Souhan: James has a “new temple” but the same prospects before defending his boxing title


Becoming the regular WBA welterweight champion changed everything for Jamal James, but nothing seems to have changed him.

His Minneapolis gym, the Circle of Discipline, is moving to a new and greatly improved space on an industrial park near the Northeast after its venerable building near the site of George Floyd’s assassination was bought by a new owner.

He’s got more financial stability, a belt, some level of fame, and the pressure to defend his title.

Over the course of a long conversation with James and his trainer and mentor Sankara Frazier, James sounds identical to the aspiring and unknown boxer who began climbing the ranks years ago.

Just like he did during an interview at the old Circle of Discipline when he was a little-known contender, James grabs a couple of folding chairs himself and sets them up so he, Frazier, and a visitor can speak. James’ “bling” is a recently deceased relative’s wedding ring that he wears around his neck.

As always, Motown’s long talk about Prince leads to the “Godfather” trilogy and the roots of Pro Wrestling in Minnesota, as well as the Circle of Discipline’s vow to make Minnesotans happy with their lives.

On Saturday in Las Vegas, James faces undefeated Russian Radzhab Butaev, who highlights a card that starts at 9 p.m. on Showtime. The fight is a semi-final that will result in an unified WBA champion.

“It’s different,” James said of the fight. “A little bit. But from my point of view, every fight is a championship fight. It’s different now because I’m the champion so I can safely assume that everyone I fight will want my place and maybe try a little harder. But I have the additional wish to keep this title. ”

James (27-1, 12 knockouts) holds the WBA secondary title. Butaev stands 13-0 with 10 knockouts. In the other semifinals, Yordenis Ugas meets Eimantas Stanionis.

James’ only professional loss came to Ugas in 2016. “So if I beat my husband and he beats his man, we’ll fight,” said James. “I know I’ll win, so it’s up to him.”

The alphabet soup and myriad titles in the boxing world can be confusing, but James’ philosophy is simple: win fights and influence people.

He grew up in Minneapolis, with Frazier serving as his father figure and coach and the Circle of Discipline as the anchor.

James rose to the championship ranks from an unknown fighter in a faded boxing market while doing odd jobs and serving with the Circle of Discipline in the civil service providing athletic training and life coaching for Minneapolis youth.

The Circle’s new home at 801 9th St. SE in Minneapolis is pristine and cave-like. The owners of the area already have an indoor soccer field and plan to build recording studios next door.

Frazier envisions a place where disadvantaged children and those who are lucky can find advice, education, and a variety of physical activities, from gymnastics to boxing to yoga.

James wants to help people travel abroad and he already volunteers on the weekends teaching financial literacy.

Frazier dreams that the coven’s training camp in Barnum, Minnesota, will become a campus where people can occasionally escape the city.

“People have to go sometimes and that really helps their sanity,” Frazier said. “Bike path, hiking, fishing, hunting, all of that. And you can just sit around and talk without worrying about someone coming by and blowing your head off.”

Winning fights helps James make a living and life better.

“Man, this place is amazing,” he said, looking over rows of treadmills and elliptical machines. “This is my new temple, my new home. I assume that we can help many people.”

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