Jamal James recalls the last time he was near Los Angeles, five years ago, sparring with former champion Shane Mosley and his son, Shane Jr., who at the time was still an amateur.
“I was 22 years old, early in my pro career,” James recalls. “We had a potential business opportunity which enabled me to display my skills for ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in his gym that wasn’t far from L.A.
“I sparred three rounds with him and another three rounds with his son. The sparring session went well. He gave me great advice and said one day I would be a champion, as long as I stayed disciplined and trained. It was a great experience.”
Mosley's encouraging words have never been far from James’ mind as his career has progressed, to the point that the 27-year-old is on the verge of making the leap from prospect to contender.
Now Jamal James (18-0, 9 KOs) is back in Los Angeles hoping to take another step closer to fulfilling Mosley’s prediction when he squares off Tuesday against 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier Molina (17-1, 8 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round contest. The 147-pound bout headlines a Premier Boxing Champions event at Club Nokia (Fox Sports 1, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT).
A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, “Shango” James will be fighting some 20 minutes from Molina’s hometown of Norwalk, California.
“This will be my first time competing in California as a professional after having some amateur fights there and doing some sparring with Mosley,” says James, who weighed in Monday at 145.6 pounds while Molina tipped the scales at 146.8. “But I’m ready to showcase my talents.”
Through his first 17 professional bouts, James was rarely tested as he won each contest by stoppage or unanimous decision, with most of the latter being lopsided results. But in his most recent fight on September 18, James encountered real adversity for the first time.
Facing hard-hitting brawler Juan Carlos Abreu, James hit the canvas in the fourth round, the first time he’d been dropped since September 2013, a stretch of seven bouts. James made it to his feet and not only regained his composure, but he flattenened Abreu in the sixth.
That knockdown proved to be the defining turning point in the fight, as James went on to win a comfortable unanimous decision. Still, his character was tested like it never had been before as a pro.
“Once Jamal hit Abreu with some ballistic style punches, he wasn’t so [eager] to come back up in there again,” says Sankara Frazier, James’ father and trainer. “What normally throws everybody off is that they don’t expect us to adjust like that. Sometimes it’s a matter of who is going to get off first, but we train for mental toughness.”
In Molina, James will be facing an opponent who has ripped off eight straight wins since suffering his only professional defeat, that being an eight-round unanimous decision to Artemio Reyes in October 2011.
Most recently, the 26-year-old Molina defeated Lenwood Dozier on October 13, the fight ending when Dozier couldn’t answer the bell for the eighth round. It marked Molina’s third stoppage win in his last four outings.
“I’ve watched Javier as an amateur, and he has good movement, stalks guys; he’s a counterpuncher and throws some nice shots,” Frazier says. “But we’re not going to underestimate anything that he’s capable of doing.
“We’ll make the adjustments that we have to make and bring it to Molina like we’re fighting for the championship of the world.”
For his part, James says he’s primed to to pick up where he left off against Abreu—and that includes not just adding another victory to his ledger but putting on a good show in the process.
“Everybody I’ve talked to really enjoyed the fight. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and compliments,” James says. “People are looking forward to me getting back in there and doing it all over again. At the end of the night, they’re going to be announcing my name as the winner.”
For complete coverage of James vs Abreu, check out our fight page.