LAS VEGAS – Jamal James sat beside Jaron Ennis on Thursday throughout a press conference for Showtime’s tripleheader Saturday night.
It is the closest Ennis has come in a public setting to a fighter officially recognized as a welterweight champion by one of boxing’s sanctioning organizations. Showtime’s Brian Custer, who moderated the press conference, asked James if, unlike other welterweights with leverage, he would be willing to defend his WBA world title versus Ennis if James conquers challenger Radzhab Butaev in the network’s 12-round main event and Ennis gets past Thomas Dulorme in the 10-round co-feature.
James acknowledged Ennis’ ascent in the 147-pound division, but he also admitted that there’s another fight that makes much more sense for the Minneapolis native next. The 33-year-old James would prefer to face Yordenis Ugas, the only opponent who has beaten James since James turned pro in May 2010.
Not only would an Ugas rematch represent a chance to avenge his lone loss, but it would also eliminate another of the WBA’s completely unnecessary welterweight titles. Cuba’s Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) is the WBA’s ‘super’ welterweight champ, more legitimate than James.
“Hey, compliments to Jaron Ennis, man,” James said. “He’s been making a great name for himself. And I’m definitely down to give this brother a opportunity. My thing is, like you stated before, they have still yet to put me at the top [of the welterweight division]. And right now, we’ve got two champions [for] the WBA [organization], which kinda don’t make sense to me. So, my focus is to get past this fight here, and then I would like to fight Ugas, so we can eliminate these two [belts]. You know what I mean? There should be one WBA welterweight champion.
“And then, you know, when I am that one welterweight WBA champion, and cats who are making names, like Ennis over here, or some other guys, I’m not ducking nobody. You know, I’d be down to give these cats a opportunity. I obviously talk to my management, Al Haymon. He’s been making great opportunities for me. He’s been paving the way for me, as well as a lot of other guys. So, whatever they say, I’m pretty much gonna roll wit. But I definitely see that in the future.”
Philadelphia’s Ennis, 24, has had difficulty finding elite welterweights willing to fight him because he appears to be one of the most talented boxers in the sport. James isn’t viewed as an elite 147-pounder, yet he owns a version of a title and has lost only a unanimous decision to a fighter who thoroughly defeated Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao on points two months ago.
Handicappers have established Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs, 1 NC) as at least a 45-1 favorite to defeat Dulorme (25-5-1, 16 KOs), a Puerto Rican veteran who has fought a high caliber of opposition both in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions. The odds are almost even on the 12-round bout between James (27-1, 12 KOs) and Russia’s Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs, 1 NC), which will headline a tripleheader that’ll start at 10 p.m. EDT from Mandalay Bay’s Michelob ULTRA Arena.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.