At the early age of five, Jamal “Shango” James began learning the fundamentals of boxing at the Circle of Discipline (COD). The South Minneapolis training facility taught him how to box and so much more. James, now a professional boxer (27-1-0, 12 KOs), is reaching back to young people in the neighborhood.
COD was founded by Executive Director Sankara Frazier in 1993. James reflected on Frazier, his coach and father figure, saying, “A lifelong lesson is that when coach says get your hands up, definitely get your hands up.
“On a serious note, he taught me if you want to be the best at something, you can’t give up—even until the end—you still can’t give up.”
That determined spirit was on display August 8, as James defeated Thomas Dulorme and won an interim WBA Welterweight title. The COVID pandemic delayed the boxing matches a few months before the fight took place. Despite the unexpected delays, James spent time training and preparing for the fight.
“It was a lot different because you gotta be quarantined up. No complaints. So happy and blessed to get a fight. Thankful to bring that belt back,” said James.
The fight was highlighted as the main event on “PBC Fight Night” and broadcasted live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The stellar boxing match generated over one-million viewers.
This fight was different due to COVID-19 protocol. James explained what it was like to fight without an audience: “It would’ve been cool but once those punches start flying, a fight is gonna be a fight. It was easier to hear my corner and follow through with instructions. I still love the support,” he said.
“When you win a fight or get a title like this, the feeling is indescribable,” continued James. “All of it paid off. I try to stay humble. People show a lot of support. It feels good knowing all that hard work really does pay off. With boxing, there’s politics in making the fight but not in actual boxing.”
James expressed how grateful he was about the win. “It’s a high-level goal achieved. It felt good to bring it back home, some light and positivity.” After everything that’s been going on in the city, he emphasizes the need for creating positive change.
Also of note, COD’s David Morrell Jr. (3-0-0, 2 KOs) also fought and won against Lennox Allen on “PBC Fight Night.” Now, Morrell holds the interim WBA World Super Middleweight Title.
James said of Morrell, “That’s my Cuban brother. He has his own personal story, growing up in Cuba. Being able to see him go pro and get him accomplished. Right away it was really dope and inspiring.”
The power of discipline
Now that James is back in Minneapolis, he is focused on the Pursuit of Discipline (POD), a program he created in 2017 that operates out of the COD. “It’s a leadership group that started at the COD, made of young men and women. We focus on financial literacy, being disciplined with homework, how to behave and act, and dealing with peer pressure,” said James.
The focus of the POD is also geared toward introducing youth and young adults to various career options. Participants are youth ages 8-17 and young adults ages 18-22. All are welcome. Right now, the focus is on seniors in high school and recent graduates. Classes are held every Thursday at 5 pm.
As for planned activities, the group travels to local businesses. James said, “It’s really cool to provide those types of opportunities.” Taking them around to business-owners helps make the idea of having a business “believable and possible.”
He added, “We took them to the fire station, took them down to the Armory for a tour by Rich Richardson. Introduced them to the business side, promotions, corporate events.”
James is passionate about helping youth learn as he lives out the old saying each one teach one. “I grew up with the Circle and I would get taught those lessons. Coaches would drop knowledge and school us. It taught me how to carry myself,” James recalled.
The POD group also focuses on mental health. On occasion, they’ve brought in a therapist to help individuals in the community gain proper support. James said, “Living in low-income communities and the hood, you think it’s a normalcy.” He is committed to changing the norm by promoting the power of having a positive mindset and being disciplined.
James had this advice for young people: “Stay dedicated, stay focused, and make sacrifices necessary toward being successful.”
When asked what motivates him every day, he said, “The Circle, my family, being able to create a huge platform, bring positivity and light to the areas needed—especially kids, working with young men and women.”
To learn more about Jamal “Shango” James, go to www.shangonation.com. To learn more about the Circle of Discipline, located at 1201 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis, to go www.circleofdiscipline.org or call 612- 721-1549.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.