Jamal James keeps his home record spotless by beating veteran Antonio DeMarco
Every time welterweight Jamal James fights in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, it’s now “an event.” He draws standing-room-only crowds. The local cameramen wedge their way through throngs just to get a glimpse of him.
It’s a great reward for someone who started boxing as a four-year-old in the Circle of Discipline gym on the southside of Minneapolis.
And it’s treats like Saturday night that James has always aspired to give his fans.
For 10 rounds, James and former WBC lightweight champ Antonio DeMarco went at it, neither giving each other time to breathe.
In the end, James, 30, scored perhaps the biggest victory of his career with a unanimous decision over the Mexican southpaw from the Armory, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on FS1.
James (26-1, 12 knockouts) used a balanced attack, mixing hooks, uppercuts and body shots to whittle down the 33-year-old DeMarco, who was fighting for the first time in nine months.
The fight was designed to be a showcase for James. But it wound up being “a show,” with DeMarco (33-8-1, 24 KOs), though shopworn and giving away four inches in height, constantly coming forward and pushing James beyond his comfort zone.
“We practice being up against the ropes and how to handle those situations. That’s a part of the game. You don’t get mad, you get even,” James said. “I knew he was going to be tough and come with some spunk. I was cracking him, but he was just eating them. I think I got his respect.
“It was electric in here. There’s no better place to fight than The Armory in Minneapolis. You can tell watching it on TV across the nation. This is a new home for boxing.
“Being one of the taller fighters in the division, opponents have to put pressure on me. So I have to have good footwork to keep him chasing me. When they’re chasing me, that’s when they make mistakes.”
Judges Tim Cheatum, Mike Fitzgerald and John Mariano all had it 98-92 for James, who landed a total of 238-855 (28%) shots to DeMarco’s 135-496 (27%). James connected on 215-529 (41%) power punches, while DeMarco landed 128-377 (34%).
“Well I knew coming into this fight (DeMarco) was a veteran,” James said. “He was a world champion. This was a major step up for me. I didn’t take it lightly. He just had one of those will powers.
“But I do, too. I had to bite down and a couple of rounds I was fighting more his fight. But I was still able to get the better of the punches, fighting his fight, I felt. I’m not taking anything away from that warrior. He came to fight, he came to upset me, but I have Minnesota on my back. They came to show love.
“Everybody was here to see me. I wasn’t going to leave you all hanging.”
So far, he hasn’t.
On the undercard, Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington (20-3-1, 13 KOs), down 67-66 on two of three scorecards entering the eighth, scored a stunning eighth-round knockout over Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius.
Washington, 37, changed the course of the fight with an anvil-like right hand sending Helenius down and into ropes at 2:32 of the eighth.
At the time of the knockout, Helenius (28-3, 17 KOs) had outlanded 114-274 (42%) to 78-315 (25%). But boxing is unlike other sports. Stats are sometimes deceiving, and one punch can wipe out seven rounds of work.
Other undercard results included former IBF heavyweight titlist Charles Martin (27-2-1, 24 KOs) won for the second-straight time, stopping the game, though overmatched, Daniel Martz (18-7-1, 15 KOs) at 2:03 of the fourth round.
A right hand sent Martz down in the third and a left to the body spelled the end in the fourth, when referee Celestino Ruiz waved it over after counting eight.
Martin landed 70 of 204 total punches (34%) thrown, while Martz managed to connect only 21 times of 172 punches thrown (12%).
“I told my team that I wanted to stop him with a body shot, so I was focused on that and happy to get it done,” Martin said. “At one point I wasn’t relaxed like I should have been. He threw a good flurry on me in the second round and that woke me up. I was a little stiff, but as we got going, I knew I could go through him.
“I just want to keep learning and become a complete fighter. I want to be able to dig to the body and fight on the inside and learn everything technical that I can. I want to be like the LeBron James of boxing, in that I’m a total student of the sport.”
Martz proved he deserves to still get fights. He might not have world-championship ability, but no one can say he doesn’t possess a world-championship heart.
“I definitely came to fight and I was trying to win,” Martz said. “I started to take some hard shots and they added up. He definitely hits hard. The welt on my eye didn’t bother me too much, but he hit me in the temple in the third round and it started to disorient me. I feel fine now but I think I was a little tired.
“He threw some good shots to the body and that’s kind of what wore me out. I’ll get in the gym and get better and be back soon.”
Welterweight Bryant Perrella (17-2, 14 KOs) stopped Domonique Dolton (22-2-1, 13 KOs) at 1:24 of the third.
“This feels amazing. If any other welterweights want this smoke, they’re going to need some cough drops afterwards,” Perrella said. “If my team wants to do it, I’d love to fight Jamal James next. He’s a great fighter who I respect. That would be a great showdown and I’m ready for it.
“We were ready for whatever Dolton brought. I have so many dimensions to my game. My team works with me on different styles and it was hard to say how he would come to fight. I figured he’d come with hard feints and pressure, but I knew my strength and my inside work would wear him out.
“We figured we would get the stoppage and hurt him. We’ve gained a lot of strength in the gym. I just knew that if I kept boxing him and breaking him down, I’d know when to go for the finish.
“I hurt him a bit in the first round, but it came too late in the round and I didn’t want to over exert myself. I knew that if I kept putting hands on him, eventually the referee would stop it.”
Bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell (14-0, 11 KOs) beat Francisco Pedroza (12-9-2, 6 KOs) by 10-round unanimous decision. Super lightweight Gary Antuanne Russell (10-0, 10 KOs) kept his stoppage streak alive by scoring a third-round TKO over Larry Ventus (9-14-1, 4 KOs).
Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/RingTV.com since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.