Jamal James (27-1, 12 KO) returns to defend his secondary WBA welterweight title, hoping to set up a full title fight in 2022 if he can defeat Radzhab Butaev (13-0, 10 KO). The two are part of a four-man box-off meant to crown one proper WBA champ at 147 lbs, with Yordenis Ugas (the top recognized WBA titlist) to face Eimantas Stanionis in the other semifinal.
James is older than you might think at 33, and the Minneapolis native has been operating at this sort of second tier of the star-packed division for some time now. He was upset — it was an upset at the time — by Ugas in 2016, which set Ugas on the path to becoming the man who would eventually retire Manny Pacquiao. But “Shango” has won seven straight since then, defeating a lot of solid fringe contenders along the way, and at this point making his way into a deserved top 10 spot at welterweight, though that’s more that the division has started to thin out than anything special he’s done. It has been a solid run, though.
27-year-old Russian Butaev (13-0, 10 KO) did suffer a defeat back in late 2019, when he lost a decision to Alexander Besputin in Monte Carlo. But Besputin failed drug tests, and the result was rightly changed to a no-contest an entire 11 months later. He’s only fought once since then, beating Terry Chatwood in Dec. 2020. James has been out of the ring for 14 months after a win over Thomas Dulorme.
The Butaev-Besputin fight was actually for the belt James now holds, which James was promoted to from interim champion status when the WBA stripped Manny Pacquiao of their “super world” belt and promoted Ugas, who had the “world” belt, to “super world” status earlier this year. Luckily, soon enough it appears we’ll be done with having to explain crap like this. The basic point is that James and Butaev are fighting an eliminator for a WBA title shot — a real WBA title shot.
Butaev is actually a pretty big welterweight, listed at 5’10½” with a 72-inch reach, but he will look short next to James this week, as James is 6’2”, but will actually be giving up two inches of reach in the fight.
Rising welterweight contender Jaron “Boots” Ennis (27-0, 25 KO) will also be back in action, facing veteran Thomas Dulorme (25-5-1, 16 KO) in the 10-round co-feature. Philadelphia’s Ennis, 24, is seen along with Vergil Ortiz Jr as the immediate future of the welterweight division, which as mentioned has started to thin out as several of the name fighters from the last decade are aging, along with Manny Pacquiao finally retiring and Errol Spence Jr’s future still being uncertain.
Dulorme, 31, is one of several Puerto Rican fighters of recent years who didn’t live up to the early hype, but he has stayed a solid opponent for many fighters. He went to a draw with ex-titlist Jessie Vargas in 2018, beat previously undefeated Terrel Williams in 2019, and had two competitive losses to Jamal James and Eimantas Stanionis in 2020-21. On paper, he is here as a decent name for Ennis’ resume, and to keep Ennis busy while he tries to get a bigger fight, which he has been calling for for a while now.
In the opener, lightweight Michel Rivera (21-0, 14 KO) looks to stay unbeaten against Matias Romero (24-1, 8 KO). Rivera, a 23-year-old Dominican, turned some heads with a brutal right hand knockout of Jon Fernandez in July:
Romero, 25 and from Argentina, gave Isaac Cruz a tough fight in March, dropping a decision, and will look to bounce back and make his own statement in this one.
How to Watch
James-Butaev will air live on Showtime on Saturday, October 30, starting at 10 pm ET. Bad Left Hook will be here with full live coverage for the show.