Given the belt he just collected earlier this month, the next order of progression for Jamal James would be to upgrade.
Doing so, would lead to one of the biggest names in the sport. Or it could lead to a shot at avenging his lone defeat as a pro.
The streaking welterweight from Minneapolis boxed and punched his way to the interim version of the World Boxing Association (WBA) title following a 12-round unanimous decision win over Thomas Dulorme. The win—which aired atop a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox telecast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles—would put him in line for a crack at the current claimant to the real WBA strap.
“Obviously, I would like to get a shot at Manny Pacquiao, he's got the WBA super title," acknowledged James after the fight. “But I know he's such a big name, so it really doesn't matter.
“I want any of the big-name welterweights, we can really put on a good show.”
One such option still lurking near the top of the division is the only boxer to hang a loss on his career—Yordenis Ugas (25-4, 12KOs), who looks to enter the title picture as well in his next fight. The 34-year old Cuban transplant—now based out of Miami—is set to take on Casa Grande, Arizona’s Abel Ramos in the main event of the September 6 PBC on Fox card from the same crowdless venue.
At stake in their bout is the WBA “World” welterweight title. It’s still a secondary version of the title held by Philippines’ Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39KOs) but one which will make Ugas a more relevant player than his current status as a top contender.
Ugas outpointed James in August 2016, his first fight back following a two-year absence in order to clean out all of the elements that were holding him back as a boxer. He is 10-1 dating back to that night, the lone loss coming in a razor-thin split decision defeat to then-WBC welterweight titlist Shawn Porter last March.
The loss for James came at the expense of his taking the fight on less than two weeks’ notice, filling in for an injured Bryant Perrella (whom Ugas would stop in four rounds less than seven weeks later). It also came just four weeks after his own grueling 10-round win over Wale Omotoso, though he has since bounced back with seven straight wins.
The performance clearly had an effect on his old ring rival, who offered encouraging words to the new interim titlist.
“Congratulations to @JamalShango on his win tonight, he had a special performance,” Ugas tweeted immediately after the fight. “Your career elevates me, champ.”
Such sentiments were not at all a surprise to the recipient.
“Ugas is a super cool dude,” James (27-1, 12KOs) told BoxingScene.com. “I’ve always had much respect for him. He’s always been a very humble, very strong fighter. Every time I see him, it’s always love. We always take pictures and shake hands. He always follows my stuff and I follow his stuff.
“I wish him luck in his upcoming fight. Who knows, maybe down the line we can do this rematch . He’s just a professional. There’s no animosity whatsoever. He’s a cool dude, just truly special.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox