, and one of them was Jamal. You see with him now. My thing is I don’t talk to my kids about fighting professional, but boxing is something a person has to want to do, and if money comes with it, great. Boxing is a tough game and you need to be disciplined and focused with it.”
James has one pro loss on his record, and it’s to the very talented Yordenis Ugas in August 2016. James was just coming off an impressive win against Wale Omotoso a month earlier.
“The loss against Ugas I take as a good lesson,” said James, whose rangy 6-2 frame makes it tough for any welterweight to get inside his jab. “I thought I was in shape against Ugas, and I was too slow on the trigger and I fought his fight.
“I found out there that you have to prepare fully for any fight you take. I tried to push the envelope a little too hard for that one. My reflexes weren’t there. I’ll say I wasn’t overlooking Ugas, I’ll say I was overly confident for that fight, at that time. I had no losses and I was feeling good about himself.”
Now James is on a great stage—his home. The renovated Minneapolis Armory is a historic venue that hosted nearly 100 cards between 1915-1973, including shows headlined by one of the greatest welterweights ever – Sugar Ray Robinson.
“I know Abel Ramos is a tough fighter, and I know he’ll come and bring it,” James said. “He’s not coming to my backyard just to lay down. I know he’s coming to fight and I embrace that challenge. If I’m going to be a world champion one day, I’m going to have to take on guys like this, and deal with this kind of pressure.
“I’m going to make sure the other guy is going to remember my name. The storm is coming right here at home. I’m opening the door for these guys coming up behind me.”
Like the older guys once held the door for him.
For a closer look at James vs Ramos, check out our fight page.