Tomorrow night welterweight contender Jamal “Shango” James (26 -1, 16 Kos) challenges Thomas Dulorme (25-3-1, 16 KOs) for the interim WBA world title, in a fight which will air on FOX PBC Fight Night on FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes in Los Angeles.
The fight was originally scheduled to take place in April at the Amory in Minnesota, but COVID-19 changed things. Going into tomorrow match, the 6’1” James has been receiving praise for his recent performances, having won his last six fights at the Amory, some of which were televised on Fox’s PBC. If James wins tonight, he will be the third boxer in Minnesota to earn a world title. The other two were Will Grigsby and Caleb Truax, both of whom have had a positive impact on. He speaks especially highly of Truax Minnesotan to win a national title.
“Me and Caleb is real cool,” James told Ray Flores on PBC’s show Time Out. “When he does stuff, he invites me–and the kids I work with–to things that he does. And for me to see him get [the IBF title], I was very happy for him.”
Truax has been Minnesota’s most celebrated boxer since he captured the IBF world title from James DeGale in December of 2017, in one of the major upsets of the year. But Truax, who both dangerously and impressively learned to box in the ring, did not have a stellar amateur career. James, on the other hand, finessed his way to a record of over 150 amateur fights, eventually ranked number one by USA Boxing in 2009. Also unlike Truax, James got an early start, taking up boxing at the age of five and seriously competing by 13.
As is common in boxing, fans celebrate James’ performance and record, but they typically do not hear about the fighter’s detailed training camps. But a well-educated and honest fighter knows that their trainers and support systems give them the solid foundation and motivational edge they need in the lead-up to the fight.
James’ chief trainer is the no-nonsense Sankara Frazier. Frazier started the boxing gym Circle of Discipline, which James has been associated with since the age of five. And it has been a beneficial relationship since James was young. Frazier, a former martial artist, runs an airtight gym. In order to gain access, fighters have to follow strict guidelines; and should he discover that his young boxers are failing school, he sidelines them until their grades improve.
James sees a father figure in Frazier, but others might see a very intimidating figure; typically, he is decked out in all black clothing, wearing black sunglasses, with a Bluetooth jammed into his ear, and a serious expression on his face. And Frazier is serious about his boxers.
The principle behind Circle of Discipline (COD) has been that for young people—boxers specifically—to thrive, they have to acquire certain positive psychological traits that will help them overcome the influences of poverty, violence, crime, and substance abuse. This has been Frazier’s mission for the gym. “A lot of young men and women we serve come from low income communities, and they gotta grow up quick,” James told author Caryn A. Tate. “They just don’t get those types of opportunities to go to camps in the summer. We took them up here once just for a camping trip. It was crazy to see how these young men and women just came out of their shells. They really got to have fun and be free Minnesotan to win a national title.”
In addition working with head coach Sankara Frazier, James also has the support of Sankara’s son Adonis, who James calls his brother. The three men have developed a father/sons/boxing family, something that was greatly appreciated by James’s mother, Sierra Samuels, who raised the fighter mostly as a single mother.
James’ team has ensured that the fighter’s surroundings are not chaotic, and this has paid off. For example, in his professional fight in 2010 against Justin Danforth, James’ performance was aesthetically pleasing as he TKO’d Danforth in the third-round. And at one time, James was considered by Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame as the Prospect of the Year Minnesotan to win a national title.
Going into tonight’s fight, James has been dismissive of questions regarding the impact of the long layoff due to Covid-19. “We always stay in shape. We just slowed down the intensity of training [due to Covid-19]. But in between fights, I stay in the gym. It is a full-time job,” James told a group of reporters on Thursday. “I never allow myself to get too far out of shape… It’s a bigger fight because you got the belts on the line. And the reality is, all of my fights were big fights because if I didn’t get past those fights, I would not be here.”
The boxers will battle with no fans in attendance, due to Covid-19 restrictions. James is a high-volume fighter, and typically these fighters draw their energy from fan support at the arena. So logic says James might be impacted, should he find himself losing momentum. “When you get in the ring, your main focus is on your opponent and what your corner is saying. The crowd is like white noise,” James told media members on Thursday. “Having no crowd on Saturday, I don’t think it’s going to affect me. I’m going to be able to hear my corner and zone in on what I’m trying to do.”
Thomas Dulorme is a talented boxer with a record of 25-3-1, 16 KOs. And many believe that the 5’10” 30-year-old boxer has faced stronger competition than James, a fact that James does not dispute. “Dulorme and I have both fought really good competition,” James told the media. “He’s fought some guys with slightly bigger names. But once we get in there Saturday, we’re going to find out who has the best skills. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Traditionally Minnesota fighters have been viewed as a “stay busy fight” for stronger opponents. Even those who go into a fight with a credible record on paper are not expected to be much competition.
But for this fight, James is considered by many to have a slight edge. Yet the boxer is aware of what his opponent brings. “He’s a strong fighter, and I know that he’s got his own style and tricks, but I have my own too,” James told the media. “That’s what makes these fights so exciting because you have to tune in to see which style will prevail. I’m not underestimating him, I know he’s going to be at his best, but my confidence is so high because of how I trained. On Saturday I’m going to give everyone the fireworks they’ve been waiting for. I’m glad to have this opportunity to be in this first main event back.”