In professional boxing, fighters are often categorized as champions, contenders, pretenders, prospects, or also-rans. And anyone involved in the sport will tell you how difficult it is to shed one label in favor of a more flattering one.
Minneapolis welterweight Jamal James is intent on making the transition from prospect to contender in the deepest division in boxing. On April 18 the 26-year-old ventured beyond the borders of the North Star State for just the third time in his 16 fights as a pro and for the first time outside the Central Time Zone. At the Valley Forge Casino Resort in suburban Philadelphia, he kept his undefeated record intact and affirmed his status as a force to be reckoned with at 147 pounds.
James (16-0, nine KOs) sent his more experienced opponent, Daniel Sostre (13-11-1) of Highland, N.Y., to the canvas twice in the second round, the first on an overhand right and the second on a left hook that ended the fight.
“I felt like my speed was on point tonight, and I noticed that when [Sostre] was jabbing, he was bringing his hand back low,” said James. “So the first knockdown was actually a counter right hand that I threw after he jabbed, and it caught him right on the chin.”
Seconds later, James finished the job that he came more than 1,200 miles to do.
“When I saw that he was hurt, it was time to jump on him,” he said. “I noticed that he kept leaning to the right side, so I know that was going to catch him with a kind of left hook-uppercut.”
James has now boxed 72 rounds as a professional, and he believes that the time has come for him to get in the ring with higher-caliber opponents.
“I’ve worked hard for this all of my life,” he said. “A boxer’s development is a step-by-step process. As an amateur, I competed against [world champions] Danny Garcia and Terrence Crawford. I got to work with Lamont Peterson. I see the success they’re having, and I know that I can be on their level.”
James — who hones his craft at the Circle of Discipline, located on Lake Street in South Minneapolis — stands 6-foot-2, and his lanky frame and reach make him a puzzle for opponents.
“Every time I step in the ring, I’m representing my gym and all of Minnesota boxing, which is very underrated,” he said. “I’ve been training at the Circle of Discipline for years. When I was younger, I had so much energy, such a bad temper, and my mom [Sierra Samuels] was a single parent. She took me there, and it’s made all the difference in my life.
“The Circle caters to the inner-city youth, the troubled kids who need to channel their aggression into something positive. I’m a mentor there, and I carry that weight on my back every time I fight.”
Recently, James signed with manager Al Haymon, the biggest power player in the sport and Floyd Mayweather’s adviser. Having Haymon in his corner ensures that James will get exposure and the opportunity to move from prospect to contender and perhaps crack the upper echelon of the welterweight division.
“I’m patient,” he said, “but when the phone rings, I’ll be ready.”
Retated content: Fire and ice: Sierra Leone Samuels referees with a cool hand